Caribou Creek Press

Caribou Creek Press publishes original poetry, art, and photography. In August 2022, our first book of poetry became available, The Idea of North by Doug Linder. The first five poems below are from that book. (The sixth poem, Thinking about an Allium, was chosen by Garrison Keillor as a winner in his "Pandemic Poetry Contest" and was previously published, along with an interview with the author, on his Writer's Almanac website. The last poem below, The Noble Gases, was published in Scientific American in 2020.)

To contact Caribou Creek Press for large book orders (10 or more copies at a discounted rate), interview requests, or questions about titles, email:

linderdo@cariboucreekpress.com


PRAISE FOR THE IDEA OF NORTH:

Doug Linder has a most definite idea about the North, especially the area Midwesterners refer to as “The North Shore.” It’s an idea that comes from years of roaming the shores of Lake Superior, getting to know its people, towns, wildlife, and traditions—an idea rooted in sheer love for a place out “In the Middle of Nowhere.” What is the best way to preserve something amazing and beautiful? What is the best way to share it? Linder finds making poetry suitable for both; in one of his “spot of time” poems, he tells his twenty-three-year-old self to “memorize” a meeting with a lone wolf: “Remember his amber eyes, / and his leisurely lope across the snow-covered tundra.” Forty years later, he remembers how the moment pierced him, “setting [him] on fire.” Such transfers of experience fill the collection as the narrator looks for ways to pass his “sense of place” down to the next generation (and the next). “We want them to love what we love,” he admits, and happily for us, the poems in The Idea of North bring us a long way there.

Joyce Sutphen, poet laureate of Minnesota (2011-2021) and author of Carrying Water to the Field and This Long Winter


The poetry of Doug Linder is characterized by plain speech, empathy, wit, and a penchant for taking readers to surprising places. Begging for Thimbleberries brings together more than fifty poems set in the North Country (“Is it a place or is it an idea?”). Linder’s poetic imaginings wander the North from the polar-bear-prowled streets of Churchill to hot springs under Montana’s big sky, but he returns most often to the place he knows best, Minnesota’s distinctive “North Shore,” the wild lands north of Lake Superior. Many of these playful poems consider wildlife (you’ll find poems about lynx, moose, wolves and woodpeckers) and the natural world (lichens, dragonflies, northern lights), but the collection also includes poems about such diverse subjects as the Hamm’s Bear, curling, maple syrup, taconite plants, fish tossing, second homes, and a gas station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Deftly mixing deep insights and play, this is a poetry book even for people who thought they didn’t like poetry.

Doug Linder is a native Minnesotan who splits time between Kansas, where he teaches law, and Lutsen, Minnesota, where he and his wife have, for decades,spent summers on Lake Superior's shore. Author of two popular books on legal professionalism published by Oxford University Press, an acclaimed lecturer on historic trials and civil liberties issues in the “Great Courses” series, and creator of the Web’s largest and most visited website on famous trials, Linder has long kept his talent for poetry from public view—until recently, when his poems began receiving national attention in places ranging from Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac to Scientific American. Linder has two grown daughters. He loves to hike, travel, read, canoe, curl, and take regular dips into the energizing waters of Lake Superior.

The Idea of North

Just past the Moose Lake exit off I-35,

I say, “The North is an idea, not a place,”

And my wife looks at me as she often does and asks,

“Then why are we trying to drive to it?”

We shoot downhill along concrete channels into Duluth,

With its bridges, railroads, and waiting freighters.

We pass under the arching elms of Lake Street with its

Handsome mansions and porched Victorians.

And we come out on highway 61, where we ride by those lovely-named parks,

Gooseberry and Split Rock, Tettegouche and Temperance—

Temperance, where each summer we whoop and leap, hand-in-hand,

From a rocky ledge into the river’s cold currents below.

Turning to our right, when stands of birch and spruce relent,

And the view opens up, we see Superior singing,

Its silver and sapphire waters shimmering

As far as the eye can see.

Then a voice from the back seat: “Are we there yet?”

