Soundings: Door County in Poetry

“Whether you write poetry or not, live in Door County or not, know it through your grandparents or through a single visit,” Estella Lauter wrote in an introduction to Soundings, an anthology of Door County themed poetry, “we hope you will find stories, images, characters and ideas that draw you further into this remarkable place.”

After Lauter’s verse had been included in Echolocations, a 2013 anthology of poetry about Madison, “I began to think about the fact that Door County didn’t have a similar anthology” she said.

“We are known elsewhere in the state as a vital community of poets,” she continued. “So why not see if we could do a more visible project together that would reach out beyond the community of poets?”

As the 2013-15 Poet Laureate of Door County, she sent emails to poets living in the community asking if they would consider forming a collective to produce a book of poems about this place.

Subsequently the Door County Poets Collective came into being with a goal of publishing an anthology in the spring of 2015. Lauter was joined in the Collective by local poets Sharon Auberle, Francha Barnard, Phil Hansotia, Donna Johnson, current Door County Poet Laureate Ralph Murre, June Nirschl, Nancy Rafal, Judy Roy, WriteOn, Door County Executive Director Jerod Santek, Director of Caravaggio Press Henry Timm, and Karen Wilson.

Lauter does not consider herself editor-in-chief of the book, but rather “the facilitator of a fully cooperative project” in which various tasks involving selection of poems, editing, arranging, design, proofreading, managing technology, and publishing were undertaken by member individuals and committees.

“Nancy Rafal said I was ‘herder in chief,’” she joked, “And the image of a border collie nipping at the poets’ heels came to my mind!”

Together the collaborators brought out an anthology that includes 88 poems written by 57 poets, all with connections to Door County, ranging from visitors to summer residents to year-rounders.

The poems, as Lauter explains, “feature many dimensions of Door County: the big waters and inland lakes; iconic locations such as Cave Point, Cana Island, Toft’s Point, The Ridges, Peninsula and Newport state parks, Death’s Door and Rock Island; typical buildings and businesses (hotels, galleries, stores, farms, fisheries); social activities, favorite artists and teachers, notable characters; the weather as a shaping force.” All of these elements, she adds, combine to make Door County an extraordinary place.

Soundings, the title of the anthology, is a nod to the peninsula’s nautical heritage, a term for the way sailors in the past measured the depth of water, but, Lauter explains, “also refers to the practice of reading poems aloud to hear all the possibilities of meaning in the voices they carry.”

One regret regarding the book, she said, is that for practical reasons, more poets could not be included, but she hopes that subsequent anthology projects will follow.

Audiences at WriteOn, Door County (Juddville) on May 30; at the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets conference (Green Lake) on June 6; and at the Dickinson Poetry Series at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (Ephraim) on June 10, heard poets reading from their anthologized work. Future readings are planned both in and out of the county, said Rafal, who is directing the marketing of the book.

“The response thus far has been extremely positive,” Lauter said. Some poets included in the work were “over the moon with excitement.”

“We didn’t plan the anthology as a gift book,” she continued, “but I think it will turn out to be.”

The book was published by Caravaggio Press, Ellison Bay, and includes as cover art a reproduction of a painting by Ephraim artist Charles Peterson, as well as inside photos by Sharon Auberle.

Look for posters with order forms displayed in local businesses; the book may be purchased by mail for $20 (shipping and handling included), with checks made out to Door County Poets Collective and mailed to DCPC, Box 340, Baileys Harbor, Wis. 54202.