Windfall Reading Series: 2007

Windfall Archive

January 2007

Jeff DeMark’s "Hard as a Diamond, Soft as the Dirt." Show at Lane Literary Series

Jeff DeMark Writer and solo performer Jeff DeMark of Blue Lake, CA will return to Eugene to perform his show, "Hard as a Diamond, Soft as the Dirt" as part of the Lane Literary Series at the Eugene Public Library on Tuesday, January 16 at 7:00 pm. In September 2004 DeMark presented another one of his shows, "Writing My Way Out of Adolescence" to kick off the 20th Anniversary Season of the Lane Literary series and drew a large and enthusiastic crowd of 200.

"Hard as a Diamond, Soft as the Dirt" was commissioned by Eureka, California-based College of the Redwoods’ Visiting Writers Series in April 2002 and opened to a sold-out house at C.R.’s 350-seat Forum Theater.

"Hard as a Diamond, Soft as the Dirt" weaves numerous stories, songs and poems about baseball and the death of DeMark’s father and how common interests in baseball and storytelling united the father and son. Alternately humorous and poignant, the show details how DeMark used a trip to Detroit’s Tiger Stadium to ritualize a final goodbye to his father. Along the way, the audience meets Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, and Willie Mays, learns about the creative use of a .Beatle. wig, and hears about an appearance by Hank Aaron on the Home Shopping Network.

An integral part of the performance is the recorded accompaniment provided the popular Humboldt County band, The Delta Nationals. The band plays a grooving set of music that accompanies DeMark’s stories with a versatile mix of music ranging from jazz to R & B to rock and roll.

In reviewing the debut show, The North Coast Journal of Arcata, CA wrote: "DeMark’s material is wonderfully poetic in places, ironic throughout and is tightly unified and universal… . This is an unquestionable, happy breakthrough."

A mainstay of the Humboldt County writing community for over 15 years, DeMark claims three other original shows, "Writing My Way Out of Adolescence," "Went to Lunch, Never Returned," and "Making Every Mistake Twice." Each show debuted to sold-out crowds at Dell-Arte Theatre’s "Mad River Festival" in Blue Lake, CA.

Jeff DeMark started his writing and performing career in Madison, Wisconsin over 30 years ago. He has performed and collaborated with such musical groups as The Violent Femmes, Paul Cebar and the Milwaukeeans, and others. He has toured his shows widely, performing in theaters in San Francisco, Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis, Santa Fe, and New York.s famed Knitting Factory. Additionally, he has performed in many schools and at Humboldt State University.

February 2007

The February 20 Windfall Reading brings two of Oregon’s most intelligent and dedicated writers to read in Eugene. Lisa Steinman and John Daniel read in the Bascom-Tykeson room from 7-9 pm. Books will be available for purchase, but admission and refreshments are free.

Lisa SteinmanLisa Steinman was born and raised in rural Connecticut, daughter of a mathematician, which she suspects is one reason why the title of her fifth book of poems, Carslaw’s Sequences, appealed to her. The book is a tribute to Horatio Scott Carslaw, an early twentieth-century mathematician.

Vern Rutsala says of Sequences: "These fluid, roving and wryly meditative poems are among the finest I’ve read–such an eye for detail! Such an ear for the anomalous language of signs and overheard conversations! In this book you encounter a sensibility that is quietly but genuinely original and which supplies the reader with a steady diet of delights."

Steinman attended college and graduate school at Cornell University. She has received NEA and Rockefeller fellowships. Along with five books of poems, Steinman has published two books about poetry, Made in America (Yale University Press), and Master of Repetition (St. Martin’s Press). She has taught at Reed College since 1976 and with her husband, the poet Jim Shugrue, has co-edited the poetry journal Hubbub since 1982.

John DanielJohn Daniel is the author of eight books of memoir, personal essays, and poetry. His newest work, Rogue River Journal: A Winter Alone, is an account of four and a half months of solitude in the backcountry of the Klamath Mountains, and also a memoir of his father’s life and career in the American labor movement and of his own coming of age.

Daniel has been a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford, a James Thurber Writer-in-Residence at Ohio State University, and a Research and Writing Fellow at Oregon State University’s Center for the Humanities. Two of his books have won the Oregon Book Award for Literary Nonfiction from Oregon Literary Arts.

