Redefining the Classroom

English Professor Eric Gadzinski is Upper Peninsula Poet Laureate finalist

Posted: May 23rd, 2013

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – A consortium interested in enhancing appreciation of poetry in the region has released the names of five finalists for the newly created position of Poet Laureate of the Upper Peninsula. The list includes Lake Superior State University English Professor Eric Gadzinski.

Working in conjunction with the UP Book Tour, the consortium invited more than 100 UP libraries, bookstores, and writers to submit nominations. In addition to Gadzinski, the finalists include: Elinor Benedict, Escanaba; Randall R. Freisinger, Houghton; and Austin Hummel and Russell Thorburn, both of Marquette. The recipient of the title will be announced this summer.

As is the case with poet laureate positions at both state and national levels, the UP Poet Laureate’s primary responsibility will be to promote the social and educational value of poetry by means of public readings and lectures as well as workshops and classroom visits in UP schools.

Eric Gadzinski

All five finalists have published widely and have distinguished records as teachers and promoters of poetry in the Upper Peninsula. Three of the finalists - Hummell, Gadzinski and Thorburn - are featured in the anthology, The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works, which was released this month through Wayne State University Press.

All of the candidates are currently being interviewed by news outlets across the U.P.

Gadzinski has taught at LSSU since 1995. One of the founders of LSSU’s creative writing program and of the literary journal now called Border Crossing, he teaches creative writing, literature, and composition. He holds a Ph.D. in English from Temple University, where he wrote his dissertation on American soldier poetry of the Vietnam War. His poetry has been published widely in a variety of online and print journals, and two of his poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His poetry collections include Lotus Eater, Sweetgrass and Road’s End. He has been a regular workshop leader at the annual Creative Writing Festival held at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and will be a keynote speaker this year.

Benedict is founding editor of the UP literary magazine Passages North. Her recent books include Late News from the Wilderness and All That Divides Us.

Freisinger’s books include Nostalgia’s Thread: Ten Poems on Norman Rockwell’s Paintings and Plato’s Breath. He is an emeritus professor of humanities at Michigan Technological University.

Hummell’s books include Poppy and The Fugitive Kind. He is poetry editor of Passages North and professor of English at Northern Michigan University.

Thorburn is the author of Approximate Desire. Since 2000, he has been teaching poetry in Upper Peninsula schools through Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs. He has taught college courses at Marquette Branch Prison and Northern Michigan University.

Contact Ron Riekki at to set up interviews with any of the finalists, or to get more information about the UP Poet Laureate position. -LSSU-

CONTACT: Tom Pink, 906-635-2315;; John Shibley, 635-2314,; Ron Riekki,; Prof. Eric Gadzinski, 635-2113,