Madison's poet laureate, Fabu Carter Brisco, will represent the city during what appears to be Wisconsin's first statewide poetry celebration.
The Lorine Niedecker Wisconsin Poetry Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 3 and 4, in Fort Atkinson. Events include workshops, panel discussions, exhibits, poetry readings and tours of landmarks associated with the late Niedecker, a Wisconsin native and internationally respected poet, including her former cabin on Blackhawk Island.
"Lorine had a difficult time getting her work published and acknowledged, yet she continued to write," says Fabu. "This aspect of her life resonates with mine. I look forward to representing Madison and poetry at this festival that honors a poet, unknown in her lifetime, but becoming more well known in contemporary American society."
The weekend is for poets, would-be poets and fans. "Poetry is alive and well in the state of Wisconsin," says organizer Amy Lutzke, noting that eight collections by state poets have been published this year alone.
The festival also honors Niedecker (1903-1970), author of "New Goose" and "Harpsichord & Salt Fish." She lived most of her life in poverty and published infrequently. Nevertheless, in the 1960s Niedecker garnered an excited international following. While she remains relatively unknown in her home state, British modernist poet Basil Bunting believed her work surpassed that of even Emily Dickinson.
"Dickinson is good much of the time," wrote the late Bunting, "but Niedecker is good all of the time." Her collected works were published in 2002 by University of California Press.
Several notable poets will be at the festival. "I will be sharing my original poetry, along with Marilyn Taylor, Wisconsin poet laureate, and Susan Firer, Milwaukee poet laureate," says Fabu. "The lives of both of these women and the art they produce are profoundly inspiring to me."
Taylor's award-winning poems have appeared in many literary journals, including Poetry, Measure and The American Scholar. Her latest poetry collection, Going Wrong, was published by Parallel Press in July. Firer's most recent book is Milwaukee Does Strange Things to People: New & Selected Poems, 1979-2007. She curates the online poetry page for ExpressMilwaukee.com.
Fabu is Madison's third poet laureate. She often focuses on children, women and African Americans. Her Poems, Dreams and Roses was published this month by the Madison Arts Commission. African American Life in Haiku will be published by Parallel Press in 2011.
The poet laureates will read on Saturday evening. Most festival events take place at the Hoard Museum and the Dwight Foster Public Library in Fort Atkinson. Almost all events are free.