The Applegate is rich with poetry this summer

Not that anyone needs an excuse to travel to the gorgeous Applegate Valley, but poetry is an excellent reason for a road trip. The Applegate Poets will present a reading on Sunday, July 27 from 3pm to 4 pm, in the community meeting room of the Applegate Branch Library.

The poems will consider aspects of living in the Applegate Valley. The poets reading are Diana Coogle, Gabriella Eagleson, Heather Murphy, Joan Peterson, Kirsten Shockey and Paul Tipton. Expect a pleasant hour of vibrant poetry in a charming setting. Then maybe afterward, enjoy the sights and maybe a glass of wine or two in one of the prettiest valleys in Oregon.

Speaking of wine and the sunny Applegate, the second annual Wine & Words poetry reading at Barking Moon Farm is Saturday, August 16th, 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm. The event will feature farm-to-table appetizers with Barking Moon produce and local wines.

Fourteen southern oregon poets and storytellers will read from their original work. The evening will be a treat for poetry fans, foodies, wine lovers or anyone who wants to spend a late summer evening in a beautiful setting.

The event takes place in the Barn at Barking Moon Farm, 5960 Thompson Creek Road.
A $15 entry includes one drink and appetizers. For more information or to RSVP contact Melissa Matthewson at or call (541) 973-6915.

For information about library reading 541-846-7346 or visit The Applegate Branch Library is located at 18485 North Applegate Rd., Applegate, OR

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Poets dig dogs

Dogs are amazing, loveable shaggy wonders, and it’s no surprise that poets spend a great deal of time writing about them. Recently, I was helping a friend search for a poetry collection to give her dog-adoring mom, and I was happily surprised to find some thought-provoking, insightful and sensitive collections for dog-crazy, poetry lovers.

“Dog Songs,” by Mary Oliver.One of the world’s bestselling and beloved poets offers 35 short poems and one elegant essay that explore our relationship with dogs and the easy joy they bring to our lives. Like most of Oliver’s work, nature and our human connection with it infuses her work. These are lovely, thoughtful poems that readers can sink into. Oliver has spent most of her life with a dog at her side, and this collection celebrates their companionship and the wild spirit that lurks in even the tamest lap-dog. In her essay “Dog Talk,” she writes. “They are a kind of poetry themselves when they are devoted not only to us but to the wet night, to the moon and the rabbit-smell in the grass and their own bodies leaping forward.”

“Dogs Singing: A Tribute Anthology,” edited by Jessie Lendennie. This is a dog-friendly party of modern poets with work that celebrates our canine buddies. Contributors include Alicia Ostriker, Stephen Dobyns, Maxine Kumin, J.P. Dancing Bear, Ted Kooser. C.L. Williams and many others. Proceeds from the purchase of this lovely book go to support animal shelters around the world.

“Love That Dog,” by Sharon Creech. One of my son’s favorite books, “Love That Dog” is Written as a series of free-verse poems from a young boy’s point of view, tells how he grows into a writer with the help of his teacher, some yellow paper, and a dog. The book is a great tool for teachers and students, and the back matter includes some classic poetry and a glossary of poetry terms. Best of all, it offers the enduring lesson that writing can be fun, especially with a dog at your side.

“I Could Chew on This: And Other Poems by Dogs, by Francesco Marciuliano. My kids begged me to add this companion piece to Marciuliano’s bestseller, “I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats.”It’s a goofy, lighthearted collection of rhymes (I am snobbishly hesitant to use the word “poems) in the voices of dogs as they share their feeling about walks, being left alone, eating dirty diapers and their complicated relationship with cats. I admit, I laughed at a several of these and was charmed by the quirky titles and adorable photos.

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Oregon writers, submit!

In celebration of its 30th anniversary, Literary Arts, the organization that runs the Portland Arts & Lectures series and the Oregon Book Awards, will award an additional $30,000 to writers as part of its 2015 Oregon Book Awards and Fellowships program. According to a recent press release from Literary Arts, nearly $60,000 in 2015 will be granted to support and celebrate Oregon’s writers and publishers.

Since 1993, The Oregon Book Awards and Oregon Literary Fellowships have honored over 500 Oregon writers and publishers and distributed more than $700,000 in fellowships and awards.

The deadline to submit books for the 2015 Oregon Book Awards is August 29. Books written by Oregon writers, with an original publication date between August 1, 2013 and July 31, 2014, are eligible. Awards will be presented in the following genres: fiction, poetry, general nonfiction, creative nonfiction, children’s literature, and young adult literature.

Submission guidelines can be found at

For more information, contact Susan Denning at

The 2015 Oregon Book Awards finalists and Oregon Literary Fellowship recipients will be announced in January 2015.

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Fun and fabulous open mic tomorrow

For folks who want to share their poems, hear some poems and meet fellow poetry lovers in a friendly and inviting space, the Downtowne Coffee House in Talent is ideal. The second Thursday of every month. The coffee house hosts an “open-mic-without-a-mic.” This month, the open mic is July 10, tomorrow. Sign ups begin at 6:30 and readings at 7. The Downtowne Coffee House is at 200 Talent Avenue, in Talent.