His essays and articles have appeared in Audubon, Outside, Hope, Bloomsbury Review, North American Review, Southwest Review, and other journals and anthologies. His poems have been published in Poetry, The Southern Review, Sierra, The Pushcart Prize VIII, Poetry of the American West, and elsewhere. He is poetry editor of Wilderness, the annual publication of the Wilderness Society.

John Daniel lives with his wife, Marilyn Daniel, plus two cats and usually a pack rat, in the Coast Range foothills.

March 2007

From the Eastern Side of the State: Axelrod and Varon

The March 20 Windfall Reading features David Axelrod and Jodi Varon, two versatile and dedicated writers from Eastern Oregon. They read at 7 pm in the Bascom-Tykeson Room of the downtown Eugene Library.

Jodi VaronJodi Varon’s recent memoir, Drawing to an Inside Straight: The Legacy of an Absent Father, is a bittersweet story of growing up in the Jewish ghetto of West Denver in the 1960s. Her father was a cattleman and gambler whose lack of luck turned into a catastrophe when he wagered the family business in a high-stakes poker game. He taught his three daughters proverbs in Ladino – a dialect of Castilian Spanish spoken by the Sephardi – but he was also "an American man who had cut his teeth on highballs, … who Lindy Hopped at the Savoy in Manhattan, … [and] who likened people without a sense of history to husks who filled and emptied daily."

Drawing to an Inside Straight drew praise from William Kittredge, who said it was a "clear-eyed story of an intellectual woman of Jewish background coming of age in the roughhouse American West." The author portrays an entire era of disruptive, formative events: the Vietnam war and political assassinations, the month-long disappearance of her father just before her fifteenth birthday, the dissolution of her parents’ marriage, the drifting apart of the family, an assault on the author while she was in college, and the "first gesture of reconciliation" with her errant father, whom she could never bear to tell about the attack.

"Varon has crafted a richly evocative portrait of 1960s Denver with the delicate touch of a watercolorist," wrote The Rocky Mountain News. "It will move readers, sometimes to laughter, other times to disgust or tears–but always we are moved."

In addition to her memoir, Varon is the author of The Rock’s Cold Breath, poems translated from the Chinese of Li He.

David Axelrod grew up in the foothills of the Appalachians. His essays and poems have appeared in Kenyon Review, Cimarron Review, Alaska Quarterly Review and From Here We Speak: An Anthology of Oregon Poetry. He most recent book is Troubled Intimacies, a collection of creative non-fiction.

The Cartographer’s Melancholy won the 2004 Spokane Poetry Prize and was a 2006 Oregon Book Award finalist. He first two poetry books are Jerusalem of Grass and The Kingdom at Hand. He has received fellowships from Oregon Literary Arts and won the Carolyn Kizer Poetry Award and the Kay Deeter Poetry Prize.

Fate, stillness, travel, and the deep bruise of individual history as it becomes political history all shape the poems in The Cartographer’s Melancholy. In lean, fresh language, Axelrod shows what it would be like to be truly alive to the nuance of events and the declarations of those in power. He bears witness to human suffering and reaches an almost apocalyptic vision of "Holy site piled upon / wreckage of holy site."

Yet Axelrod’s histories of war and despair are accompanied by glimpses of hope and even joy. When least expected, the reader is surprised with images of light – "bonfires like orange beacons." As Richard Robbins says: "Fearless, guided by the angel Whitman, his poems enter the dark soul of American Empire and come back speaking the language of light."

Varon and Axelrod are married and colleagues at English at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande. Together they edit the literary and fine arts journal Basalt.

April 2007

Poet Laureate of Oregon Reads in Eugene

On April 17, the Lane Literary Guild celebrates National Poetry Month by bringing Lawson Inada and Paulann Petersen to the library to read at 7 pm in the Bascom-Tykeson Room.

Lawson Fusao Inada Oregon Poet Laureate Lawson Fusao Inada is a third-generation Japanese-American from Fresno, Califonia. In May 1942 his family joined over 100,000 other Japanese-Americans in camps, where they were confined for the duration of World War II. Still a young child, Inada was first incarcerated at the Fresno County Fairgrounds, then moved to a concentration camp in Arkansas, and finally interred at a camp in Colorado at the end of the war.

A graduate of the University of Oregon and Fresno State University, where he studied with Phil Levine, Inada is an emeritus professor at Southern Oregon University. Inada is known not only for his excellent writing, but for his approachability and humor.

