Sutphen, Joyce 1949-

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Sutphen, Joyce 1949-


Born August 10, 1949, in St. Cloud, MN; daughter of Robert B. and Rita Marie Rassier; married Jeffrey Carlyle Sutphen, 1971 (divorced, 1996); children: Sarah, Alicia, Marna. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: University of Minnesota, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.


Home—Chaska, MN. Office—Gustavus Adolphus College, 800 College Ave., St. Peter, MN 56082. E-mail—[email protected].


Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN, visiting lecturer, 1993-97, assistant professor, beginning 1997, then associate professor.


Association of Writers & Writing Programs, Shakespeare Association of America, Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, Loft Literary Center.


Barnard New Women's Poets Prize, 1994; Eunice Tutjean's Memorial Prize for poetry, 1996; McKnight artist fellowship, 2002; Yaddo resident, 2003; Minnesota Book Award, poetry category, 2005.


Straight out of View (poetry), Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1995.

Coming Back to the Body (poetry), Holy Cow! (Minneapolis, MN), 2000.

Naming the Stars (poetry), Holy Cow! (Duluth, MN), 2003.

Fourteen Sonnets (poetry), Red Dragonfly Press (Northfield, MN), 2005.

(Editor, with Thom Tammaro and Connie Wanek) To Sing along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from Pre-Territorial Days to the Present, New Rivers Press (Moorhead, MN), 2006.


Joyce Sutphen once told CA: "Here's what happens when I sit down to write a poem. I think that I will say something about this, but I end up writing about that. I have a catch in my heart (lump in my throat? whatever it is that Robert Frost says gets the poem going), and I am thinking about my brothers and sisters and all of the musical instruments they can play. My mind is filled with trombones, saxophones, trumpets, and drums. The brass glints, the black and white piano keys appear, and I begin caressing words: embouchure, vibrato, andante, and resin. I think of fingerings and positions, of tonguing and sustaining the last sweet note. I never realized how much music is like sex—how the technical aspects of music and sex share a vocabulary. I have a different poem in mind now from the one I was going to write, but to be honest I probably wouldn't have gotten this far.

"I don't always come away with a poem. Sometimes all I have is a notebook filled with starts, a few lines here, lots of crossed out lines there, a space and another couple of lines. In the last year or so my pages are filled with the funny marks I use to keep track of the poem's meter. Sometimes—but only rarely—there are columns of rhyming or slant rhyming words down the side of a page. Other times there are phone numbers, names of songs I heard on the radio, directions to a party in double-lined boxes. ‘This is not a poem!’ the boxes say, ‘this is a reminder,’ but sometimes when I go back to read them, they have become more like poems.

"Sometimes I go back to thinking that it's all nothing but what the preacher called it: vanity, vanity. These thoughts dissolve quickly when I remember what life was like without poetry, when all I had was the holy hush of ancient sacrifice. Poetry makes the world real for me.

"Two reasons keep me coming to the empty page: the desire to make a place for the glinting shard, the divine detail, and the hope that this caressing, this pressing against the visible will reveal the invisible. In the end, it isn't hard: when I sit down to write a poem, one thing just leads to another."

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Sutphen, Joyce 1949-

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