by Michelle Frost
April is known as National Poetry Month. It was introduced in 1996 and organized by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States.
The Academy’s website Poets.org serves as a hub for information about poetry events and educational resources (and free poetry posters to anyone who sends an online request).
Highlights from Portland’s poetry celebration this April include the announcement of Oregon’s new Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Woody, and the recognition of local poetry heroes Carl Adamshick and Doug Spangle, who were honored at the 29th Annual 2016 Oregon Book Awards ceremony.
“Before I could read or write, I spent a great deal of time making images on loose notebook paper with whatever I could find to ‘write’ with,” writes Woody in the preface of her book Luminaries of the Humble.
“I kept these stories about my family and animals in a three-ring binder, and read them to my family with a certainty that would later help transform the shy person I was with strangers into a public performer.”
Woody is a Warm Springs, Wasco/Navajo Indian who majored in creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts. In 1985, she won a northwest poetry contest, kicking-off an industrious writing career of publishing and winning numerous awards.
She resides in Portland and will carry the title of Oregon’s 8th Poet Laureate for a two year term.
Two other local poets, Carl Adamshick and Doug Spangle, have been recognized for their generous contributions to poetry and Portland’s literary community on April 11th, at the 2016 Oregon Book Awards.
Carl Adamshick received the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry for his book Saint Friend (McSweeney’s, 2015). This excerpt from the poem “Happy Birthday”is from that book:
Our eyes are the only eyes we will ever have. A ribbon of cloud darkens above an ocean. Everything is happening.
Adamshick lives in Portland, has published two books of poetry and is a founder and editor at Tavern Books, a non-profit publisher specializing in poetry translation.
Doug Spangle has called Portland home since 1978 received the Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award for his ‘outstanding, long-term support of Oregon’s literary community’.
He has traveled extensively and has been senior editor of Rain City Review, hosted a poetry radio show on KBOO, and now hosts the weekly Open Mic on Monday nights at Sound Grounds.
Though National Poetry Month is over for another year, Portland poets continue the celebration, attending literary events and readings year-round.
Two venues that host live poetry in SE are Monday night Open Mic at Sound Grounds Cafe, 3711 SE Belmont, and Mother Foucault’s Bookshop, 523 SE Morrison, Upcoming events for these venues are listed on their respective Facebook pages.
If your bookshelf lacks limericks, there are several booksellers in SE who will help you fill those shelves.
Feeling inspired to write a sonnet? Portland Community College SE Campus offers several poetry classes and workshops and all levels are welcome. See their current catalog for listings.
Emily Dickinson reminds us “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in your soul and sings the tune without words and never stops at all.”
Poetry is the celebration that never stops at all. Congratulations, Elizabeth, Carl, Doug and every northwest poet who works to keep poetry thriving in Portland, Oregon.
Hand Into Stone
Someday the land will be our eyes and skin again
My grandmother, Elizabeth Pitt, 75 years old
Her creped fingers,
teethmarked with red speckles,
held mine tight
as she showed our finger moons to me.
They grew together as snowy stones
scratching themselves sleepily.
She had long fingers
with the mobility of spiders.
I felt them at night
as they climbed my skin.
She wrapped us
in tight shells
with agate crystals.
We breathed our own breath
under this cover.
– Elizabeth Woody, 1988
For poetry to share, see poets.org andpoetryfoundation.org.