When Scott Lowery had a friend direct him to Southeastern Minnesota Poets’ call for poetry submissions for the “Bright Light Stories in the Night” contest, one word in the appeal stood out to him — accessible.
Lowery, a retired teacher and educator who lives in Rollingstone, said he wants to see more people try reading and writing poetry.
Organizers of the contest said they want the poems to be enjoyed as much by children as parents or grandparents reading to them.
A jury chose six poets and six artists for the e-chapbook project. A chapbook is a small book of prose often bound by stitches.
The e-book contest was designed to bring some light and warmth to the depth of a Minnesota winter during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It just seems like such a good time to bring us out of that deep winter and into the light and warmth,” said Lisa Higgs, one of the organizers.
Using poetry to make sense of strange times is an example of that accessibility, Lowery said. Two of his poems appear in an anthology of poems relating to the pandemic called “Sheltering With Poems” that will be published this spring.
Along with Lowery, Tim Brennan, of Austin; D.E. Green, Northfield; Jennifer Jesseph, Pine Island; Steven McCown, Northfield; and Jean Prokott, Rochester, were selected by a jury.
Michael King, Barbara Kinnick and Leisa Luis-Grill, all of Rochester; Rita LeDuc, of Fountain; Eric Thomas, of Alden; and Kenna Sandborn, of Byron, were the artists selected.
The works will be read at a virtual event Friday, Feb. 26. They will be read by Rochester Mayor Kim Norton, Dr. Jeffery Boyd, Dr. Jess Garcia, Eric Kerska, Lorelai Lewis, Kesarin Mehta, Claudia Tabini and Juan Vasquez. After that, the works will be displayed at Southeastern Minnesota Visual Artists (SEMVA), 320 Broadway Ave. S.
For Sandborn, who submitted photographs, it will be the first public exhibition of her photography.
Sandborn has made it a point to go out and photograph her natural surroundings in Southeast Minnesota since the start of the pandemic.
“I guess I just wanted to surround myself with beauty, even if it’s just a few miles away,” she said.
Her photographs will illustrate Jesseph’s poem, “With Wings.”
Sandborn said illustrating the work wasn’t difficult.
“I knew that when I read the poem, I just connected with it right away,” she said.
Higgs said the poets were selected from more than 30 submissions, while about a dozen visual artists submitted work. She said their task to illustrate a piece of work they had yet to see under a short deadline was a “tall ask.”
“They’re agreeing to do it before they’ve even seen the poem,” Higgs said. “Those artists have really churned out good work in a really short amount of time.”
Lowery said he isn’t used to pairing his poems with literal illustrations.
“It’s a little daunting,” he said. “What I’m after is more of an eye-of-the-beholder type thing, so I’m a little wary about having it nailed down.”
However, Lowery added that he’s looking forward to seeing the results.
“It’s nice to work with an artist attuned to poetry,” he said. “In everyday life, I don’t run into too many people who are.”
That’s why making poetry more accessible is important, Lowery said.
If you go
What: "Bright Light Stories in the Night" virtual reading
When: 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26