I make a last check for typos, change a word here or there,

And hit “Send.” This book of poems is off to my publisher.

“The readers will decide,” I reply.

It’s unfair, I know, to press a question when you only

Meant to sit cozily in your chair and be amused,

But which is it, dear Reader: Is the North just a place,

Or is it an Idea?


Along the Laurentian Divide 

We pull over, along the Gunflint Trail,

When we see the roadside marker.

“Laurentian Divide Scenic Overlook” the sign says,

Explaining what was divided.

Water falling to the north flows into Hudson Bay,

And on to the Arctic Ocean.

Water falling to the south

Flows through the Great Lakes into the Atlantic.

Not the Great Divide,

As they call the long line through the Rockies.

Only two thousand feet above sea level,

It divides watersheds, not a continent.

But just as decisive,

Telling billions of raindrops,

In no uncertain terms,

Which way to go.

A storm is blowing in from the northwest.

Rain will fall here soon.

One storm,

Emptying itself into two oceans.

How many of us toss now in turbulent clouds?

How many of us

Soon will fall one side or another of some Divide,

Soon will swim in an ocean we do not even recognize?


Begging for Thimbleberries

I’ve never eaten at the French Laundry,

That famous restaurant north of San Francisco,

But if I did drop in, I’d have a question for the chef:

“Do you have thimbleberries on the menu?”

The chef would look at me sadly and shake his head,

Because he’d know that the tastiest berry of them all

Won’t wait to be served on a plate—

Picked, it must be savored at once.

I consider this, on an August morning,

Along the ferny edge of a forest

Where thimbleberries grow thick,

As I place one tart, red cap on my tongue.

When my aroused taste buds rush the good news to my brain,

I imagine those sophisticated patrons of the French Laundry,

Encircling me, begging me:

“Please, please let us taste one!” they cry.


Sense of Place


We push the tandem kayak off the rocky shore

And watch our two young daughters

Paddle around a point and out of sight,

The first leg of their first kayak trip without us.

We smile wanly at each other and head inside to worry.

We’d given all the warnings—

Eye on the weather, stay close to shore—

But not until we catch sight of them again will we relax.

We want them to love what we love,

And when we see them glide into shore,

Paddles raised in jubilation,

We know it is happening.

August days of blueberry picking, beachcombing for agates,

Ledge leaping into the Temperance River,

Evenings playing board games and stoking campfires:

Time has made our special place their special place.

But what about their children?

Will our busy daughters have time to build memories for them?

Does sense of place regress over generations,

So eventually no place is valued over any other?


Company Town

A few miles beyond Beaver Bay you see it,

Its grey geometry of concrete towers, cylinders, and rectangles

Stretching a full mile down the highway,

The largest taconite processing facility in the world.

I was nineteen when I first visited Silver Bay,

Home to the taconite plant and my college girlfriend.

Already everyone was talking the court case,

United States versus Reserve Mining Company.

The company had been dumping 70,000 tons of tailings a day

Into Lake Superior. Harmless, the company said,

But now we knew the waste rock contained “asbestos-like fibers”

And that those fibers were in the drinking water, and in the air.

We hiked the hills around Silver Bay that summer.

We played golf and biked and swam and ended days

At the local Dairy Queen,

Sharing chocolate dip cones, watching the sun go down.

A decade later, she became a pediatrician, saving young lives.

Who else could have made that call for us late on New Year’s Eve?—

The call that sent the chief of pediatric surgery

Rushing to University Hospital in his tuxedo

To perform an emergency operation on our infant daughter,

While we sat holding hands in the waiting room,

Ringing in the new year?

That bright and lovely woman with auburn hair and an easy smile,

That woman who may have saved our daughter’s life,

Died of cancer in her fifties.

I know.

I wonder too. 


The poem below was a winner in the "Pandemic Poetry Contest" sponsored by Garrison Keillor and the Writer's Almanac. It is included in a forthcoming collection of poems, Shooting Hoopes in the Dark.


