Writer's Garret: Door County: A Writer’s Perspective, continued

Door County is a haven for artists of every sort, and writers are no exception. The Clearing, a magnificent bluff retreat center overlooking Green Bay, is a place that nurtures writers and other artists. The architecture was designed by Jens Jensen, who believed that nature is always a player in the design of a building or landscape. At The Clearing, fields of wild daisies lure monarch butterflies. Most nights the sunsets from the high bluffs over Green Bay are breathtaking. The air is clean, and the only sounds are the birds. In short, it’s a perfect place to write. Since it is nearly at the tip of the Door peninsula, located on Garret Bay Road, there are virtually no tourists nearby.

It was in this environment that my first chapbook, Tonight On This Late Road, was created. Though the book was funded by the late Rockford Writers’ Theater, it was named by Norbert Blei, who has given writing workshops at The Clearing for a couple of decades. He is a gentle, wonderful teacher with much insight into the writing and publishing process. To date, he continues teaching at The Clearing, usually in June. I had assembled the poems for the first collection and was puzzled about a title. It was Nor who suggested a line from one of the poems, “Tonight on this late road…” That became the title for the collection.

Some of the poems in Tonight On This Late Road were first published in the late Peninsula Review, a journal produced by Hal Grutzmacher, owner of Pastime Books in Sister Bay. For more than a decade, he produced, funded and distributed this tasty small press journal. Though the bookstore has survived and is run by Hal’s son, the Peninsula Review is no longer published. A poetry award, however, was established in Hal’s name by The Peninsula Pulse. Wisconsin Poet Laureate Ellen Kort judges the contest. Three years ago, I won first place for “At Three Arch Cape.” The next year, I won second place for “Poem to my Retirement.” Along with publication came the opportunity to read with Ellen Kort at the holy hut at the Sacred Grounds cafe’. It is a memory that I treasure. This year, Sacred Grounds cafe’ is no more, and I wonder what will take its place.

One of the greatest gifts Door County has given me is an emerging friendship with Wisconsin Poet Laureate Ellen Kort. Our paths have been crossing in women’s journals for years, so it has been good to finally meet her and get to know her. She will be the keynote speaker and reader at “A River Runs Through Us.” This workshop, scheduled Sept. 18-21, is sponsored by Womanspace and the Rockford Area Arts Council. Stay tuned for more complete information on this exciting event. If you are a writer, you will surely want to attend!

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