Peninsula Poetry: Anita Beckstrom

compiled by the Door County Poets Collective

Anita Beckstrom was born in Sister Bay but grew up in Milwaukee, majoring in art and English at Milwaukee State Teachers College. In 1950, her family moved back to Sister Bay, where she has lived ever since, working for 21 years in the IMC at Gibraltar Schools. Beckstrom married and had three daughters. Twenty years ago, she took a class at The Clearing with Barbara Larsen and has been writing poetry ever since. 

Beckstrom is a member of the Wallace Group and the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. Her work has appeared regularly in the fellowship’s annual calendar, and she won a cash prize in a contest at the Brown County Library for her shortest poem, “Sanctuary.” Her signature book of poems is Rare Yellow Bird. Beckstrom is known in the community of poets, especially for her spare language, humorous vision and memory for specific details from years long past. 

Saturday Afternoon

I can’t imagine
what it would be like
to buy a horse for a million bucks
keep it in a stable
with five other expensive horses
hire trainers and jockeys
enter races
be the wife
dressed in designer hat and gloves
win at Churchill Downs
jump up screaming
hug everyone around

while I watch on TV
sitting at Husby’s Bar
drinking a beer
with nothing to show
for the dollar
I put into the pool

First Bite from the Tree of Knowledge

I learned to read quickly
squirming uneasily in my seat
anguishing with students
who didn’t

my family moved
when I was in third grade
when I discovered a magic place
the Public Library
only three blocks away

I was allowed to take
up to five books home at a time
after I duly enrolled
got my precious library card

there was one problem
the librarian was very strict
when I finished all
the designated third grade books
couldn’t take out the fourth grade books

Peninsula Poetry is a monthly column curated by the Door County Poets Collective, a 12-member working group that was formed to publish Soundings: Door County in Poetry (Caravaggio Press, 2015) and continues to meet.