Celebrating Dylan Thomas

October 27 marks the 100th anniversary of poet Dylan Thomas birth, and folks around the world are celebrating with readings, performances or simply taking a quiet moment to read a Thomas poem.

While the Welsh poet is known for poems such “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, and the play “Under the Milk Wood,” he was just as well-known for his hard drinking and tragically short life.

Born in 1914, Thomas was about 16 years years old when he began copying his early poems into what would become known as his notebooks—a practice he continued for years and which contributed to several of his first collections.

When still a teenager, he left school to become a junior reporter at the South Wales Daily Post. The job didn’t last long as he quit to devote himself to poetry full time.

After his poem “and death shall have no dominion” was published in 1933, Thomas began traveling to England and meeting with editors of well-regarded literary magazines. His star rose fast in the literary world, and with his emotional and flamboyant reading style he was a sought after reader in both England and the U.S.

The poet who inspired The Beatles put him on the cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” or Robert Zimmerman to rename himself Bob Dylan, died at the age of 39 from pneumonia and alcohol complications. Thomas took the very personal and made it universal, exploring memory, childhood and what it means to feel truly at home in the world.

Take a moment this week to celebrate Thomas. If you can’t make it to Swansea, Wales for the 36-hour long “Dylathon” featuring readings by Ian McKellen and Prince Charles, or New York’s 92Y Poetry Center’s reading of his play “Under Milk Wood,” or Portland where local actors will set up at a downtown bar and read from some of Thomas’ greatest works, then grab a collection of Thomas’ poetry or check out this Youtube recording below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mRec3VbH3ws across

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Finding your voice

Local writer and SOU creative-writing instructor, Vincent Craig Wright is helping writers focus on their unique creative voice with his upcoming workshop “You Already Have a Voice.” The workshop will show writers how to find, develop and embrace their distinct style, personality or viewpoint in a piece of writing or other creative work.

Finding your voice and giving yourself the freedom to say things in your own way isn’t always easy. Wright’s workshop is a chance to discover those unique aspects of your own writing voice, enrich your work and give that essay, poem or novel a personal stamp. It’s also a chance to learn from an expert with a stand-out writing voice of his own. Wright is a nationally acclaimed short story writer and song writer, with a fun teaching style and loads of insight. He says he wants people use what they already have and be proud of who they are as writers. “I try and empower people to indeed write the way they talk, or at least somewhat. I want them to understand that in the uniqueness of their way of communicating lies art,” Wright says.

The workshop is at the Central Point City Hall Council Chambers on Saturday, November 1, with a morning presentation from 10 a.m. to noon, and an afternoon presentation from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Wright says the afternoon workshop will include discussion, writing exercises and revision work so bring a writing device, paper and 2-4 pages of recent work. “The exercises and talk will help us explore what we have and what can be,” he said. “I think it will benefit writers of all sorts.”

Co-founder of the Institute of New Writing in Ashland, Wright also has current work in “Fourteen Hills” and “The Harvard Advocate,” and upcoming work in “Solstice Magazine.” He is the author of the short-story collection “Redemption Center,” and has written songs for HBO with Megatrax, and performed all over the country.

The Central Point City Hall council chambers are located at 140 S. 3rd St., Central Point.
The morning presentation is free for members and $10 for visitors. The afternoon workshop is $30 for members, $35 for visitors or $40 dollars for both morning and afternoon.

Pre-registration for the afternoon workshop is requested at soww77@gmail.com.

For more information visit http://willamettewriters.com/southernoregon/2014/10/you-already-have-a-voice-with-vincent-craig-wright/

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Grammar: The Movie

Grammar geeks, grab your popcorn and download the new documentary “Grammar Revolution,” a film made by former teachers David and Elizabeth O’Brien, and funded with a Kickstarter campaign.

The short film is a quirky and sometimes funny exploration of language and grammar in society today, offering some thoughtful commentary on how we view grammar and why it is being taught less and less in schools. The cast includes some famous grammarians (if that is a thing) such as Harvard linguist Steven Pinker, author of “The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century,” activist and linguist Noam Chomsky, Columbia professor John McWhorter, author of “Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English,” Mignon Fogarty, producer of the podcast “Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing,” and many more. There are also interviews with teachers, students, and business executives.

