Monopoly, garlic and umbrellas make for an amusing, tender and surprising collection of poems.

Each day leading up to the April 16 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today, we feature 2011 Poetry finalist:

On Speaking Terms
Connie Wanek
Copper Canyon Press
Category Sponsor: Wellington Management, Inc.


On Speaking Terms, is amusing, tender, and surprising. The poems in this collection emerge from everyday objects—Scrabble, garlic, lipstick, hawkweed—and the landscapes, waterscapes, and severe winters of the upper Midwest.

“Blue Ink” from On Speaking Terms:

Blue Ink is friendlier than black,
more feminine. You can sign the papers
and still believe
it’s not quite final.

You can conjecture in blue ink,
and write a check for more than you have.
People will understand.

Some days the lake is blue enough
to be bottled, or injected
directly into a pen,

through as the words dry
they disappear, letter by letter,
sparing you
serious embarrassment.


Connie Wanek, author of three books of poems, lives and writes in Duluth where she was a librarian for many years.



“Take my word for it — this new book by Connie Wanek is outstanding, and some of the poems will stick with you for the rest of your life.” – Ted Kooser, 13th Poet Laureate of the United States.

“Wanek’s poems start out in sweet sadness and end up trenchantly bitter…The most attentive readers will call her wise.” – Stephen Burt, The New York Times.

“Wanek is a natural. Her carefully crafted poems have a delicious artlessness about them, even as they take us in and lift our neck hairs with the unexpected aptness of her metaphors.” – Maxine Kumin, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.


Listen to Wanek’s poem “Monopoly” featured on the Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor.

Listen to Wanek read “The Coin Behind your Ear” as featured in The Atlantic Monthly.

Read “Radiator” as featured on American Life in Poetry, a project for newspapers by Ted Kooser.


Award winners will be announced at the 23rd Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 16, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in downtown Saint Paul. The opening reception begins at 6:30 p.m.; followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m.

Have you read On Speaking Terms? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

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One comment on “Monopoly, garlic and umbrellas make for an amusing, tender and surprising collection of poems.
  1. siryoz0 says:

    Reading lots of reviews I can say is a great tool in finding that <a href="">good books</a> you are longing for and I guess this blog is a great reference. Thanks

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