His books of poetry are Before the War, Legends from Camp, and Drawing the Line. He is the editor of Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience. Jazz is a major theme in his poems and an influence on his style. He has often performed with jazz musicians accompanying him. Los Angeles poet Julia Stein writes in her blog, California Writer, that Inada "is a poet close to Whitman in his musicality and his seeing America as many different voices singing varied songs."

Inada’s honors include an Oregon Book Award, an American Book Award, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry. He was one of the co-editors of the landmark anthology, Aiiieeeee! An Anthology of Asian-American Writers.

He is the Steinbeck Chair of the National Steinbeck Center, and was named the new poet laureate by Gov. Ted Kulongoski last year.

Paulann PetersenPaulann Petersen is a poet who has encouraged and helped countless other writers. She has published three books: The Wild Awake, 2002; Blood Silk, 2004; and A Bride of Narrow Escape, which was a finalist for the 2006 Oregon Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The New Republic, Prairie Schooner, Willow Springs, Poetry Daily, and Portland’s bus project, Poetry in Motion.

Petersen dedicated A Bride of Narrow Escape to her first writing mentor, Lawson Inada. Inada says the poems in Bride "brim with the brilliance of discovery. … Hers is a poetry of revelation and wonder." In poems that are intimate, tender, and at times heart-wrenching, she writes about the illnesses and deaths of both parents, her childhood and teen years, married life, and mortality. The language– juxtaposing the everyday and the sublime–is wonderfully musical. Petersen turns to nature for her images, as if the world of branch and mountain, bird and star can clarify and console. In a poem about her dying mother, she writes: "Today the mountains grow / beyond familiarity, flaring their white sides / to the sun / looming up as the temples / they are."

A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford, Petersen received the 2006 Literary Arts Steward Holbrook Award for Outstanding Contributions to Oregon’s Literary Life. She has won two Carolyn Kizer Awards, taught at Menucha, and given workshops for Oregon Writers. Workshop, Oregon State Poetry Association, Mountain Writers. Series, and the Northwest Writing Institute. She lives in Portland and serves on the board for the Friends of William Stafford.

May 2007

What better way to spend a spring evening than seeing Bill Sullivan’s slides and hearing him read from his latest book?

William L. SullivanThe May 15 Windfall reading features William L. Sullivan and starts at 7:00 pm in the Eugene Public Library’s Bascom-Tykeson Room. Books by the author will be available for purchase and signing during intermission and after the event.

Sullivan is probably the hardest-working writer in the state, and one of the most sought-after for his informative and entertaining presentations. Whether it’s a memoir about his adventures building a wood cabin entirely by hand (Cabin Fever), or a fictional recounting of the famous "Poet of the Sierras" Joaquin Miller (Deeper Wild), or one of his many indispensable hiking guides, Sullivan always delivers quality work that is impressively done.

His newest book, The Case of Einstein’s Violin, is a novel steeped in international intrigue. Ana Smyth inherits the great scientist.s violin case. After she sells it on eBay, she becomes embroiled in an international spy ring that stretches from Oregon to a Greek monastery, a particle accelerator in Italy, the Slovenian Alps, and the German city where Einstein was born.

During the reading, Sullivan will show slides of the sites in which the book is set. Expect to learn about Europe’s most interesting and least known hiking trails, from Greece and the Pyrenees to Norway and the Alps. Learn what to expect at an alpine "hut", where to launch a tour of Slovenia, and where you can spend the night on an island with an active volcano that spews steam and fiery rocks every five to fifteen minutes.

A fifth-generation Oregonian, Sullivan began hiking at the age of five and has been exploring new trails ever since. After studying at California.s small but renowned Deep Springs College, receiving an English degree from Cornell University, and studying linguistics at Germany’s Heidelberg University, he earned an M.A. in German literature from the University of Oregon.

Sullivan’s hobbies include backcountry ski touring, playing the pipe organ, reading foreign language novels, and promoting libraries. Eugeneans can be grateful for his work on the campaign to build the city’s new library. Sullivan continues to serve on the Oregon State Library Board, and is president of the Lane Library League, which is a citizen group whose goal is to extend library service to the 80,000 people in Lane County who currently lack service.

Sullivan and his wife, Janell Sorensen, live in Eugene and spend summers in a log cabin they built by hand on a roadless stretch of a remote river in Oregon’s Coast Range.

