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Dave Wood's Book Report, March 5, 2008

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After making international news with its book "The Artist's Brush," Mid-List Press, the not-for-profit publisher in Minneapolis, is out with a new book, the winner of its annual First Series Award for Poetry.

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The poet is Norman Minnick, coordinator of the Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series at Butler University in Indianapolis.

"To Taste the Water" ($13) is a well-crafted book that, among other things, explores the relationship of the poet to the people and places around him.

Most impressive to me was his touching relationship with his little daughter. Here's a sampling:

Give a child

paper and crayons

and she will recreate the world.

Do you know why

she comes into your room at night

complaining she is thirsty?

Why she can't sleep?

She has tried to write her name, to draw

an ocean, but keeps encountering

the edge of the page.

Tell her the sky

is meant for her.

Tell her the clouds

are to drink from.

Tell her the story

of a husband and wife

who sailed beyond the horizon

only to find another horizon, and beyond that...

Let her hear the waves

lapping at the side of the boat.

Let her feel the rocking motion.

Let her know

that steadiness is essential

as Holderin says, that we need

to learn to live swaying

as in a rocking boat

on the sea.

Here's another, truly sweet:

My daughter,

captivated

by her inverse image

in the curve of the spoon,

turns it over and back

and over again,

and back again,

her image

upside down,

right side up,

faster, as if she might

trick the spoon.

Eat, I tell her.

How did an obscure lawyer from central Illinois get where he got? Part of the answer of Abraham Lincoln's success is told with great gusto in

"Lincoln and Douglas," by Allen C. Guelzo (Simon & Schuster, $26).

Guelzo, a professor of history at Gettysburg College tells the story of the great debates between the country lawyer and his formidable opponent, Stephen A. Douglas, "the little giant," on of the most powerful politicians in America during the debates of 1858 in which Lincoln attempted to unseat him.

Lincoln almost made it and two years later was candidate for president on the ticket of the new American political party.

In this election year, books like this should be required reading.

Dave Wood is a past vice president of the National Book Critics Circle and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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