Minnesota Poetry: G.E. Patterson’s “Job”

While G.E. Patterson’s poetry evokes clear and precise imagery, finding something detailed to say about the poet himself is a challenge. A search of the web draws up the following biography:

G.E. Patterson grew up in the middle of the country along the Mississippi River and was educated in the mid-South, the Midwest, the Northeast, and the western United States.

A little more searching reveals that his book Tug won the 2000 Minnesota Book Award for poetry, and he’s since published a second volume, titled To and From with Ahsahta Press.

Fortunately, Patterson’s poetry needs no pedigree to prove its worth. Here’s a poem from Tug.

Job

The Lord let me know early in the day

trouble was coming when He sent a woman

toward me in a tight dress, snapping gum

and working her hips hard. He turned her head

to the right just as I moved close enough

to say hello. She wasn’t all that fine,

but I sure could have used a different start

to my day. Seven A.M. and no love.

The Lord followed up fast with a black man

in a red, double-breasted suit and shoes

with monkstraps. Their high shine sent the sunlight

straight into my eyes, blinding me. The dog

patrolling the front yard where I passed them

tried to run me away from his fence, snarling.

I stared at God’s signs. Here’s what you can’t have:

A regular woman, nice clothes, peace.

My hand in my pocket, fingering change.

– “Job” by G.E. Patterson, as printed by Graywolf Press in the collection Tug. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher.

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