Sutter, Barton 1949-

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Sutter, Barton 1949-


Born December 15, 1949, in Minneapolis, MN; son of Harold Edwin (a Lutheran minister) and Virginia Mae (a homemaker) Sutter; married Annette Marie Atkins, April, 1981 (divorced, 1991); married Dorothea Stowell, August 28, 1994; children: (stepchildren) Liselotte Stuecher, Bettina Stuecher. Ethnicity: "Swedish-American." Education: Attended Bemidji State University, 1967-69; Southwest State University, B.A., 1972; Syracuse University, M.A., 1975. Politics: "Green-DFL." Religion: Society of Friends (Quakers). Hobbies and other interests: Canoeing, camping, fishing, hiking, skiing.


Home—Duluth, MN. Office—Department of Language and Literature, University of Wisconsin—Superior, 1800 Grand Ave., Superior, WI 54804. Agent—Rhoda Weyr, 151 Bergen St., Brooklyn, NY 11217.


Typographic Arts, Minneapolis, MN, typesetter, 1976-83; University of Minnesota—Twin Cities, Minneapolis, lecturer, 1985-88, University of Minnesota—Duluth, Duluth, lecturer, 1988-98; University of Wisconsin—Superior, Superior, senior lecturer, 1999—. Part-time teacher at other institutions, including Wayne State College, Southwest State University, Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities, and St. John's University. Spirit Lake Poetry Series, board member, 1997—. Minnesota Humanities Commission, member of the chautauqua touring group "Minnesota Is a State of Mind," 1983-84, 1989.


Izaak Walton League, Minnesotans for Responsible Recreation, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, Association of University of Wisconsin Professionals, American Civil Liberties Union, Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness.


Bush Foundation fellowship, 1989; Minnesota Book Award for fiction, 1992; Minnesota Book Award for poetry, 1994; fellow, Arrowhead Regional Arts Council, 1996, 2001; Northeastern Minnesota Book Award, 1999; Minnesota Book Award for creative nonfiction, 1999; George Morrison Artist Award, 2005; named poet laureate of Duluth, MN, 2006.


Cedarhome: Poems, BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 1977.

Pine Creek Parish Hall and Other Poems, Sandhills Press (Lewiston, ID), 1986.

My Father's War and Other Stories, Viking (New York, NY), 1991.

The Book of Names: New and Selected Poems, BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 1993.

Cold Comfort: Life at the Top of the Map (creative nonfiction), University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1998.

Farewell to the Starlight in Whiskey (poetry), BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 2004.

Work represented in anthologies. Contributor of poetry, short stories, and essays to magazines and newspapers, including Iowa Review, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Minnesota Calls, Minnesota Monthly, Mpls. St. Paul, North American Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Sound and Sense, and Strong Measures. Essayist for the radio program Voices from the Heartland, Minnesota Public Radio, 1991-97.


Barton Sutter once told CA: "I began writing seriously—preserving time and space for this peculiar activity—at the age of fourteen, a year after my mother died from a long and gruesome battle with cancer. I'm sure there was a connection. My father was a Lutheran minister, so I naturally associated language with ritual, magic, and power; he pronounced people husband and wife, for example. My mother's mother, who lived to be ninety-seven, was a great gossip and storyteller; from her, I got a lot of my delight in characters, dialogue, narration, and word-play. My parents gave me the joy of reading (we didn't own a TV till I was in my teens). My dad was a quiet man who never missed an opportunity to keep his mouth shut; from him, I got the idea that words were too valuable to waste—a useful attitude for a poet.

"Aside from my high school years in Iowa, a year in Boston, grad school in upstate New York, and half a year in Europe, I've made my home in Minnesota. I grew up in tiny towns, where the varieties of English ranged from the colloquial speech of dairy farmers to the more formal words we used in church. Despite my education, those two poles still roughly define the spectrum of language I employ as a writer. The literature I like best is clear and direct. In my own work, I hope for a sort of devastating simplicity.

"I belong to the Upper Midwest. As a young writer, I dreamed about living on the cheap in some foreign country where I could write full-time. Several months in Ireland killed that fantasy. In a matter of weeks, I lost my linguistic bearings so badly that I couldn't even write journal notes. Travel is helpful, and I enjoy reading about all kinds of places, but, as a writer, I'm rootbound. I only feel authentic writing about my own region. I live in Duluth, on the shores of the largest freshwater lake in the world, where canoe racks are standard equipment and the temperature sometimes drops to forty below. I enjoy being out of the swim. I don't see much fun in loving someplace that everybody else loves, too. I like writing about country people and the natural world. I manage to get out in a canoe about thirty days a year and usually bring back fish or a poem—on lucky days, both.

"I'm a poet by nature, but I've worked in other genres, too. I've written for radio, had a play produced, published collections of stories and essays. Currently I'm focused on poetry and especially excited about exploring traditional forms. I've worked with them off and on through the years, but they're becoming more and more important to me. There's a lot going on in contemporary poetry, but what I miss most is music. Maybe that's because my brother is a singer who can peel the paint off the wall with the old Celtic ballads. Maybe I'm just nostalgic for the endless Lutheran hymns of my childhood. But that's my goal these days, more music."