The very name of the Unabridged Poets writing group suggests an encouraging expansiveness. Even epics seem a possibility!
Founding mothers of the group Sue Dekelver and past Door County Poet Laureate Barbara Larsen remember the beginning of their organization, one of the three poetry workshops now active on the peninsula.
“I attended my first Door County poetry group in June of 1998,” Dekelver said. “For the next several months there were eight poets who gathered at different people’s homes.”
The group began with eight poets and has remained consistently at that number, “to allow each poet’s poem to receive equal time,” she said. But the membership has changed over the years, early members including Loraine Brink, David Jones, Agnes Kubitz, Neil McCarty, Peg Nemeth, Jim Wilkinson, Harriet Murphy, Sister Irene Zimmerman, and Michael Farmer.
In 2000, Dekelver continued, the group began meeting at the Bridge Bookstore in Egg Harbor, and in 2001, the group was named The Unabridged Poets.
The workshop later moved to a meeting room at the Bertschinger Center in the village, because members felt they were monopolizing space in the bookstore, “from people who might want to buy books!” Dekelver laughed.
The group meets monthly, each poet bringing a bag lunch and copies of a poem that is “in the works” to receive and to offer “respectful criticism, editing suggestions, and sometimes applause,” she added.
Membership in the workshop is by invitation.
Sue Dekelver confessed, “I haven’t been focused on my poetry during the past few years, which is one of the reasons I value our Unabridged Group. It helps me to work on words a few hours each month so I have something to contribute.”
But she has been a prolific poet in the past, publishing a chapbook Walnut for Waterloo, and has appeared in “hundreds of publications,” including Free Verse, Wisconsin Academy Review, Hummingbird, Margie, Main Street Rag, and Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets calendars. Her awards include the Byline, the Jade Ring, and the Muse Prize.
Dekelver and her husband moved to Brussels from Marinette fifteen years ago. She works at both the Family Center of Door County and Homestead Senior Care in Green Bay.
An actor and an attorney as well as a poet, David Clowers has lived in Door County for the last twelve years, working for the Legal Aid Clinic in Door County as well as maintaining his own practice.
He has published one chapbook, Shedding my Three Piece Birthday Suit, and has a second in progress. His poems have appeared in Knock, Peninsula Pulse, Fox Cry Review, Verse Wisconsin, Your Daily Poem, Re-View and the WFOP calendars.
“I enjoy being a part of the Unabridged Group because when I bring a poem that I like,” Clowers said, “they provide me with the benefit of good readers who provide constructive criticism that makes the poem even better.” The group helped him win a second in the Hal Grutzmacher competition one year, he said, and an honorable mention in the WFOP Triad contest.
After teaching English and social studies at Bolingbrook High School (Illinois) and coaching baseball, Mike Orlock retired and with his wife moved to Sturgeon Bay as a permanent resident after years of vacationing in Door County.
Both a prose writer and poet, his poetry has appeared in TriQuarterly, Another Chicago Magazine, Verse Wisconsin, the Pulse, Your Daily Poem, and the WFOP calendars. One of his poems will appear in a Harper Collins textbook.
“I am the most recent addition to the Unabridged Group,” he said. “I enjoy this little learning community very much and find the exchange of ideas and work both enriching and inspiring.” His favorite local poets include Unabridged members David Clowers and Sharon Auberle, along with Ralph Murre.
A thirty-year resident of Door County and a long-time member of the Unabridged Poets, Rolf Olson was raised in Appleton, took a degree in philosophy, and worked as a boat builder.
He received double honors in this past summer’s Hal Grutzmacher poetry competition, earning both first place and an honorable mention for his poems. His first chapbook One Glass Eye appeared in 2003 and a second was issued last fall. His poetry has appeared both in the Pulse and local Dickinson poetry anthologies.
Olson, who regards poetry as “an act of awareness, empathy, and imagination,” looks “forward to hearing what new piece each of the members has brought to share. I have come to know and appreciate the diverse personalities and styles” and “enjoy the camaraderie and mutual support.”
A number of the Unabridged Poets belong to a second workshop as well and have been mentioned in earlier Pulse articles in this series on poetry groups.
Barbara Larsen has been with both the Wallace Group and Unabridged Poets since helping to found them. She has published several chapbooks of poetry, appeared in many journals, and earned prizes for her writing, most recently a third place in this past summer’s Grutzmacher competition.
“I like being in the Unabridged Poets Group because the poets are good critics,” she said, “and hone in on specific problems in our poems as well as being people who love to laugh – and we do – a lot!”
Another double-workshopper is Sharon Auberle who is also a member of Word Women. She has authored chapbooks, won literary prizes, and placed many poems in a variety of publications.
“What I like about the Unabridged group is the balance of male and female reactions, ideas, and opinions,” she said. “Also we have a range of ages, which is always good. In addition, at our critiques we sometimes wander far afield of the poem and learn amazing new facts that may be loosely related to it. I always come away from our meetings having learned something new.”
Loraine Brink belongs to both the Wallace Group and Unabridged Poets. She, too, is a frequently published and award-winning poet who is readying a chapbook for publication.
“It’s a joy to be a member of Unabridged,” she said. “These are high-caliber poets who have been writing for some time. Their critiquing is helpful in that they give constructive suggestions to improve my work.”
“I enjoy this group,” said Hanne Gault, a member of the Wallace Group as well. “Aside from the fact that that it always is helpful to have one’s poem critiqued by seasoned poets, the presence of several male members in the group lends an added and sometimes different perspective.”
Gault has published a chapbook along with journal publications and has also won awards for her work.
Poetry is very much alive and well in Door County. In addition to the three ongoing writing groups, the peninsula writing community offers opportunities for both established and beginning poets to take classes, to read their work, and to become published.
Unaffiliated poets interested in becoming a part of a writing group might consider getting together with like-minded poets to form one. A goal of Estella Lauter, present Door County Poet Laureate, is to assist in the formation of a fourth writing group.
Pick up next week’s issue of the Pulse to read more poems from members of the Unabridged Poets.