Archivist 'harvests' Ore. voices

Librarian and archivist Doug Erickson knows that Oregonians are natural poets, and he is in Ashland to record Rogue Valley residents reading their original work.

An archivist at Lewis & Clark College, Erickson is the creator of Oregon Poetic Voices. His goal is to create a comprehensive digital audio archive of poetry reading to complement existing print collections across the state. The archive will be available through libraries, schools and the State Library Poetry Room's website.

Erickson said he secured a grant to start the OPV program because he felt there was a need to preserve the voices of Oregonians and their love of poetry.

"As I was thinking about Oregon poetry, I thought wouldn't it be interesting to harvest the voices of poets, rather than just the traditional method of archiving the written works?" he said.

Erickson said Oregon may be the only state with such a comprehensive recording collection. "This is a place where people care about writing. I want to give people a voice and an opportunity to share their work," he said.

Erickson has been traveling across Oregon for the past two years, at first attending large gatherings and recording well-known poets such as Oregon poet laureate Paulann Petersen. He plans to continue stopping in towns across the state, inviting locals to bring an original poem and to record it. Most recently, he was in Chiloquin, recording local high school students.

Erickson said he is hoping more people will participate.

"I want this to be inclusive," he said. "We have a broad spectrum of poets in the community, from high school kids to housewives to retired people."

Erickson emphasized that people do not have to be experienced writers.

"We just want people who like to write and are willing to share their writing. I've found that people write about their lives here in Oregon, their concerns, the landscape. It's great," he said.

Anyone who has written poetry and wants to share it with others is invited to take part in this free program. Patricia Wixon, a member of the Friends of the Hannon Library and one of the organizers, said she's hoping for a large turnout.

"I'd be delighted if we had a hundred people come in," she said. "The Rogue Valley has a lot of fine poets, and this is an opportunity to become part of Oregon's literary heritage."

In addition to the recordings, Erickson also arranges a poetry workshop for those who want some creative help. The workshops aren't required, but they give people an opportunity to engage with other poets or to help develop their own poetic voice.

In Ashland, Erickson is traveling with Portland poet Matthew Dickman, author of "All-American Poem" and winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize. Dickman's workshop, which is already full, will also be at the Hannon Library on Friday morning.

Angela Howe-Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at

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