September 2007

The Unvarnished, Beautiful Truth

On September 18, Windfall returns from its summer hiatus, bringing two local poets to the lectern. Joseph Millar and Dorianne Laux are first-class storytellers who weave their tales into poems that stick in your head and strike your heart.

Joseph MillarJoseph Millar’s second book of poems, Fortune (Eastern University Press, 2007), with its clean lyric voice and stark unsparing narratives, chronicles a life fully lived. Here are poems are work and family, about loss, alcoholism, and love. Millar can neither look away from our failures nor ignore the bright whims of fortune. Inspired by poets like Philip Levine and Sharon Olds, Millar strives to make his poems accessible, poems with which the average person can connect. "Poetry should be about feeling," he says. "If it doesn’t make you feel anything, I don’t care how clever or well-worded it is, or what verbal gymnastics and fireworks the writer is able to show."

Millar’s first collection, Overtime (2001), was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. He grew up in Pennsylvania, received an MA from Johns Hopkins University, and spent 25 years in the San Francisco Bay area working at a variety of jobs, from telephone repairman to commercial fisherman. Millar’s blue collar experiences influence and color his work. As Rebecca Patt says of Overtime: "the grease of the auto mechanic and the sweat of the telephone repairman practically rub off the page."

Millar’s poems are packed with the details of ordinary life as well as the universally accessible feelings that underlie those details. There is a kind of emotional transcendence in the poems as in these lines from "Telephone Repairman:" "He thinks of the many signals / flying in the air around him, / the syllables fluttering, / saying please love me, / from continent to continent / over the curve of the earth." Or in these lines from "Fortune," evoking the language of myth: "because it was hard to see anything / the moon like a swan boat disappearing / into the deepening swell / we listened / for our lost mother’s voice / like one gone far out from land…"

Millar’s poems have appeared in numerous magazines including TriQuarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, DoubleTake, and Ploughshares. He has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Oregon Literary Arts. He teaches at Oregon State University and in Pacific University’s low residency MFA program. Millar lives in Eugene with his wife, Dorianne Laux.

Dorianne LauxDorianne Laux is "a believer in desire," Tony Hoagland says. "She takes her stance as a hero of the ordinary, with both feet firmly planted in the luminous material world." That "luminous material world" informs much of Laux’s fourth book of poems, Facts about the Moon (W.W. Norton), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the winner of the 2006 Oregon Book Award. The poet Ai, who served as judge for this year’s Oregon Book Awards, praised Laux’s book for its "enchanting poems that make one feel the ‘lunar strength and brutal pull’ of love that exists in spite of our human frailty." Short-listed for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, Facts about the Moon was also chosen by the Kansas City Star as one of the ten best books of poetry published in 2005.

Laux is author of three collections of poetry from BOA Editions: Awake (1990), What We Carry (1994) and Smoke (2000). Red Dragonfly Press will release Superman: The Chapbook later this year. Laux and co-author Kim Addonizio wrote The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry, in 1997. She is the recipient of two Best American Poetry Prizes, a Pushcart Prize, two fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Her work has appeared in the Best of the American Poetry Review, The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Orion, and Ms. Magazine. Laux has waited tables and written poems in San Diego, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Petaluma, California and Juneau, Alaska. In 1994 she moved to Eugene where she’s now a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Oregon.

October 2007

Exploring and Stretching Boundaries

Kathleen Dean MooreKathleen Dean Moore is best known as the author of three award-winning books of nature essays that explore our connections to the natural world. By combining personal narrative with natural history and philosophical inquiry, Moore brings environmental philosophy to a general audience. Her most recent book, The Pine Island Paradox, won the 2005 Oregon Book Award and explores the Alaskan island where her family regularly vacations. Library Journal writes of her work: "Moore’s intense love for and close observation of nature combine with a keenly philosophical mind, reminiscent of the work of other fine philosopher-naturalists such as Thoreau and Muir."

Moore grew up in a nature-loving family in Berea, Ohio. She remembers long sunny Sunday afternoons wading in the river, looking for anything that moved, learning the names of every flower in a meadow and locating every bird’s nest and each snake hole.

Moore has a Ph.D. is in the philosophy of law, and her particular interest is in the nature of forgiveness and reconciliation. She is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at OSU, where she teaches Environmental Ethics as well as Philosophy of Nature, a field course that meets in the high Cascades. She is founding director of the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature and the Written Word. Her earlier books are Holdfast: At Home in the Natural World and Riverwalking: Reflections on Moving Water. Her essays are widely published and anthologized, appearing in such magazines as Orion, Discover, Field and Stream, The New York Times Magazine, and Audubon. Kathleen and her husband, Frank, an OSU biologist, have two grown children.