They organizers usually offer a theme, which people happily ignore. Though if you have a poem that fits this month’s theme, “Lazy Hazy Days of Summer,” bring it.

There aren’t a lot of rules, though there is a time limit, so try to avoid bringing those epic poems or reading more than two or three short ones.

The open mic is a great place to check out other poets’ chapbooks as well as sell your own, so if you have a chapbook bring a few and if you don’t check out the work of your fellow poets.

For information about the Downtown Open Mic or its other events, call the Downtowne at (541) 535-2299.

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Oregon Poetry Association contest is open

Poets, grab your best poems and enter them in the Oregon Poetry Association’s Fall Contest. The deadline is September 1, and it is super easy to submit online via the submissions portal at

For details about the contest guidelines visit the OPA website at

OPA sponsors two poetry contests each year for adults and one poetry contest for children. The contests are in categories such as themed, traditional form and poet’s choice. There’s even a category for new poets, so it doesn’t matter if this is your first poem or your 101st poem. Winners get cash prizes, but the real joy in entering a contest is the satisfaction of putting your poem out into the world and the thrill of possibility when you do.
After you submit (or before) consider joining the Oregon Poetry Association (OPA). It’s a great place to get involved with other writers and to learn what is happening in this state’s fine poetry world. OPA members participate in community events, poetry readings, and school activities. The group organizes workshops and critique groups, and all-around support for one another. The Rogue Valley branch of OPA is a warm and supportive group that meets monthly at the Medford Library. The Rogue Valley chapter sponsors local workshops and readings, and they can help in finding local critique groups and open mics where you can share your work.
Visit for loads of information on all things OPA.

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Unpublished Pablo Neruda poems discovered

Poetry fans, particularly fans of Pablo Neruda, have great reason to celebrate. Officials at the Pablo Neruda Foundation in Chile have found more than 20 unpublished poems by the late Nobel laureate. The poems were discovered in boxes of his papers and will be published by his former publisher Seix Barral in Spanish later this year. According to publishers at Barral, the new poems contain “works of extraordinary quality.” The poems were discovered in boxes of old papers, and date from the 1950s and ’60s, when Neruda wrote many of his most beloved works, including “The Captain’s Verses,” and “100 Love Sonnets.”

Seix Barral released an extract:
“Reposa tu pura cadera y el arco de flechas mojadas / extiende en la noche los pétalos que forman tu forma,” which translates as “Rest your pure hip and the bow of wet arrows / Extend into the night the petals which make up your form.”

Neruda, who died in Chile in 1973, was called “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language” by Gabriel García Márquez. He won the Nobel prize in 1971 for what the Nobel Committee called “poetry that with the action of an elemental force brings alive a continent’s destiny and dreams.”

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Charles Wright is new poet laureate

The library of congress announced that Charles Wright will be America’s 20th poet laureate, succeeding Natasha Tretheway. Wright had previously been offered the position, but turned it down. He told PBS NewsHour that he regretted not taking the position. As laureate, he said he plans to “Pull up his socks and see what happens.”

Wright, 78, is a retired professor at the University of Virginia, he has written over 20 books of poetry and has won just about every honor there is in the poetry world, including a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

Born in 1935 in Pickwick Dam, Tennessee, Wright attended Davidson College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. While in Italy during a stint with the U.S. Army, Wright began to read and write poetry.

Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington said in a news release announcing the appointment that
“Charles Wright is a master of the meditative, image-driven lyric. “For almost 50 years his poems have reckoned with what he calls ‘language, landscape, and the idea of God.’ Wright’s body of work combines a Southern sensibility with an allusive expansiveness, for moments of singular musicality.”

Wright, also told PBS Newshour he isn’t sure what he’s expected to do in his new post, but as soon as he finds out, he’ll do it.

The laureate is a one-year appointment (sometimes extended for a second year) with few official duties, though many laureates develop public outreach projects. Natasha Trethewey held regular public office hours at the Library of Congress. Ted Kooser (who served 2004 to 2006) offered a free weekly poetry column to newspapers, and Kay Ryan (who served 2008 to 2010) promoted poetry by community-college students.

Last Supper
by Charles Wright

I seem to have come to the end of something, but don’t know what,
Full moon blood orange just over the top of the redbud tree.
Maundy Thursday tomorrow,
then Good Friday, then Easter in full drag,
Dogwood blossoms like little crosses
All down the street,
lilies and jonquils bowing their mitred heads.

Perhaps it’s a sentimentality about such fey things,
But I don’t think so. One knows
There is no end to the other world,
no matter where it is.
In the event, a reliquary evening for sure,
The bones in their tiny boxes, rosettes under glass.

Or maybe it’s just the way the snow fell
a couple of days ago,
So white on the white snowdrops.
As our fathers were bold to tell us,
it’s either eat or be eaten.
Spring in its starched bib,
Winter’s cutlery in its hands. Cold grace. Slice and fork.