While there are tips on usage such as “who” and “whom” or what exactly a dangling participle looks like, the film offers more of a discussion about the social and politics aspects of language, who gets the jobs, who gets respect, and why grammar is an important subject with an important place in our daily lives. The idea of a grammar documentary may seem a bit stuffy at first glance, but it is surprisingly entertaining and well worth the $8 download.

Check out the trailer on the Grammar Revolution website. The site also features loads of tools for teaching and learning grammar.


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Time to break out those clerihews, dorklets and limericks

Lighthearted poetry doesn’t always get the respect it deserves, and to be honest there’s a lot of goofy stuff out there, but good light verse is a kick to hear and especially fun to create. One expert at writing comic verse is local poet Dave Harvey.

Harvey is conducting a free workshop Saturday, October 11, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Medford Public Library’s Carpenter room for anyone who loves a little humor with their poetry or poetry with their humor. Harvey says the workshop will be loosely structured, with the main focus on getting people writing. “My hope is to give a few ideas, using handouts, then get a roomful of poets writing and sharing and, I hope, giggling,” he said.

While he’s a master at the comic form, Harvey also has a real gift for balancing warmth and thoughtfulness with his humor much of his work. His workshop is sure to leave participants inspired and smiling.The workshop will focus on various forms of light verse such as the limerick (though briefly since Harvey says most folks know that form already), the higgledy-piggledy, the clerihew, the pompouselle, the Ogden Nasherie, and the dorklet/dorklette. Just the names sound like fun.

For folks like me who are not familiar with the forms Harvey offers some examples of his own below:

A clerihew is a whimsical four-line poem:

President Barack Obama
Eschews excessive drama.
He has a short tonsorial,
And his manner’s professorial.

Here’s an example of the dorklet:
Who’ll writecha pomes of flavor naval?
Yer Uncle Dave’ll.

A pompouselle, is all about the title.

Elegy on a Dead House Cat Run Over and Rain-Drenched Beside U.S. 101, Noticed by the Poet While Climbing a Grade on his Bicycle on the First Sunny Day in Two Weeks, While a Murder of Crows Caw in a Nearby Tree

Poor mangled, soggy pussycat!
Those semis really mashed him flat!

Harvey is the coordinator and frequent host of the Downtown Coffee House open mike series which meets monthly in Talent. His work has appeared in a number of magazines and he is the author of five chapbooks, three novels, and one true account, “The Fifteen-Speed Cowboy,” which tells of his bicycle trip to Alabama, where he found true love.

The workshop is free, but registration is requested in order to manage handouts and seating. To register email marisahp9@gmail.com.

The Medford Library is located at 205 South Central Avenue, Medford.

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Local poets celebrate with a reading and a chapbook

Members of the Rogue Valley chapter of the Oregon Poetry Association (OPA) will strut their stuff at a reading Tuesday, October 7, from 7:00 pm to 8:15 pm. The reading will feature 10 local poets sharing a diverse body of work and celebrating their new poetry chapbook, “Sudden Meteors,” a collection of work by regional OPA members.

Come out and spend an evening with some fun poetry folks and learn about all the nifty things OPA does to support our community of writers.

The delightful chapbook will be available for purchase at the event or you may order a copy from Bloomsbury at 541-488-0029 or blooms@jeffnet.org

Linda Barnes, Sara-Lynne Simpson, Ines Diaz, Beth Beurkens, Kathleen Dunn, Sallie Ehrman, JoAnna Shaw, Dan Kaufman, Carol Brockfield, and Charlotte Abernathy will be reading.

The event is free and open to the public.
Bloomsbury Books is located at 290 E. Main St., Ashland

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Workshop explores travel and description

Writers who travel and travelers who write won’t want to miss the Willamette Writers presentation and workshop, “Stories From the Road: The Art & Science of Describing Place,” Saturday Oct. 4 from 10am to noon, and 1:30-4:30 at the Central Point City Hall Council Chambers.

