A Yooper wordsmith has been writing poetry about the exploits and intimate life of Bigfoot for years.
“I tell people I write Bigfoot poetry, and they look at me like I’m insane,” said Martin Achatz to the amusement of the community audience gathered in the Olson Library and the piqued interest of students overhearing.
At the public reading titled “Bigfoot: Myth & Metaphor,” Achatz, the Upper Peninsula poet laureate, recited at 3 p.m. Tuesday a selection of his original poetry about the mythical creature Bigfoot.
“I believe in the idea of Bigfoot,” Achatz told the audience. “I want to believe Bigfoot is real—I’m not sure if it is. But I also think of it as a metaphor in my life and everybody’s life. Everybody’s a Bigfoot sometime in their lives.”
The poems he read included “Lady Bigfoot Kept Him in Her Cave,” which is about a lumberjack who is love partner to a sasquatch (which Achatz wrote to commemorate his own marriage anniversary, he said); “Bigfoot’s Heart,” a Shakespearean sonnet; as well as other titles like “Bigfoot Has Late Fees at the Carnegie Library,” “Bigfoot Took His Wife to Mount Rushmore for Their Honeymoon” and “Bigfoot Tries to Fix His Daughter’s Broken Heart.”
Through poetry, Achatz created vivid scenes about the personal life of Bigfoot, evoking not only humor but also a range of deeper emotions, from sensuality to sympathy.
“One of the real joys for me in writing these poems is putting Bigfoot in situations that other people are in and imagining how Bigfoot would actually respond to doing things like this,” he said.
The U.P. Poet Laureate program was started by author Ron Riekki six years ago as an effort to promote poetry in the area. Candidates for the distinction are chosen by a committee of librarians, teachers, poets and booksellers, Achatz explained, and then the community votes online for who will hold the two-year position.
Announced in February 2017, Achatz is the third to be elected poet laureate of the U.P., and he will hold the title through 2018. As poet laureate he has led poetry readings and visited K-12 schools, with the goal of encouraging an appreciation for the art of poetry.
“I always love sharing my Bigfoot poetry,” he said. “It makes people smile… Everybody knows Bigfoot. Everybody loves Bigfoot, I think. It’s a way to get people who [normally] wouldn’t listen to poetry to come and listen.”
Achatz is a Northern alumnus and an Ishpeming local. He has taught at NMU for 19 years and is currently a contingent professor of English. He has published a book of poetry titled “The Mysteries of the Rosary,” along with other poems in literary journals.
The sasquatch poems are part of Achatz’s upcoming collection “Bigfoot Crossing,” and he hopes to complete the manuscript by spring 2019.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking because I’m not sure how people will react. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to find a publisher for it… Maybe they’ll love it. Maybe they won’t,” he said. “I’m going with what the writer Toni Morrison once said, ‘If there’s a book that you want to read that hasn’t been written yet, then you’ve got to write it.’”