to honor National Poetry Month

In honor of National Poetry Month, we’ve asked 4 Minnesota-based Creative Writing Instructor-Poets to share a favorite poem by one of their students. This week, Bill Meissner, Professor Emerita at St. Cloud State University, shares a poem by his former student, Lane Henson, who has recently begun writing poems again.

 I got to know Lane Henson as an excellent undergraduate creative writing student at St. Cloud State University.  We lost touch for a few years, then reconnected a year ago.  He told me he’d been away from the journey of poetry for about 15 years and was hoping to step on the path again with a poem about fishing.  The result was this poem.  When I first read it, I was astounded by the unique and breathtaking Lake Superior imagery of “Spring Fishing the Mouth of the Lester River.”  For me, the poem captures a classic setting and at the same time, it portrays the poignant relationship of a father trying to make the best of an early morning outing with his young daughter.

Bill Meissner

Spring Fishing the Mouth of the Lester River
Lane Henson

For Mara, Age 9

We stepped the icy stones like tightrope walkers,
holding our poles for balance and 
hoping for surer footing around the bank’s curve.   

We left before your mother woke, so you held 
cocoa too hot to drink.  I carried the rest the best I could, 
arms too full and teetering on the rough beach. 

The fog was silent and the whole of the morning 
folded in on itself, a single color:  
rock sloped to ice, water unbroken to sky.  

“This is a fine spot,” I’m sure I said and went to 
find a decent log for you to sit.  I’d forgotten the chairs again.  
You scoured the shore for agates.

I tossed your line with the bright orange bobber out 
and it hit the water faintly.  I propped it on a driftwood piece
with a “Y” perfect as a diviner’s stick then set to casting a spoon 

over and over, thinking about how it was suddenly so damn quiet, 
how the fish were probably five miles up the Big Lake’s shore already.  

I wanted to tell you some things I thought I knew as facts:
that the ore boats hadn’t yet left the harbor, 
that their solitary horns might sound through the blanket of fog if they did, 

that the fog would lift and the sun would warm our faces.  Instead,
through the snow and dense air 
I watched you thumb another stone,

turn it over in your hands, 
return it to the dark water.  

***

Author and teacher Bill Meissner has won numerous awards for his writing, including PEN/NEA Syndicated Fiction Awards and The Midwest Book Award. He is the author of three books of fiction and five books of poetry, most recently The Mapmaker’s Dream. He has taught creative writing at St. Cloud State University, and, as a visiting writer he frequently presents workshops at local elementary schools, high schools and colleges. He lives in St. Cloud with his wife Christine.

Lane Henson was born and raised in eastern South Dakota but has called Minnesota home for the last 20 years. His poetry tends to draw on landscapes and the human connection to the natural world. He is an avid outdoorsman and a lover of Lake Superior and the Northwoods. He lives in Duluth, MN with his wife and their two daughters.