Fort Atkinson’s famous poet, Lorine Niedecker, is known for her spare writing style. She “condensed” her words into ideas that hinted at meanings on multiple levels. Many consider her one of the most brilliant poets to ever have lived.
When I was a high school student, shelving books here at the library, I was soon introduced to Niedecker’s books of poetry as well as her personal library. I think the introduction went something like this: “Here are Lorine’s books. She’s our famous poet. Make sure you keep them in order. Don’t let anyone check any of them out. They are VERY VALUABLE.”
Immediately I knew that of all the books here those were our most precious. I was 16 years old at the time and I grew up in Fort Atkinson, but I had never heard of her before. It was a complete surprise to me to discover the treasure trove right here in this very building.
Over the years, the people who appreciate (and revere) Lorine have done a marvelous job of spreading the word about her work, talent, and life here on Blackhawk Island. An upcoming event, Here on Earth with Jean Feraca, on Wisconsin Public Radio, is an example of a unique way her poetry can be shared.
Lorine used to work here at the Dwight Foster Public Library. She also worked at the Fort Atkinson Memorial Hospital and Hoard’s Dairyman. I’ve been told that she wanted the library to have her personal collection because she understood what a library means to a community. We are, after all, the place of words.
As we move forward with our building expansion, we are keenly aware of Lorine’s place in both our library’s history as well as our community’s. We are “at the table” (thanks to Amy Lutzke) with all things Lorine and remain proud of her significant (and everlasting) contribution to the body of poetry. We are excited to be able to incorporate her gifts to the world into our expanded library.
Tune in to Jean Feraca’s show (more info about date/time if you follow that link to the program.) Come in and check out a book of Lorine’s poetry. Drive out to see her cabin. See the room at the Hoard Historical Museum. Read about Lorine’s fascinating life. See the film. Also, you won’t want to miss the story about Lorine in today’s Daily Jefferson County Union.
Sometimes the less said, the better. Other times it’s important to spread the good word.
Lorine in the cabin on Blackhawk Island