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Tuesday, April 21, 2015


A few months ago I spoke to a class at Beloit College, and afterwards, the instructor, Chris Fink, turned me on to the work of Lorine Niedecker.

Niedecker was a semi-obscure poet who lived most of her life in relative seclusion on a rural spit of land, Blackhawk Island, where the Rock River empties into Lake Koshkonong, outside Fort Atkinson, WI. This is just a few short miles up the road from Beloit.  (She was a student at Beloit College for two years, until her money ran out.) Though she was a beloved poet amongst her colleagues (the Objectivist poets), her Midwestern isolation, and no doubt her sex, kept her from receiving the acclaim she deserved during her lifetime.

This is the exact kind of story that pushes all my buttons: an artist forgoing fame and acknowledgement to remain where planted, writing with depth of her plain, forgotten surroundings, locating the beauty and power in events and interactions that most would simply rush past.

We took a drive awhile back to Blackhawk Island, where the tiny cabin in which she lived and worked is still standing, flood after flood.  In more recent years, scholars and readers have rediscovered Niedecker's work, and it's begun to find its proper place in anthologies, biographies, and collections.

  Water lily mud
My life

Effort lay in us
before religions
   at pond bottom
          All things move toward
the light

by the flood
    Leave the new unbought --
        all one in the end --


All photos by SD; Blackhawk Island, Wis.


  1. Blackhawk Island looks so quiet and solitary! Love the accompanying poem too, the line breaks are very intriguing.

    1. Her work is simultaneously plain and very modern.


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