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Duluth Poet Laureate collection

Identifier: U6269

Scope and Contents

The collection contains materials from four poets during their tenure as Duluth Poet Laureate: Barton Sutter from 2006-2008, Sheila Packa from 2010-2012, Ellie Schoenfeld from 2016-2018, and Gary Boelhower from 2018-2020. Materials include the poets' applications to become Poet Laureates, reports to Lake Superior Writers from the poets, descriptions of and materials from projects and initiatives undertaken by the poets, and flyers and emphemera from events and readings.


  • Creation: 2006-2022


Conditions Governing Access

Open for use in the Kathryn A. Martin Library, Archives and Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

The Duluth Poet Laureate Project was established in 2005 as a response to former Governor Timothy Pawlenty’s veto of the State Legislature’s attempt to appoint a Minnesota Poet Laureate. When Lake Superior Writers board member Jim Perlman learned of the Governor’s veto, he responded by organizing a Poet Laureate project for Duluth. Under the direction of Lake Superior Writers, and with funding from the Friends of the Duluth Public Library, Northern Lights Books and Gifts, the Arrowhead Reading Council, the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, and others, a two-year post was established and the first Duluth Poet Laureate was appointed in 2006. Between 2006 and 2020, there were six Duluth Poet Laureates: Barton Sutter, Jim Johnson, Sheila Packa, Deborah Cooper, Ellie Schoenfeld, and Gary Boelhower. This collection includes materials from Sutter, Packa, Schoenfeld, and Boelhower reflecting their time as Duluth Poet Laureates.

The first Duluth Poet Laureate was Barton (Bart) Sutter, who held the position from 2006-2008. Sutter was born in Minneapolis in 1949. He holds a B.A. in Language Arts from Southwest Minnesota State University, and an M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. Sutter worked as a printer for ten years, then as a freelance writer and part-time instructor at various institutions. In 2011 he retired from a decade of teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Though primarily a poet, Sutter has also published essays and stories in dozens of magazines, and has published nine books. He is the only author to win the Minnesota Book Award in three different categories. Other awards and honors he has received include the Lifetime Achievement in the Art of Poetry, Circle of Friends, The Depot Foundation, 2023; Individual Artist Fellowship, Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, 2011, 2001, 1996; George Morrison Artist Award, 2005; Minnesota Book Award for Creative Non-fiction, 1999; Northeastern Minnesota Book Award, 1999; Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant (Sweden), 1997; Minnesota Book Award for Poetry, 1994; Minnesota Book Award for Fiction, 1992; and others.

Sheila Packa was Duluth Poet Laureate from 2010-2012. Packs was born in Virginia, Minnesota in 1956, and holds a Bachelor’s of Social Development from the University of Minnesota Duluth and a MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She has published six books of poetry, including the anthology Migrations: Poetry and Prose for Life's Transitions, which was compiled and published during her time as Duluth Poet Laureate. Her work has also appeared in many anthologies and literary magazines. She is the recipient of the 2022 Arrowhead Arts Council Award; 2021 Minnesota State Arts Board Creative Opportunity Grant; 2020 Minnesota State Arts Board Arts Initiative Grant in Poetry; Finlandia Foundation Grant, 2016; Creative Community Leadership Institute Fellowship, Fall 2013; Golden Crown Award for Poetry, 2011; Northeastern Minnesota Book Award, 1st place in fiction, poetry, drama, 2003; and others. Packs says of her work: “I write narratives about people in the north. My artistic inquiry is about place and displacement and the impact of geology, history and family stories on identity.”

Ellie Schoenfeld was Duluth Poet Laureate from 2016-2018. Schoenfeld graduated from the University of Minnesota Duluth in 1987 with a degree in German, and in 2007 with a Master’s of Social Work. She has been an active member of the Duluth literary community for many years. In 1992 she co-founded Poetry Harbor, and from 2004-2010 she served on the board of the Spirit Lake Poetry Series. She has published three books, including The Dark Honey: New and Used Poems in 2012, and her work has also appeared in numerous anthologies and literary magazines.

Gary Boelhower was Duluth Poet Laureate from 2018-2020. Boelhower was born in Kimberly, Wisconsin in 1950. He holds a B.A. in Philosophy from the Catholic University of America, an M.A. in Theology from Marquette University, and a PhD in Theology from Marquette University. He is a professor emeritus at the College of St. Scholastica, where he taught theology and religious studies. He has published three books of poetry, and his poems have appeared in many anthologies and literary magazines. He has received numerous awards, including the Lake Superior Writers writing contest (1st place), 2023; nomination for the Pushcart Prize, 2018; Foley Prize from America Magazine, 2012; Lake Superior Writers Open Genre Writing Competition (2nd place), 2011; Midwest Book Award; and others.


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12.9 Megabytes

Language of Materials



The collection contains materials from four poets during their tenure as Duluth Poet Laureate: Barton Sutter from 2006-2008, Sheila Packa from 2010-2012, Ellie Schoenfeld from 2016-2018, and Gary Boelhower from 2018-2020.

Physical Location

This collection is located at the University of Minnesota Duluth Archives. For more information about this collection or to make an appointment, contact us at or 218-726-8526.

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Collecting Area Details

Contact The University of Minnesota Duluth Archives and Special Collections Collecting Area

Kathryn A. Martin Library
University of Minnesota Duluth
416 Library Drive
Duluth MN 55812-3001
(218) 726-8526