Thinking about an Allium

“A purple flower that is the Latin word for garlic?

Six letters, ending with an ‘m’, I think.”

“Allium,” Cheryl says. “With a double ‘l’.”

“Yes, of course,” I say, penciling letters into boxes on the

crossword. I picture the allium.

Its determined stem reaching higher than seems possible,

topped by its preposterous purple globe.

“It reminds me of the coronavirus,” I say.

“Spherical. Its little pointed petals sticking out.”

“Everything reminds you of the coronavirus.”

“Except the virus is gray, not purple. And its spikes are red.”

Are they really red? I wonder. Light can’t reach a virus, can it?

It must have no color at all.

“I think some artist just made the spikes red to scare us.

To make it look more like an alien invader.”

“Yes, dear,” Cheryl says.

In our backyard, the azaleas parade their pink.

The dogwood boasts its elegant blooms.

An iris chorus cries “Spring!”

“Let’s go outside,” I say.


Lake Superior Facts:

SIZE, DEPTH, WATERSHED, WATER QUALITY, etc

1. Lake Superior is, by surface area, the world's largest freshwater lake.

2. The surface area of Lake Superior (31,700 square miles or 82,170 square kilometers) is greater than the combined areas of Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire.

3. Lake Superior contains as much water as all the other Great Lakes combined, even throwing in two extra Lake Eries. Its volume is second only to Russia's Lake Baikal.

4. Lake Superior contains 10% of all the earth's fresh surface water.

5. There is enough water in Lake Superior (3,000,000,000,000,000--or 3 quadrillion-- gallons) to flood all of North and South America to a depth of one foot.

6. The deepest point in Lake Superior (about 40 miles north of Munising, Michigan) is 1,300 feet (400 meters) below the surface.

7. Over 300 streams and rivers empty into Lake Superior.

8, The average elevation of Lake Superior is about 602 feet above sea level.

9. The Lake Superior watershed region ranges in size from 160 miles inland near Wabakimi Provincial Park to only 5 miles inland from Pictured Rocks National Seashore.

10. The Lake Superior shoreline, if straightened out, could connect Duluth and the Bahama Islands.

11. The average underwater visibility of Lake Superior is 27 feet, making it easily the cleanest and clearest of the Great Lakes. Underwater visibility in places reaches 100 feet. Lake Superior has been described as "the most oligotrophic lake in the world."

12. The lake is about 350 miles (563 km) in length and 160 miles (257 km) in width.

13. In the summer, the sun sets more than 35 minutes later on the western shore of Lake Superior than at its southeastern edge.

14. Lake Superior has over 400 islands, the largest of which is Isle Royale, with a size of 207 square miles.

15. Waves of over 40 feet in height have been recorded on Lake Superior.

16. Travel by car around Lake Superior covers a distance of about 1,300 miles.

17. The largest underwater formation in Lake Superior is the Superior Shoal, which rises from a depth of over 1,000 feet to within 20 feet of the water surface over a distance of just three miles.

18. Sudden changes in winds or barometric pressure around Lake Superior can produce seiches, a phenomenon which results in water levels rising or falling as much as six feet along a coast in a short period of time.

19. Water in Lake Superior is retained, on average, 191 years.


GEOLOGY, FLORA AND FAUNA, CLIMATE, etc.

1. Lake Superior is one of the earth's youngest major features, at only about 10,000 years of age--dating to the last glacial retreat. By comparison, the earth's second largest lake (by surface area, and largest by volume), Lake Baikal in Russia, is 25 million years old.

2. Fifty-eight orchid species are native to the Lake Superior basin. In North America, only Florida has more native orchid species.

3. Lake Superior produces the greatest lake effect snows on earth. (Significant lake effect snows are a rare phenomenon, occurring--besides on the Great Lakes--only on the east shore of Hudson Bay and the west coasts of two Japanese islands.) Lake effect snows extend 20 to 30 miles inland, primarily on the Ontario shore southeast of Marathon, and from Sault Ste. Marie to the Wisconsin-Michigan border. Average annual snowfall in Michigan's Keweenaw exceeds 200 inches in places.

