The Minimalist’s How-to Handbook

Karl Elder

Karl Elder is the Jacob and Lucile Fessler Professor of Creative Writing and Poet in Residence at Lakeland College as well as author of seven collections of poetry, including Phobophobia, A Man in Pieces, The Geocryptogrammatist’s Pocket Compendium of the United States, and, from Marsh River Editions of Marshfield, Wisconsin, Mead: Twenty-six Abecedariums. His work also appears in two editions of The Best American Poetry; A Fine Excess: Fifty Years of the Beloit Poetry Journal; September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond; Sacred Fire; Sacred Waters; We the Creatures; and several other anthologies. Among his honors are a Pushcart Prize, the Lorine Niedecker Award, the Lucien Stryk Award, grants from the Illinois Arts Council for poetry and fiction, Lakeland’s Outstanding Teacher Award, and the Robert Schuricht Endowment.

For many years and since its inception, Mr. Elder has been associated with the literary magazine Seems – originally as a contributor, followed by poetry editor, and, since 1978, editor and publisher. A member of the National Eagle Scout Association and a Vigil Honor member of the Order of the Arrow, Elder is active in Scouting, for which his sons, Seth and Wade, serve as professionals in the organization. Elder and his wife, Brenda, a CCRN, live in Howards Grove, Wisconsin.

Elder recently won the 2005 Chad Walsh Poetry Prize. This award is believed to be the largest monetary award for a poem or group of poems at $3,000. The poetry which won the award was published in the Summer 2005 issue of the Beloit Poetry Journal.

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The Hyphen
Had you a whole line
of them you’d have your own train.
Imagine the freight.

The Colon
Eyes of a dead man
lying on his side, looking
into a bright light.

The Comma
Ah, giant embryo
with tail, what say you-yin or
yang, you little shrimp.

The Semicolon
A Spanish peanut,
a cashew-which’s the best fit
for the appendix?

The Question Mark
Eerie character-
he whose lobe of an artist’s
left ear is severed.

The Exclamation Point
Dah-dit. A signal
in Morse code turned on end: N,
you must solve for it.

The Period
How we’ve come to draw
with such sheer economy
the perfect circle.