Poets Laureate on the Poetry Trail

by Jerod Santek, Artistic Director, Write On, Door County

On a Sunday afternoon in early October – the first sunny day after many days of rain – a group of poets and poetry lovers gathered at Newport State Park for a reading by Door County Poet Laureate Nancy Rafal and Wisconsin Poet Laureate Margaret Rozga. The work of both has been on display on the Poetry Trail since July 1. With the poets’ busy schedules, this public reading came late during the period of the exhibit, which will change at the end of October. 

Poets and audience members walked the trail from one permanent stanchion to the next, each of the eight poetry stands featuring a work by both poets laureate. The Poetry Trail spreads over portions of the Rowleys Bay and Monarch Trails. Starting from parking lot 1, the trail is a physical metaphor for poetry itself. 

Door County Poet Laureate Nancy Rafal. Photo by Len Villano.

It begins in a rather dark and mysterious place, winding along a path filled with rocks and roots. Then it turns out of the woods into a sun-filled meadow, which rewards hikers with brightness and warmth after the dark coolness of the woods. 

So it is with poems. Readers begin in a place of mystery, unsure of where the path might lead and remaining alert to rocks and roots and unexpected turns. At the end, they experience life-affirming warmth and a peacefulness that makes them want to return again and again. 

One of the poems shared that afternoon was Rozga’s “Cake and Lemonade for Neighbors,” written for the anthology Where I Want to Live: Poems for Fair & Affordable Housing, a project commemorating the 50th anniversary of Milwaukee’s fair-housing marches.

Cake and Lemonade for Neighbors

Where I want to live

neighbors gather 

on front porches, watch 

their children play 

across multiple front yards, laugh

in Spanish, Arabic, Burmese, English, talk 

about back-in-the-day, share 

sweet and savory snacks, lend 

each other a cup of sugar or flour, borrow 

hedge trimmers, a shovel, or rake, help 

with chores when need be, apologize 

when need be, offer

a word of advice (not more), drum,

strum guitars, and pluck banjos, make

a little noise sometimes, sometimes bring 

out a kitchen chair so everyone finds

a comfortable place to sit

on the unscreened wide or narrow porch

or on the stoop. Sometimes just enjoy 

all black brown white

golden quiet together

~ Margaret Rozga

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