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Grassroots group invites writers to meet fellow Duluth poets, grow skills

The Duluth Poetry Chapter of the League of Minnesota Poets is a grassroots poetry writing group that’s welcome to anyone interested in writing poetry.

Duluth Poetry Chapter Jess Melander
Duluth Poetry Chapter member Jess Melander works on a poem during a coffee chat by the chapter Sunday. The local chapter holds weekly meet-ups for those interested in writing poetry.
Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — For Robert Wildwood, getting together with a group of fellow poets every week to have coffee, chat and share what they're all working on is "like church."

"This is my church," Wildwood said. "The human connection with people and their ideas and sharing with one another."

Jess Morgan, founder of the Duluth Poetry Chapter, part of the League of Minnesota Poets, agreed.

"We come for each other as much as for the poetry," Morgan said. "Even if I have no spoons for poetry that week, I can come and listen and feel nurtured."

Duluth Poetry Chapter Jess Morgan
Duluth Poetry Chapter member Jess Morgan listens to questions posed by a fellow poet at a coffee chat held by the group Sunday.
Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune

The Duluth Poetry Chapter has existed in Duluth since 2018. Morgan moved to the area in 2016 and wanted to find a poetry-specific group of people to workshop their writing with.

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"I was finding that there wasn't as much space for poetry in our area," Morgan said. "And I ran the creative writing club at my university in undergrad, so I thought I had the skills."

Morgan went to a local reading hosted by the League of Minnesota Poets and reached out to the leadership there to see about creating a local chapter. After going through some steps, the Duluth chapter was formed and Morgan started reaching out to others.

Duluth Poetry Chapter Zachary Madson
Duluth Poetry Chapter member Zachary Madson asks a question about finding grants to fund poetry work at a coffee chat Sunday.
Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune

"We've been having weekly meetings ever since," they said. "And like anything you build, it wasn't something that happens all at once, but is a culmination of small steps. That's true for our chapter. We had a really good group going then COVID really disrupted that. We still met over Zoom, but we've been in a rebuilding phase this past year."

Duluth Poetry Chapter Jess note
Jess Melander makes a note in her poetry notebook at a recent coffee chat meeting of the Duluth Poetry Chapter of the League of Minnesota Poets.
Teri Cadeau / Duluth News Tribune

The weekly meet-ups, currently held mainly at the Dovetail Cafe and Marketplace inside the Duluth Folk School every Sunday, are geared toward people sharing their work. At a typical meeting, the poets read poems they've written, offer feedback and take time to free-write.

"It's a place I can be my authentic self around like-minded individuals," said chapter member Henry Kneiszel. "But it also holds me accountable. There are weeks where I get really busy and don't have as much time to write or think about writing. But then I go on Sunday and I'm quickly able to get back into the zone and usually have something written by the end. It allows me to be intentional about my writing."

DPCstickers
Stickers promoting the Duluth Poetry Chapter.
Contributed / Duluth Poetry Chapter

Chapter members also celebrate publishing wins, whenever a poem is printed in a journal, or someone publishes a book. Members offer each other advice on finding funding sources for their work or opportunities to submit work for publishing.

Morgan is working on a chapbook, or a small publication of poetry. Kneiszel, with encouragement and advice from the group, applied for and received a grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council to create their own poetry performance series called "The Goose Circus."

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"There's poetry, there's music, a talented friend who comes dressed up as a clown in full clown makeup," they said. "And we do skits along with the poems. We did the first performance here in Duluth at The Caddy Shack and I'm looking at doing two more in different parts of the Arrowhead."

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The group also takes on projects as a team. A few years ago, they met at Wisconsin Point and collectively decided to write poetry on pieces of driftwood, which they left along the shore. Kneiszel wasn't with the group yet but recalls finding a piece of the wood.

"I was in the group for a while before I realized they were the ones who did that," Kneiszel said. "I just remember seeing a bunch of driftwood with poems on them. I thought it was a pretty cool idea."

Pride Fest Duluth Poetry Chapter Jess Morgan
Jess Morgan reads poetry at Duluth Superior Pride Fest this year. Several members of the Duluth Poetry Chapter read at the event.
Contributed / Aaron Reichow

Several chapter members also read poems at Duluth Superior Pride Fest last year.

Soon the chapter will come together to organize a "Poetry SLAM DUNK" during March Madness. The event will feature poetry along with "words written on bellies, pun-filled cheers, poetry snaps and sneers, number one poet laureate foam fingers" and more, according to the event description.

The program is tentatively scheduled for March 5 at The Caddy Shack, 2023 W. Superior St., with more information to come.

But for anyone who wants to try their hand at poetry in the meantime, there are always the weekly coffee chats every Sunday at 1 p.m. at Dovetail Cafe and Marketplace, 1917 W. Superior St. For more information, visit facebook.com/duluthpoetrychapter.

Related Topics: DULUTHPOETRYART
Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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