The Door County Board of Supervisors has appointed Ethel Mortenson Davis and Tom Davis to the position of Door County poets laureate for a two-year term, beginning April 1 of this year. The Door County couple succeeds the 2021-23 poet laureate, Mike Orlock.
Ethel and Tom accepted the appointment during the board’s March 28 meeting, when each read one of their poems. The Sturgeon Bay couple are accomplished poets who have authored numerous books. In 2021, the Wisconsin Library Association selected Tom as a Notable Wisconsin Author, with his book of poetry titled Meditations on Ceremonies of Beginnings named Outstanding Book of Poetry by a Wisconsin Poet.
Door County began its poet laureate post in 2009 through the advocacy of Nancy Rafal, who herself served in the post, as well as former county administrator and writer/poet Jude Genereaux. Norbert Blei – Door County’s well-known author and teacher of writing and poetry – played a role selecting candidates until his death in 2013. He insisted that Door County’s first poet laureate be former Sturgeon Bay resident Frances May. Those who have followed, in addition to Rafal and May, are Sharon Auberle, Ralph Murre, Barbara Larsen, Estella Lauter and Mike Orlock.
Today, a nomination committee through Write On, Door County selects the Door County poet laureate to recommend to the Door County Board of Supervisors for approval.
Ethel Mortenson Davis and Tom Davis “meet and surpass the selection criteria,” wrote Write On’s founding and artistic director, Jerod Santek. “Both have been very involved in local poetry groups, the Door County Poetry Collective and the Door County Published Authors Collective. Through his press, Four Windows Press, Tom published the anthology Seven by 7: The Poet Laureates of Door County, which was a project of the 2021-23 laureate, Mike Orlock; as well as the Poetry Collective’s anthology Halfway to the North Pole. There is rarely a poetry reading in the county that Ethel and Tom don’t attend to support their fellow poets. They are also advocates for our local bookstores, organizing events at OtherWorlds and Novel Bay to support poetry.”
Among the duties of the poets laureate are encouraging and supporting local poets and building greater audiences for poetry through readings and other events. They are also occasionally called upon by either the county board or Write On, Door County to compose a poem for a special occasion.