Bart Sutter's new poems embody a series of surprises. Why should a walk through a woodland bog call up the names and faces of first-grade girls? What's it like to be a one-year-old who's crawled beneath a grand piano while it's being played? Or an arborist, sky-high up a tree, who's suddenly attacked by killer bees? How come a Lutheran congregation worships at a boulder in the woods? Isn't this what poetry is for—situations, people, moments that take us by surprise and will not let us go?
Now in his seventies, Sutter is haunted by lost friends and places, so this book has an elegiac undertone which only heightens the celebrations—of kelp on a California beach, a sexual awakening, a grandson's messy mastery of solid food. The book is rich with stories, and their settings range from the poet's home ground in northern Minnesota to the backroads of New Mexico, to Ireland and Spain.
At home, as well as in his travels, Sutter finds those transcendent moments that keep us going, despite our disappointments and discouragements.
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.
"Not every poet is lucky enough to have the gift of naming, but I trust Bart Sutter when he speaks of 'all the colors we are given by this world,' when he names animals, birds and fish, trees, grasses and flowers, mist and rain and snow. In thumbnail portraits of friends, family members, neighbors, people encountered on the street, artists whose work deeply moved him, he looks with humor, love, acceptance, grief and sometimes exasperation at human perfection and imperfection. So Surprised to Find You Here has given me new eyes and ears." - Ilze Kļaviņa Mueller
"Sutter is a reserved Swede canoeist grandfather from Duluth, yet his canny rhythms, rhymes, slant rhymes—music really!—move like some excitable dancer from Bulgaria through stories of the Canadian borderlands, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, the woods, and home." - James P. Lenfestey
"So Surprised to Find You Here is a travelogue of a life, a tour de force moving us from age to age, a tour of museums that includes the secret passageways deep into the paintings and then onward into our souls. At one point, after viewing a painting by Joaquin Sorolla, Sutter tells us that he has been 'someone somewhat different ever since,' and after spending time with these poems you might well notice the same thing about yourself. You might be surprised to find that you 'feel like champagne, like prayer'." - Ellie Schoenfeld
"Sutter's poems, simultaneously conversational and lyrical, call attention not to himself but rather to his subjects, the people and places of Minnesota's North Country and also of Sweden, Ireland, Spain, and elsewhere. The book is the perfect antidote to any number of pandemics that human beings are prone to, including self-pity, envy, anger, sorrow, and despair. His poems are chock-full of affirmation, joy, laughter, singing, and a deep love of people and the natural world." - David Jauss