Northfield, Minnesota, has a large and active community of poets, including many who have published books of poetry and whose work has appeared in national literary magazines. The long history of poetry in Northfield goes back to the late 19th century. The first published poet born in Northfield was Grace Fallow Norton (1876-1962), born one month after the famous Bank Raid, and the first collection of poetry published in Northfield was Gleanings (1888), an anthology compiled by Robert Watson and including several of his own poems. Several nationally-known poets have lived in Northfield, including former U.S. Poet Laureate Reed Whittemore, poet and former New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl, and former Connecticut Poet Laureate Marilyn Nelson. Regular poetry readings by local, regional, and nationally-known poets take place at the Northfield Public Library, Content Bookstore, and at both Carleton and St. Olaf Colleges. Public poetry in Northfield includes Northfield Sidewalk Poetry, the Riverwalk Steps poem, and the poem in the atrium of the Northfield Public Library.
The Riverwalk Steps Poem. Northfield, Minnesota. 2020.
The position of Northfield Poet Laureate was established in 2016 by the Northfield Public Library, in collaboration with the City of Northfield Arts and Culture Commission. The position was funded in its initial year through a grant by the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council (SEMAC). The Poet Laureate organizes, hosts, and provides funding for literary events in Northfield such as Poetry Night at Content Bookstore, Writers Night, and poetry workshops in the Northfield Public Schools. The Poet Laureate also writes and recites original poems for local civic events. The Poet Laureate has worked in collaboration with the Northfield Arts Guild, the Greenvale Park Community School, Content Bookstore, the Latino (and Friends) Play Festival, Northfield High School, Northfield Middle School, Arcadia Charter School, Prairie Creek Community School, Laura Baker Services Association, FiftyNorth, the Northfield Union of Youth, and others.
The Northfield Poets Laureate, currently serving jointly on an interim basis, are Becky Boling and D.E. Green.
Becky Boling is the Stephen R. Lewis, Jr. Professor of Spanish and the Liberal Arts, Emerita, at Carleton College, where she taught from 1983 to 2019. She has published both poetry and prose, including poetry in Visual Verse and Third Wednesday. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the editor of Willows Wept Review, where she has been a frequent contributor. Several of her poems appear on sidewalks in Northfield.
D.E. Green is Professor of English, Emeritus, and Senior Fellow at Augsburg University, where he was the 2007 recipient of the Distinguished Contributions to Teaching and Learning Award for Excellence in Teaching. His academic specialty is Shakespeare. As a poet, he is the author of the poetry collection Jumping the Median (Encircle Publications 2019) and the chapbook Catastrophizing in Catastrophe (2023). His poems also appear on Northfield sidewalks.
Former Northfield Poets Laureate: Rob Hardy (2016-2023)