Estella Lauter Honors the Peninsula Through Poetry

Soon after retiring in 2004, Estella Lauter took a poetry workshop at Björklunden with Ellen Kort, Wisconsin’s first Poet Laureate.

Since then the Professor Emerita of the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh has shown herself to be a rather gifted poet, receiving recognition from Verse Wisconsin, Free Verse, Wisconsin People and Ideas, and Peninsula Pulse. She organizes and participates in various local poetry workshops and events, including the Wallace Group, Dickinson Poetry Series, and Poets’ Retreat.

Of her role as Door County Poet Laureate she noted to Door County Living and Peninsula Pulse contributor Gary Jones, “I am not expecting this to be about me but I am putting my energy into getting others to do what they do best. I am a facilitator and consultant, not a star. Collaboration is what I’m all about.”

Lauter read “What to Save in Door County” to the Door County Board of Supervisors on March 26, 2013, when she was officially named Door County Poet Laureate.

What to Save in Door County

By Estella Lauter, Door County Poet Laureate, 2013 – 2015


Let’s begin with the shape of the thumb

that angles gently out to deep water,

its harbors carved by waves hammering

from the west and slowly built by ridges

on the east. Then add the commonwealth

of parks where all species are free to play

together or apart. The limestone base

that gives us cherry and apple blossoms,

strawberries, potatoes and corn. Wetlands

for cranes and herons, cliffs for eagles,

woodlands for deer and all the small animals

insects and birds that keep our ecosystem clean.

Creeks, lakes, caves, pastures, sweeping vistas.

It took eons to make this rich configuration.


Then add the complex history of settlement

by Potawatomie, Menominee, Scandinavian,

and Icelandic people, French Missionaries,

Moravians, Belgians, Poles. Fishermen, farmers,

shipbuilders and captains, hoteliers, restaurateurs.

Their families brought quilting, rug-making, weaving,

rosemaling. Fish boils. Fyr-bal Fest. Booyah.

Log structures gave way to red brick and stone,

then to clapboard houses, schools and barns

and we’ve kept these materials to be savored.


The Door also opened to art and thought,

made way for musicians, actors, dancers, painters,

potters, glass-blowers, landscape architects, poets.

The oldest continuous summer theater is here,

a famous folklore theater, a summer school

for young musicians, year-round continuing

education at Björklunden, The Clearing, the Tech,

The Crossroads at Big Creek, a community auditorium

to bring in talent from elsewhere, several presses,

five bookstores. A first-class diploma with little state aid.

How many small counties can claim such cultural richness?


We know it is not easy to secure the structures

that support this extra-ordinary place, make sure

the roads, bridges and beaches are safe, pollution

is controlled, taxes paid, emergency services in place.


But we, the beneficiaries of this land and water,

history, hard work and artistry, fine teachers and the good

will of citizens who volunteer for all the tasks that make

a great community, are grateful for their preservation,

and we offer heartfelt thanks for any move you make

to save the elements that give us this strong sense of home.