Sheila Packa is a poet, writer, and teacher with Minnesota and Finnish roots. She has four books of poems, The Mother Tongue, Echo & Lightning, Cloud Birds, and Night Train Red Dust: Poems of the Iron Range. This last project reflects women's history, labor history, immigrants, mining and geology from Minnesota's Iron Range. In collaboration with composer and media artist Kathy McTavish, she performed Night Train Red Dust live in a media presentation at the Fringe Festival in Minneapolis in 2013. On the book website, background information is available about the people and places, and it includes links to historical archives, images, literary works and articles about the Iron Range.
She has been Duluth's Poet Laureate in 2010-2012, and she teaches workshops in the community. She edited a collection of poems by Lake Superior area writers, Migrations: Poetry and Prose for Life's Transitions that received recognition at the North East Minnesota Book Awards. This anthology was the result of a community wide writing project and a Community Arts Learning Grant. Allying with the Women's Coalition, Domestic Abuse Intervention Program, and Family Justice Center, she facilitated several writing workshops. Recently, she was part of the One River: Many Stories, a community journalism project. Her poems became part of playwright/director Tom Isbell's award-winning documentary One River that was performed at UMD and the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in 2017.
Her poems have been in several literary magazines and anthologies, including ReWilding: Poems for the Environment (Split Rock Review); Rocked by the Waters (Nodin Press); Laurel Review; Entropy; Unbroken; Jet Fuel Review; Precipice: Writers at the Edge (Precipice Collective), Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice (Michigan State University Press), Waters Deep: A Great Lakes Poetry Anthology (Split Rock Review), Forgotten Women (Grayson Books), The Heart of All That Is (Holy Cow! Press), When We Were Weavers, (Squares and Rebels), Good Poems American Places (Viking Penguin), Finnish-North American Literature in English (Mellen Press), Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude (Holy Cow Press!) and To Sing Along the Way: Minnesota Women Poets from Pre-Territorial Days to the Present (New Rivers Press). Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac and Prairie Home Companion has also featured four of her poems. She has published short fiction in Valpairiso Fiction Review, The Cortland Review, Chicago Memoryhouse, Sinister Wisdom, and other literary magazines.
Sheila received a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant in Poetry (2020), National Finlandia Foundation grant (2016), a McKnight/ACHF/ARAC Individual Artist Fellowship Grant (2012) and two Arrowhead Regional Arts Council fellowships for poetry, ARAC Career Opportunity grants (2007, 2013, and 2016), two Loft McKnight Awards, (poetry 1986 and prose 1996) and a Loft Mentor Award in poetry (1995), and a Community Arts Learning Grant (2010). She was awarded the 2011 Goldie Award for Poetry from the Golden Crown Literary Society for her book Echo & Lightning. She was a semifinalist in the Raw Stages (for 2016) competition at the History Theater. Helsinki composer Olli Kortekangas used four of her poems for Migrations a cantata for mezzosoprano and male voice choir. This classical music piece premiered by the Minnesota Orchestra in 2016. The recording Sibelius: Kullervo Kortekangas: Migrations: Minnesota Orchestra: Vänskä is available through BIS. She is currently at work on a new project.
Sheila Packa is a poet and writer. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College and has taught creative writing and composition at Lake Superior College. She leads poetry and creative writing workshops in community settings and often performs her work in music and media installations with her creative partner Kathy McTavish. She received a 2020 MSAB Arts Initiative Award for Poetry, a fellowship from the Finlandia Foundation in 2016, two Loft McKnight Awards (in poetry and in prose) a Loft Mentor Award, and fellowships and grants from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council. She has four books of poetry and edited the book Migrations, an anthology of Lake Superior writers. She served as Duluth’s Poet Laureate in 2010-2012.