Celebrating the Poets Laureate of Duluth

The Twin Ports have long been a literary center for Minnesota. Now, a video produced by UMD students Eleanore Hunt and Ty Pearson celebrates the literary community of Duluth by promoting new materials in the Archives and Special Collections of the Kathryn A. Martin Library. The new materials celebrate the Duluth Poet Laureate Program.

The program named six Poets Laureate.

  • Barton Sutter, 2006-2008

  • Jim Johnson, 2008-2010; 2014-2016

  • Sheila Packa, 2010-2012

  • Deborah Cooper, 2012-2014

  • Ellie Schoenfeld, 2016-2018

  • Gary Boelhower, 2018-2020

Students worked with Ellie Schoenfeld and Sheila Packa, interviewing them to create a video introducing the world to the collection which is available through the Kathryn A. Martin Library's YouTube page. 

Student Eleanore Hunt, said,

"I was happy to have the opportunity to speak with and promote such inspirational voices in the poetry community, as well as work with friend and fellow artist Ty Pearson. The Duluth Poet Laureate Project will continue to inspire the artists of tomorrow.” 

Pearson echoed Hunt's thoughts:

"It was wonderful to discuss poetry (a form of writing near and dear to me) with Sheila, Ellie, and everyone else who joined us at the library this spring. I greatly enjoyed learning about The Duluth Poet Laureate Project and hope current and future generations of writers will honor the unique role poetry plays in the community”

The collection contains materials from four poets during their tenure as Laureate: Barton Sutter, Sheila Packa, Ellie Schoenfeld, and Gary Boelhower. Materials include the poets' applications to become Laureates and ephemera from the events.  For example, this very cool placemat, from Sheila Packa’s “Read it and Feast” event, is a time capsule of Duluth poetry, including poems from a diverse range of Duluthians.  As one ate soup, one also fed the soul.  

According to Jim Perlman, founder of Holy Cow! Press, “I'm grateful that this literary history of Duluth will be a resource available to all of us.”  Perlman founded the poet laureate project and directed it, with a committee of supporters from nonprofits, education, and volunteers, for 15 years. 

a photograph of a paper placemat on a table. The placemat is from Sheila Packa's "Read it and Feast" event, and has poetry on it.

The project was a collaboration between the University of Minnesota Duluth Department of English, Linguistics, and Writing Studies and the Archives and Special Collections at the Kathryn A. Martin Library. The Archives and Special Collections at the Kathryn A. Martin Library collects, preserves, and provides access to materials that document the history of University of Minnesota Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota. The collections include the Northeastern Minnesota Historical Collections which are on permanent loan from the St. Louis County Historical Society.


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