4. Lake Superior has been at its modern elevation for only about 2,000 years, when elevations of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron dropped, creating a rapids at Sault Ste. Marie.

5. Lake Superior has its origins in the North American Mid-Continent Rift of 1.1 to 1.2 billion years ago, which produced a huge plume of hot mantle where the present lake sits. The crust tore apart, leaving an arc-shaped scar stretching form Kansas through Minnesota, then down to Michigan.

6. Within its borders, Lake Superior has both the thickest, and nearly the thinnest, crust found anywhere in North America.

7. When European explorers visited Lake Superior in the 1600s they reported giant sturgeons (up to nine feet in length) and pike of greater than seven feet in length.

8. The largest tributary of Lake Superior, Ontario's Nipigon River, was in the 1800s the finest brook trout water in the world. It produced the world record brook trout of 14.5 pounds.

9. Some of the world's oldest rocks, about 2.7 billion years of age, can be found on the Ontario shore of Lake Superior.

10. The average annual water temperature of Lake Superior is 40º F. It only very rarely freezes over completely, and then usually just for hours. The last complete freezing of Lake Superior occurred in 1979, although the lake was almost completely frozen over in 2014.

11. Migrating birds of prey funnel down Lake Superior's north shore in great numbers each fall. On a single day at Duluth's Hawk Ridge as many as 100,000 birds of prey might pass by.

12. Lake Superior rests mostly on Precambrian rock at the southern edge of the Canadian shield, the largest exposure of such bedrock on the planet.

13. Sliver Islet, a Lake Superior island off Ontario's north shore, was the site for 15 years in the 1800s of the world's richest silver mine.

14. Lake Superior contains nearly 70 million diporeia (shrimplike creatures) with a total biomass greater than that of the human population in the entire Lake Superior basin.

15. Lake Superior is home to 88 species of fish.


Simply Superior: The World's Greatest Lake


Lake Superior is aptly named. As Craig Blacklock notes in his book Lake Superior Images, "To comprehend Superior be must change our concept of what a lake is." Impressed visitors often remark after seeing the lake for the first time, "It's like the ocean--except with fresh water." With 2,730 miles of coastline and 10% of the planets fresh surface water, Lake Superior is--by surface area--the largest lake on earth. Its 3 quadrillion gallons of water is enough water to flood the entire continents of North and South America to a depth of one foot, and is much more than the water contained in all of the other Great Lakes combined. Superior's cold, clear expanse (average water temperature is 40ºF) is large enough to change the region's climate, delaying its spring, moderating its summer and falls, and producing on its southern shores in winter the largest lake effect snows on earth.


Statistics, however, are only a small part of Lake Superior's story. Anyone who spends much time on the greatest of the Great Lakes comes to love the lake. Its coast is beautiful and diverse, ranging from sandy shores to high, rocky, boreal-forest-covered cliffs. Over 300 streams and rivers tumble into it. Superior's waters are among the clearest on earth, with an average underwater visibility of 27 feet. Equally capable of inspiring awe, however, are the lake's many moods as they unfold in the famously changing northern weather. Superior's colors change from a glimmering deep blue to green to gray. Irregular cloud-cast shadows move playfully across its surface. The horizon melts into the sky and then reappears. The lake can be calm and inviting--or terrifying as it tosses wildly in the grip of a November gale. To live along its shores is to come to think of Lake Superior as a person of majesty, not simply as an ordinary natural feature.


Adding to an appreciation of Lake Superior is the knowledge that it is--geologically speaking--a very short-lived natural feature for all of its impressive size. Born of the retreating glaciers about 10,000 years ago, and reaching its modern stage and elevation only 2,000 years ago, Lake Superior now faces its inevitable death. Lakes are evanescent. Superior's beautiful vastness is only, as Craig Blacklock observed, "a momentary flash of silver across the face of our planet." Lucky we are to share its time.