Dawn Anderson has been named Wausau’s first poet laureate; here’s how it came about


Gina Cornell

Dawn Anderson is Wausau’s first poet laureate.

Dawn Anderson has always wanted to be a poet laureate. So when the City of Wausau last year announced they were looking for one, Anderson’s friends and family encouraged her to apply. “I don’t believe I’m the best poet in Wausau, but I do have a lot of experience in front of people. So I think that for the very first one it is probably not a bad thing,” says Anderson. “Every poet is different. And I think a known poet in the area is probably important for a poet laureate because it promotes your area, your town, as well as the arts, and expression.”

Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg is excited to have recently announced Anderson as the first poet laureate of the city and bring her into the fold of creating for and inspiring the community with her short poems. “2020 was kind of a lot,” says Rosenberg. “After the George Floyd march where 2,000 people showed up to demonstrate, and it made me think, ‘man, what would help us get through this as a community’?” she says. “I started seeing some other places where they were using poetry to kind of get through these big issues. So that got me thinking.” 

Anderson, a native of the Wausau area, is known for her creative, insightful, and uplifting poems. “I loved that she talked about being a positive poet, her creation is positive poetry. I think that’s really what we need right now,” says Rosenberg.

As far as the role of poet laureate, Rosenberg believes there are a plethora of opportunities. “I loved hearing from the Milwaukee poet laureate about how they put poetry in their water bills and stuff like that,” she says. “It got me thinking, maybe I was completely not even thinking about them the right way, like maybe we need to have more art in what we do, even though government bureaucracy doesn’t seem like the natural place, maybe that’s an opportunity,” Rosenberg says. “She’s going to be the pioneer here, and we’ll work together on what that looks like.”

Anderson likes to call herself a positive poet and believes that will mesh well with Wausau and promote writing as an artistic form of expression. “I tend to be a positive person and when I process I like to look at the good in things,” she says. “I think that matches well as a poet laureate, because especially in a town like Wausau… where we have a very active arts community, like visual arts, performance arts, but the one art that is lagging is the written arts.”

Not only is she excited to expose more people to poetry, she sees poetry as a way of experiencing the area and the community. “I was at the Wausau Festival of Arts recently. I went purposely because I wanted to experience it. I wanted to sit and listen, smell and see, and write a poem,” she says.

When reading her poem, it’s as though you were a fly on a wall downtown for a moment. “I would see people from across the 400 Block lift their hand and wave at people, and you know people they hadn’t seen, especially coming out of COVID sequestering, and introducing each other and running together and giving hugs,” says Anderson. “And that was just such a warm feeling and it didn’t have anything to do with the art but the art brought us to that place together.”

Anderson is looking forward to the next two years and sharing her love for poetry writing with the area in hopes of encouraging others to express themselves through writing. “People need to slow down and take things in more and I think poetry does that.”

More of Anderson’s work can be found on her personal blog at: createthedawn.com

Festival of Arts

By Dawn Anderson

Art immersion

Live jazz mood set

White tents, painted canvas

Air filled with swing, chatter,

and talk of cheese curds

as strollers take in art.

Our art

like fresh air for the soul

Something for everyone

Especially bumping into friends

Waves across the square

Hugs and high “hi” voices


Young, old

coupled hands entwined

Love of cutting boards, fine art

and each other.