The morning presentation will examine and discuss examples of effective travel writing, the description of place in both fiction and non-fiction, and help participants improve their overall writing skills. The afternoon workshop will offer instruction on writing about your neighborhood, a place you’re visiting, or a fantasy setting. Participants will craft descriptions that will lure in their readers and take them on a journey. The workshop is designed to help improve writers’ powers of description while also moving the story forward. Participants are asked to bring in two samples: One-page from a favorite writer that describes a place, and up to two pages of a descriptive writing sample of his or her own. While this workshop sounds like it is aimed more at writers, there’s a lot for poets as well.

The morning presentation is $10 for non-members and free for members.

The afternoon workshop is $35 for non-members and $30 for members ($40 for the whole day).
Pre-registration is requested for the afternoon workshop. E-mail soww77@gmail.com to pre-register.

The Willamette Writers is welcoming organization that offers encouragement and support for writers and poets in the form of workshops, contests, writing opportunities and monthly meetings with speakers from all over the region. For membership information or to learn more about the organization and its southern Oregon branch, visit the Willamette Writers website at http://www.willamettewriters.com.

The Central Point City Hall Council Chambers are located at 140 S. Third Street, Central Point

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Publishing workshop at the Ashland Book & Author Fest

Poets, writers and publishing control freaks are in luck. Amazon’s CreateSpace makes self publishing easier. Local writer Amy Miller is offering a workshop at the Ashland Book and Author Festival, this Saturday Sept., 20 at noon to help get folks started. The festival will take place at Southern Oregon University’s Hannon library from 10 am to 4 pm. It’s all free and open to the public. Miller’s one-hour workshop will teach the basics of self publishing using the on-demand publishing tool.

The workshop will cover what services CreateSpace offers, how to set up an account, common errors to avoid, and basic book design. Miller is a seasoned do-it-yourself publisher who has produced 10 chapbooks of poetry and prose at home using design software and desktop printers. She is the publications project manager at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and has worked as an editor and book designer for a number of years, so with her experience, do-it-yourself publishing has been a bit less stressful. Nevertheless, when a freelance client asked for her help publishing a book on CreateSpace, Miller decided to practice on one of her own books first, “I wanted to use one of my own chapbooks as a kind of guinea pig, so I could avoid making any big mistakes with my client,” Miller said, “and if it went well, I’d have a nice book to show for it, too.”

Miller’s efforts went very well. So far, she’s produced two books on CreateSpace, “Beautiful Brutal: Poems about Cats” and “In the Hand.” They’re good looking, good quality work both inside and out. In addition to fine books, she also came away with some lessons about publishing on CreateSpace. “It was definitely a learning experience, and I am so happy with the results,” Miller said.

She’s offering the workshop to help take away some of the anxiety around self-publishing. “There’s a lot of information out there, but it’s nice to have some help with the details. CreateSpace is surprisingly simple once you have the basics down,” Miller said.

While it is possible to publish your work with little more than a word-processing program and a printer, CreateSpace also offers services for writers who may not have the time or the skills to produce an attractive product on their own. Miller will help users with the process, offering step-by-step instructions and cost-saving tips.

Miller says that the cost of publishing your book on CreateSpace depends largely on how much you do by yourself. “Publishing your book is practically free if you can design the whole book, both the cover and the interior by yourself,” Miller said. “CreateSpace has combinations of services that range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.”

Amazon offers online templates and design services with CreateSpace. Users can design the book, alone or with the help of the online services. Amazon prints and ships copies of the book whenever customers order them. “If you do it on your own, all you pay for is the copies of the books you order for yourself, and the author price is deeply discounted. It’s about what you’d pay a printer,” Miller said. “For most chapbooks, that’s a little under $3 per book, including shipping,” she added.

While Amazon is not without its controversies, tools like CreateSpace are an ideal way for poets and writers to publish and share their work, says Miller. “With a little planning and common sense, it’s easy to manage and fun to use.”

