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Poetry

Balancing Book Cover

Balancing

Balancing: Poems of the Female Immigrant Experience in the Upper Midwest, 1830-1930

The poems in Balancing were inspired by the experience of women who, in the 19th and 20th centuries, sought new homes in the Upper Midwest. The first waves of pioneers, predominantly Yankees from Northeastern states, were soon followed by European immigrants. Few women recorded their struggles and satisfactions, but by juxtaposing research and imagination, Ernst breathes new life into their forgotten stories.

Kathleen Ernst standing in front of a window of a cabin

Author's Note

As a writer, I sometimes discover moments and details so powerful they deserve their own space. Writing poems lets me shine lamplight on compelling stories that might get lost in a novel. Here you'll find more information about my first collection of poetry (my 40th published book), and links to read several of my poems. I hope you enjoy!

Individual Poems

Lost, 1867

The 19th-century immigrant experience often inspires my work. Here, I wanted to reflect how life has both changed and stayed the same. While the loss of a bonnet may feel irrelevant today, the loss of a child evokes timeless emotions. This poem was chosen for the 2013 MARK MY WORDS AGAIN exhibition at the Pump House Regional Arts Center in La Crosse, WI where it was paired with a photo by artist Jerry Weigel.

From Balancing: Poems of the Female Immigrant Experience in the Upper Midwest, 1830-1930, a collection of eighteen poems published by Little Creek Press. © 2021 Kathleen Ernst, LLC.

Kathleen Ernst Standing in a gallery with two hanging pictures on the wall
Killer whale drawing

Ascension

In 2012, the Franciscan Spirituality Center in La Crosse, WI, sponsored a writing competition which focused on the healing power of the natural world and God's presence in all creation. Ascension was the Grand Prize winner. My talented friend Eileen Daily painted the Orca.

Handwork

Since so many 19th-century women left no written records behind, I've long been fascinated by the remnants of their lives that do remain. After writing this poem I chose to create a video version; it can be viewed by clicking on the image to the right.

To watch a video of the poem, click on the Handwork photo.

Handwork
Kathleen Ernst standing in front of artwork on a wall

Facing Forward

I was honored to have this poem chosen for the MARK MY WORDS exhibition at the Pump House Regional Arts Center in La Crosse, WI. Artist Monica Jagel responded by creating a gorgeous piece of art that continues the story told in my poem.

From Balancing: Poems of the Female Immigrant Experience in the Upper Midwest, 1830-1930, a collection of eighteen poems published by Little Creek Press. © 2021 Kathleen Ernst, LLC.

Inarticulate, 1908

This poem was inspired by a visit to Cumberland Gap National Park in Kentucky. It was originally published in the Fall 2006 issue of Appalachian Heritage.

Cabin with fence around the perimeter.
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