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 first Northfield Poet Laureate is Rob Hardy. Rob is the author of Domestication: Collected Poems, 1996-2016 (Shipwreckt Books 2017), Shelter in Place (Finishing Line Press 2022), The Collecting Jar (Grayson Books 2005), and Aeschylus, The Oresteia: An Adaptation (Hero Now Theatre 2017). Rob's writing (poetry and prose) has appeared in New England Review, Ploughshares, Rattle, New Letters, North Dakota Quarterly, and other literary and scholarly journals. His adaptation of Aeschylus's Oresteia has been staged at Carleton College and by Hero Now Theatre in Minneapolis. Rob is former member of the Northfield School Board (2012-2020) and a Research Associate in Classics at Carleton College, and editor of Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica Selections and Homer, Odyssey 9-12 (Dickinson College Commentaries).