The Ashland Book and Author Festival will take place Saturday, September 20, from 10-4 pm at Southern Oregon University’s Hannon Library. All events are free and open to the public.

For a schedule of events, click on the link below:


The Hannon Library is located at 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.

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Slammin’ for Salmon

The 10th annual Bear Creek Salmon Festival is looking for writers, nature lovers and anyone with poetry in their hearts to read their work during the festival’s Poetry Slam for Salmon.

The festival is Saturday, October 4 from 11:00 to 4:00 pm. In addition to the slam, the event will feature interactive exhibits focusing on salmon and watershed conservation, short workshops and loads of outdoor activities for all ages including fly-casting, Native American Drumming and a salmon spiral labyrinth.

Submit your poem to Salmon Festival organizer Libby VanWyhe at libby.vanwyhe@ashland.or.us and she’ll add you and your poetic stylings to the schedule. The poetry slam will begin at 2:00, and festival organizers request you limit your reading to 5 minutes. Poems don’t necessarily have to be about salmon. Anything that addresses the watershed, conservation or the natural beauty of this region is welcome. If you’re not sure, submit anyway. This event is open to everyone and kids are more than welcome to get up and share their poems. The deadline to submit your poetry for scheduling is September 25, so get busy, grab a pen, take a stroll outside for inspiration and write a family-friendly poem of any genre.

For more information about the slam and the festival call the North Mountain Park Nature Center at (541) 488-6606 or visit www.BearCreekSalmonFestival.net

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Sheila Bender and Jonah Bornstein

At Bloomsbury, every month is poetry month. Friday, Sept., 5 at 7:00 pm, the bookstore will feature readings by Sheila Bender and Jonah Bornstein. Bender is a poet, author and writing instructor. In addition to teaching at universities and offering a variety of writing workshops, she is also the founder of Writing it Real, an online community that facilitates writing from personal experience. Her publications include a memoir, “A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief,” the poetry collection, “Behind us the Way Grows Wider,” and many instructional books including “Creative Writing DeMystified,” and “Writing and Publishing Personal Essays.”

Anyone who hasn’t heard local poet Jonah Bornstein read is in for a lovely time. Bornstein is the editor-publisher of Wellstone Press, and he has taught poetry and creative writing from New York to Oregon. He is the founder of the Ashland Writing Center and co-founder of the Ashland Writers Conference (1997-2002). Bornstein has recently started the Wellstone Press Writers Program, where he coaches writers and continues to bring prize-winning authors and teachers to Southern Oregon. His collections of poems include, “The Art of Waking,” “Treatise on Emptiness,” and We Are Built of Light.” He is a co-author of “A Path Through Stone,” and “Voices from the Siskiyous.”

For more information call Bloomsbury Books at (541) 488-0029. Bloomsbury Books is located at 290 E. Main, Ashland.

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Poet Willa Schneberg at Bloomsbury Books

Oregon Book Award winning poet, Willa Schneberg will read and discuss her work at Bloomsbury Books on Sunday, Sept. 14 at 6:30 pm.

Schneberg is the author of five poetry collections, “In the Margins of the World,” “Box Poems,” “Storytelling in Cambodia,” the chapbook “The Books of Esther” and her recently released “Rending the Garment.” Her work has appeared in the “American Poetry Review,” “Michigan Quarterly,” “Women’s Review of Books,” and many others. Her work is also included in the textbook, “Bearing Witness: Teaching About the Holocaust.”

In addition to her reading, Schneberg is offering a workshop, “Writing the Jewish Experience” at Temple Emek Shalom the same Sunday from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. Participants will explore in their own words what they consider the Jewish experience, as well as write their individual experiences of what it means to be Jewish. For information about the workshop or to register, contact Jonah Bornstein at (541) 531-0671 or visit the website: www.threewayconversation.org.

For one more fabulous Schneberg experience on September 14, Garrison Keillor will read her poem “Biscuits” on the Writer’s Almanac that day. You can read her poem now or hear it on the website http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org.

For information about Schneberg’s reading at Bloomsbury call (541) 488-0029.

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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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