Duane AckersonPoet, editor, and teacher Duane Ackerson attended George Washington University and received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon. He has taught English in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, been the Director of Creative Writing at Idaho State University in Pocatello, and the writer-in-residence at Willamette University in Salem.

Ackerson coordinated Idaho’s first poetry-in-the schools program in the early 1970s, and around the same time started the poetry magazine Dragonfly. During Dragonfly’s eight-year lifespan, it achieved several "firsts" for little magazines, including an anthology of prose poems, another anthology of one-line poems, and a speculative poetry anthology called Rocket Candy (1977).

Ackerson has received two Rhysling awards from the Science Fiction Poetry Association, a creative writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and has worked for a term in arts administration at the NEA in Washington. His work has appeared in a diversity of magazines, including Strange Horizons, Yankee, Rolling Stone, Prairie Schooner, The Christian Science Monitor, and the Northwest Review. Book-length collections of his poems and prose poems include The Eggplant & Other Asburdities (Confluence Press) and, most recently, The Bird at the End of the Universe (TM Press).

Ackerson and his wife Cathy live in Salem.

November 2007

Start, Stops and Our Time Between the Two

The November Windfall reading takes a moment to consider the span of time we have on this planet. The event brings together a writer-historian who is also the caretaker of a rural cemetery and a Portland poet who seems to have a tentative connection to earth-bound matters.

Shannon ApplegateShannon Applegate lives on 110 acres in Yoncalla, Oregon, two hours away from Eugene. She writes that “Our old home is the oldest house in the State of Oregon still occupied by its original family.”

Some years ago, Applegate began to work as the sexton who runs and maintains the Applegate Pioneer Cemetery. Speaking in an interview with National Public Radio about her book, Living Among Headstones, she described the “feeling of shadow and light” that comes through the 200 year-old evergreen trees, and the view from the cemetery of the nearby hills and valleys. The cemetery inspires Applegate to think of the “stories under the stones,” but it is the stories of the people who come there, to bury and to mourn, that make Living Among Headstones the lively and appealing read that it is.

Though she barely tolerates the “industrial-strength colors” of the plastic flowers dotting the graves, Applegate takes delight in the poignant, ephemeral leavings, such as a sandwich bag of baseball cards that she finds left on a grave marked “Grandpa.”

Shannon Applegate is also the author of Skookum: An Oregon Pioneer Family’s History and Lore, which was a best-selling book throughout the Pacific Northwest and Oregon Book Award finalist in 1989. She has served as visiting lecturer at several universities around the country, including Princeton and Purdue. Earlier this year she received the Governor’s Arts Award, sponsored by the Oregon Arts Commission. You can hear her sing and yodel with the seven-member group of women known as the Slow Ponies.

John C. MorrisonIn John C. Morrison’s poems, gravity’s tug is fickle enough that the “heaven of the moment” might pull us up into the clouds at any time. There’s a sense of lightness, of drifting and surprise. In the poem “A New Patch of Sky,” “Light stands / stunned inside the drip line / that belonged to the spruce” that has just been cut down.

Morrison’s poem “My Memory Begins with Grass” tells of a man, “sick drunk,” who sleeps his sweetest sleep in brittle grass on an icy night, only to be saved from slipping into death by a passing policeman who gives “one good shake.” We hear the voice of a man who was fired on his first day of work at an ice plant, and someone who knows the moon well enough to play a game of shuffleboard with it “on the long / blond grain of a table milled from pine” in a corner pub (“Moon at Shuffleboard”).

Morrison earned his MFA from the University of Alabama and received the 2004 C. Hamilton Bailey Poetry Fellowship from Literary Arts. His poems have appeared in numerous journals including the Seattle Review, Tar River Poetry, Cimarron Review, Caffeine Destiny, and the Southern Poetry Review.

He directs the Writers in the Schools program for Literary Arts, in Portland, and teaches poetry at Washington State University in Vancouver.

His first collection of poetry, The Heaven of the Moment, received the 2006 Rhea and Seymour Gorsline prize for a first book of poetry and is being published by Bedbug Press in Brownsville, Oregon.