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Epic Rap Battle: Poe vs. King

I’m woefully out of touch when it comes to new shows, especially those online. So, although it has been around awhile, I have recently discovered the YouTube web series, “Epic Rap Battles of History.” The show pits famous people and characters against each other in rapping contests. For example, Dr. Seuss vs. Shakespeare, Einstein vs. Stephen Hawking or Bob Ross vs. Picasso. My new favorite is a showdown between Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King. Yes, it’s silly, but viewers won’t regret giving up the two minutes and 25 seconds to watch the father of literary horror throw down with the King.

As in many of the episodes, characters are played by “Epic Rap Battle” creator, Nice Peter, a Los Angeles based musician and emcee who writes the material, and his partner EpicLLOYD.

Poe kicks off the battle with an adaptation of his famous poem, “The Raven,”

“Once upon a midnight dreary as I spit this weak and weary
I will choke this joker
 with a trochee while his cheeks are teary
but y’all don’t hear me. All should fear me.
I’ll forever be better, you’ll never be near me.
Your books are as eerie
 as Beverly Cleary.”

King snaps back with some boasts and plenty of references to his prolific body of work.

“Pouty little Poe with an opiate affliction
I’m a workaholic win a fiction addiction.
I’m making dedicated readers shivery and jittery.
Feel that “Rage” and “Misery.”
You better start “Running Man,”
You’re in deep poo, Poe.”

And so on. There’s a poll to vote for the winner of each battle. I’m hoping Poe won. He has the best costume, and he used “trochee” in his rap.

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A feast of poetry

Food and poetry, both sensual experiences are a perfect combination. Some friends and I have been sharing our favorite food-related poems, and during my search for a particular poem, I came across my new all-time favorite collection, “The Hungry Ear : Poems of Food & Drink,” edited by Kevin Young. Young, the well-regarded editor of the “Best American Poetry” series brings together 159 poems of food, drink and its place in our lives and culture.

Young writes in his introduction, “Poets sure do throw down around the table.” The collection, from poets past and present, divided into common food subjects such as “First Harvest,” “Meat & Potatoes, “Forbidden Fruit,” and “Pig Out.” I was happily surprised at the number of well-written poems on pork and pork products.

While readers may not love every poem, there is a lot to enjoy, from Lucille Clifton on cutting collard greens, Elizabeth Alexander on butter and Seamus Heaney eating oysters. One of my favorite poems in this collection is Thomas Lux’s “Refrigerator 1957” where he reflects his childhood refrigerator , particularly on a jar of maraschino cherries that are “fiery globes, like strippers/at a church social.”

There are a lot of drink poems, too. Maybe because poets are stereotypically easy friends with coffee and booze. there’s Naomi Shihab Nye on “Arabic Coffee,” William Matthews on “Another Beer,” and loads of wine poems including Yeats’s “A Drinking Song,” in which he writes,

“Wine comes in at the mouth/And love comes in at the eye;/That’s all we shall know for truth/
Before we grow old and die./I lift the glass to my mouth/I look at you, and I sigh.”

These poems (like most good poetry) touch on larger aspects of life such as memories, love, loss, joy and longing. They can connect us with one another and our shared histories. It’s a rich collection, that is especially fun to share with people, and a nourishing treat for any poetry lover at the table.

Poets include: Elizabeth Alexander, Elizabeth Bishop, Billy Collins, Mark Doty, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Louise Gluck, Seamus Heaney, Tony Hoagland, Langston Hughes, Galway Kinnell, Frank O’Hara, Sharon Olds, Mary Oliver, Adrienne Rich, Theodore Roethke, Matthew Rohrer, Charles Simic, Tracy K. Smith, Gertrude Stein, Wallace Stevens, Mark Strand, Kevin Young.

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Maya Angelou

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
–Maya Angelou

The legendary poet, writer, performer and civil rights pioneer Maya Angelou died yesterday at age 86.
Born Marguerite Ann Johnson in 1928 in St. Louis, she was first recognized for her 1969 memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which told of her Jim-Crow era upbringing, racism and sexual abuse.The book was an international bestseller and nominated for a National Book Award in 1970.

In her full life, she wrote gorgeous poems, toured Europe as a singer and dancer, recorded an album, wrote screenplays, appeared in the TV mini-series “Roots,” was nominated for a Tony Award, delivered a poem at President Clinton’s 1993 inauguration and in 2010 President Barack Obama named her a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this country’s highest honor. She spoke six languages and inspired people all over the world.

In honor of her life and memory, below is a list favorite works by Angelou:

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (1969)
“Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Die” (1971), her first poetry collection
“On the Pulse of Morning” (1993), Inauguration poem for President Clinton
“A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002, a memoir of her friendships with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X
Letter to My Daughter (2008): A collection of essays about her life. Angelou only had one son, but she writes, “I gave birth to one child, a son, but I have thousands of daughters.”

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    Angela Decker

    Angela Decker's poems have appeared in African Voices, Comstock Review, Hip Mama, The Wisconsin Review, Jefferson Monthly, and others. She occasionally teaches poetry writing at Southern Oregon University and shares the arts & literature column ... Read Full
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