Literary Pick of the Week: “Duet in the Little Blue Church”

From working-class family life to the grueling history of pioneers arriving on the Midwest prairie, Sharon Chmielarz’s poetry spans time and place. After four decades and 13 poetry collections, she presents a representative selection of her poetic interests and imagination in Duet in the Little Blue Church: New and Selected Poems (Nodin Press, $19.95).

Chmielarz will host a book release party at 2pm on Sunday, March 26 at Open Book, 1022 Washington Ave. S., Mpls. It is free and open to the public.

This South Dakota-born poet has been hailed by literary luminaries, including Joyce Carol Oates (“Pretty Beautiful Poetry”).

Sharon Chmielarz
Sharon Chmielarz (Lost Lake Photography)

Chmielarz’s publisher points out that her poems are often told “in an ironic and enigmatic conversational style” that can be compared to modern Polish masters such as Szymborska and Milosz. The European element is strong, but so is the Great Plains immigrant experience.

A graduate of the University of Minnesota, Chmielarz’s first two books “Different Arrangements” and “But I Won’t Go Out in a Boat” received Minnesota Voices Awards from New Rivers Press. “The Other Mozart” was turned into an opera. Her work has been published in national literary and review journals.

Here is the collection’s title poem, which shows why Chmielarz says “My relationship with my own father is/was possibly the major impetus that first led me to write.”


you’d think we both sang

the way the redeemed sing,

making the connection

between loss and love

holding his music

crackling stars,

my father’s bass to my viola.

listening to him

you would think of the pain

our lighthouse

joy, the rose

the light over the snow.

You would think so

disappointment –

sitting in the back seat

thawed to frown –

he had opened his mouth, like an echo.

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