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John Caddy
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John Caddy
1937 -

John Caddy is a poet, a teacher, and a lifelong student of nature. John's heart is hidden under a pine tree in Minnesota's North Woods, where it steadily beats. John has taught poetry in schools for thirty-five years. He teaches at Hamline University's Center for Global Environmental Education in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he directed the Self Expressing Earth program. John began and directs the Morning Earth program.

John's heritage is Cornish, and in 2001 he was made a Bard of the Cornish Gorseth in Cornwall, Britain.  

John has recently been named the McKnight Foundation Distinguished Artist for 2012, which includes a $50,000. stipend. John's poetry has also won the Bush Artist's fellowship, MN State Arts Board fellowships, the Loft/McKnight award and Milkweed Editions' Lakes and Prairies award. John's teaching has been honored by the Sally Ordway Irving award for Arts Education.

The Color of Mesabi Bones won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Minnesota Book Award. John's favorite award, though, is below, given to him by Jesse Richards, a second grade poet. 

(John knows he's not the'best poet ever'
but he really likes to wear this award.)
"Morning Earth: Field Notes in Poetry" , Milkweed Editions (2003)

Morning Earth

We are bits of Earth, 
Fancy bits who have learned to 
think and talk and talk, and talk,
But still and always bits of Earth.

Morning Earth
is a garden kit for wild seeds, which
dropped by art into us splendid bits,
swell us root and leaf,
and turn us Green.
October 3

Off the trail a yellow aspen leaf
spins on a spider silk
spins with the breeze
without sound
blinks light
winks bright
each round

The Color of Mesabi Bones, MN Book Award, L.A. Times Book Prize (Milkweed (1990)
Eating the Sting includes The Heronry, a novella in poems. Lakes & Prairies Award, Milkweed 1986
Presences the Blood Learns Again, poems and prose about coming home to Cornwall.
A Sampling of Poems



Caught in the snapped circle of light
on the cookshack oilcloth,
an upright deermouse holding yellow
in her fine fingers
like an ear of black-striped corn,
a wasp I'd slapped dead earlier.

She stares, belly resonating, round above
a scatter of brittle wing, bits, a carapace—
she has already eaten the stinger—
stares at me, still,
something thrumming in her eyes

beyond herself, a mouse stung
onto an edge as far from cartoons
as the venom she's chewed into food.

She cocks a fawn ear now, trembling poisonchanger,
caught in the circle of light
I've thought myself in at times,

but never sure, I ask her softly how
she does it, if I can learn this turning
of sting into such food as startles in her eyes,
learn to suck pain into every sense
and come up spitting seeds, force poison
to a tear held fierce between my lips
and whirl it into tongue which sings, but

here I've come too loud: She drops the husk,
fusses whiskers with her paws, kicks
a scrap of wing aside, and whispers
thanks for the corn,

steps backward off the table
(and so potent she is with wasp)
flips a circle through light and
lands running on her leaf-toed feet.




Nighthawks swoop the lake with swallows and swifts, 
all the fall migrants with mouths open wide. 
In this dusk there is sky and lake, a black band of trees. 
Sky and lake the same pewter, from the west a small chop of orange. 

My eyes track one weave among hundreds, expect a rise 
to the contrast of sky, again lose the bird in the trees. 
All of us onshore are caught in this rhythm of 
feeding nighthawks and swallows and swifts above water, 

the easy swoop and drift and quickbeat and catch, 
all the wide mouths take invisible flies, 
and the rhythm of the whole is the ocean at sunset, 
not the soundsurge of surf but 

translucent rising waves just before breaking, 
when fishshapes and kelp fronds and cormorants 
weave and flash in this same soundless 
rhythm of nighthawks hunting a lake 

two thousand miles away, both waters lit from the west. 
There are moments when all a backlit wave contains 
can be seen, then chaos, collapse in confusion 
until the next wave is made and crests, and the next. 

There are moments when all the world's wave contains can be seen, 
and the collapse is only the limit of eye. 
But we know the world wave continues its rhythms, 
its nighthawks and fishshapes hunt in their waves 

and its leaves lift from earth in the curve of their season, 
spring green from the bud, and dry for the fall 
to lift in the curve of this wave we all roll in. 
The birds hunt now high as eye can see. 




Cornishman: a man at the bottom of a mine, singing.

They came to grass at the end of the day.
They climbed from the Dark to grass
and carried the Dark up with them.

After a long day of night with only
the head’s candle for light,
after aching hours of sledging iron
against a candle-gleamed borer,

Grass was the surface they climbed to
through a thousand feet of Dark—
Over and over they pulled their weight up the rungs
as their hearts rang the ribcage,
to come up to light and grass-green,
but to carry Dark with them unseen.

Dark changed the strong men,
shortened their tempers, stubborned convictions,
roughened their tongues—
Dark led them to think
they were the ones who could see.

But in mine and chapel and pub,
Bearing this Dark is what taught them to sing.

from Presences the Blood Learns Again




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