Wisconsin Gothic

Editor’s Note

In honor of Door County’s rich literary and photographic communities, the editorial staff at Door County Living decided to think outside the box with this issue’s literature section. Earlier this year, we perused

Len Villano

Photo by Len Villano.

dozens of photos from photography director Len Villano’s winter collection for an image that we felt spoke to the culture of the peninsula in the depths of winter. We connected with award-winning poet Al DeGenova, who leads the annual Norbert Blei Writing Workshop at The Clearing Folk School in Ellison Bay and has taken top honors in the Peninsula Pulse’s annual Hal Prize literary contest, and gave him a copy of our chosen photo. He was given no details on the individuals in the photo or their story and was tasked with writing a poem about it. What follows is DeGenova’s interpretation of the ice shanty scene in his poem, “Wisconsin Gothic.”


Where weather knocks with a limestone fist

and each season flavors a workingman’s

daily bread with a distinctive salt,

a couple chooses

to spend their day off

together in a shanty on the ice.


Where winter blue razors a sharp edge

against a white world, even in this season

there’s good eatin’

to be had outta their generous lake,

they sit back —

one line, one hole through thick ice.


Inside, the shanty is thick

with their morning —

a cooling frying pan, cigarettes,

wet socks drying near the old Jøtul stove.

Finished with her beer, her pen and journal,

she is done with words for now.


When the lens focuses on this man

and his barefoot woman,

he glares straight into the camera — interrupted!

but this morning he is forgiving,

he has all he desires, there is enough:

the right tackle, fresh bait, whiskey


and daydreaming about last night —

Pete singin’ the blues at the AC Tap,

and July

down Route 42

that field

thousands of blooming sunflowers.

Albert DeGenova

Albert DeGenova is an award-winning poet, writer, editor and publisher. He is the author of four books of poetry, and for the past 30-plus years has worked as a journalist and marketing communications professional. DeGenova holds a master of fine art degree in writing and now leads the annual Norbert Blei Writing Workshop at The Clearing Folk School. He is also a blues saxophonist and a one-time contributing editor to DownBeat magazine.