Peninsula Poetry: Karen Wilson

Karen Wilson is a lifelong Wisconsinite who grew up in Sheboygan and graduated from the University of Wisconsin. Reading and writing have always been a major focus, and in 2003, she began writing poems seriously, engaging with the lively poets’ community in the county and submitting poetry for publication.

Karen Wilson

Wilson is an original member of the Door County Poets Collective, which released an anthology of Door County poems, Halfway to the North Pole, in 2020, and produced its first book of peninsula poems, Soundings, in 2015.

Sand Beach Press recently published Wilson’s own first book, Poems to the Wind.

What’s your writing routine?

I accomplish most when I sit down to write in the morning, before the needs of the day become too pressing! 

What do most poorly and well-written poems have in common?

Poems that speak to me are those that strike an emotional chord or very elegantly frame the subject with precise words – not one too many!

Is it important to understand the meaning of the poem or for the reader to be able to “solve” it?

I feel that accessibility is important for a poem, though it can strike its mark with a degree of mystery.

What book are you reading right now?

I’m enjoying the late Robert Claiborne’s Our Marvelous Native Tongue: The Life and Times of the English Language. In fiction, I loved Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr.

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 in 2015 and continues to meet.


As autumn foretells
the inevitable 
coming of winter
I feel like the leaves 
losing their green 
loosening their hold

Without regret 
they blaze forth
in brilliant colors 
before they fall

So much I clung to 
in the spring of my life 
such definite ideas 
of how things should be 

Now like the leaves 
I let go of certainty 
I’m shedding still
until all that’s left
is mystery
Scented Memories		
“Smell is the mute sense, the one without words.”  
— Diane Ackerman

From my real home in the city 
Grandpa’s farm called me each summer 
to fields of waving corn and golden grain
and Holstein cows, black and white 
standing like statues in sunny pastures 
studded with “cow pies” for unwary feet

In the old red barn were rows of stanchions, 
bovines in each stall calmly munching, 
milk hoses flowing from their udders
and long gutters behind collecting their waste, 
later loaded into the manure spreader
pulled by Grandpa on the tractor 
with the luckiest girl in the world
behind him on the seat
Winter Solstice

Here, halfway 
between the equator
and the north pole
winter comes hard and cold
biting winds chill the bone 
squalls of snow limit sight	
to a narrow perimeter 

and as the heavens align
in a known particular way
we experience the shortest day
when the sun withholds its light
and we have the longest night
of the year 

a time of hunkering down
staying in     sleeping long
the ground hard, snow-covered
bare trees creak in the wind
waters frozen to stillness	

life seems in abeyance
the season ahead endless     
we think spring will come 
but it feels only a dream