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Cotton Grass

ISBN: 9781947237575
Binding: Paperback
Author: Bart Sutter
Pages: 206
Trim: 6 x 9 inches
Published: 04/08/2024

The natural world has been a major source of inspiration for Bart Sutter's poetry for more than half a century, during which he has explored the backroads, trails, rivers, lakes, and bogs of the North, returning with vivid reports of otters eating golden walleyes, a big bull moose groaning for love, and the memorable music of a field full of bobolinks.

Cotton Grass also bears witness to the allure of nature in urban settings. Sutter has drawn beauty and insight from the woodsy environs of his home overlooking Lake Superior: a fox appears at a summer big-band concert; a raccoon relaxes in the hole he's ripped through a roof, gazing round "like a soldier from the turret of a tank"; a pair of lovers find an emblem for their daring as they watch a falcon fold its wings and hurtle headlong toward the pavement.

This retrospective collection reveals that, all along, Bart Sutter has resisted contemporary trends and gone his own way, listening for what each poem wanted to be, mastering a remarkable range of tones and forms from celebration to lamentation, from long-lined free verse to haiku, from love lyrics to prophecy, from ballad to sonnet, from story to song.
Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Dunn called this poetry "light years away (thank God) from post-modern tactics; one might even say Sutter's aesthetic is pre-modern. There are many poems with rhyme and meter, an unabashed celebration of nature, and most amazingly, a healthy sampling of what we see little of these days, the affirmative poem."


Bart Sutter received the Minnesota Book Award for poetry with The Book of Names: New and Selected Poems , for fiction with My Father's War and Other Stories, and for creative non-fiction with Cold Comfort: Life at the Top of the Map. Among other honors, he has won a Jerome Foundation Travel & Study Grant (Sweden), a Loft-McKnight Award, and the Bassine Citation from the Academy of American Poets. In 2006, he was named the first Poet Laureate of Duluth. He has written for public radio, he has had four verse plays produced, and he often performs as one half of The Sutter Brothers, a poetry-and-music duo. Bart Sutter lives on a hillside overlooking Lake Superior with his wife, Dorothea Diver.


"Bart Sutter's new collection covers nearly fifty years of Sutter's poetic engagement with the natural world, the North Country, his Swedish heritage, and the characters—human, animal, floral—inhabiting his homeland. The word that comes to mind with Bart Sutter's poems is exuberant. These poems find energy, reflection, and insight in whatever direction the poet turns." - Tim Nolan

"Bart Sutter goes steadily about his work, finding in his home life, in Minnesota's Northwoods, (and in places far beyond) what he needs to create beauty, and from beauty, joy. He shows us how the moments of a closely observed life can turn into magic. Among the earlier poems reprinted in Cotton Grass are some of my very favorites. And the new ones in this volume are as good as those our 'major' poets have produced. Consider Cotton Grass as an assessment, a reckoning of how one remarkable poet has shaped his life and art." - Anthony Bukoski

"These poems take risks. They are wise. They restore your faith in the drumbeat of your own heart." - Carol Connelly

"Bart's poetry is light years away (thank God) from postmodern tactics; one might even say his aesthetic is pre-modern. There are many poems with rhyme and meter, an unabashed celebration of nature, and most amazingly, a healthy sampling of what we see little of these days: the affirmative poem." - Stephen Dunn

"Poetry of great skill, power, and beauty . . . What one starts to understand is that Sutter has both an eye and an ear: the poem's images are selected with telling exactitude, its rhymes are connective but unobtrusive, and its powerful, varied rhythms are controlled with masterful finesse and precision." - Richard Simpson

"Barton Sutter is so thoroughly a Minnesota Scandinavian—with the usual streak of curmudgeonly pessimism—that he becomes something larger, a type of American artist and culture maker, an emblem of us at our best." - Bill Holm