Award-winning poet and writer Mark Doty visits Ashland

Mark Doty, National Book Award-winning poet and New York Times best-selling author, will read and discuss his work on Thursday at 7:30 p.m., at Ashland High School's Mountain Avenue Theater as part of the ongoing Chautauqua Poets & Writers series. During his visit to Ashland, Doty will also participate in workshops and a Jefferson Public Radio radio interview.

For nearly five years, Chautauqua Poets & Writers has brought critically acclaimed and popular writers to teach and share their work with Rogue Valley students and the community. Amy Blossom, a series co-organizer, said the workshops are a unique aspect of the Chautauqua program.

"One of our primary goals with Chautauqua is to give students and teachers a chance to interact with the poet or writer," she said. "It's not just a reading. The workshops give people a chance to talk with the writer, learn something of his or her craft."

Rodrigo Neves, who is visiting Ashland from San Francisco, said he plans to extend his vacation in order to see Doty. "I've admired him for a long time,"he said. "I heard him in California, once. He read poems about losing his boyfriend to AIDS. They were amazing poems. I had lost a loved one at the time, and his words really hit me."

Chautauqua co-organizers and poets Vince and Patty Wixon are also longtime fans of Doty's work. "We have admired Mark Doty's poems since we read 'My Alexandria' in 1993 and dreamed of one day being able to bring him to the Rogue Valley," they said.

Doty's collection of poems "My Alexandria" won Great Britain's prestigious T.S. Eliot prize in 1995, and Doty is the only American poet to have won it. His collection "Fire to Fire" won the National Book Award in 2008. Doty has also earned accolades for his prose. His memoir, "Dog Years," was a New York Times best-seller in 2007.

While Doty's long list of awards and accolades are impressive, local teachers involved with Chautauqua Poets & Writers say they are most struck by the impact Doty's work has on their students.

"I read his poem 'Brilliance' to my students. I was so surprised to see some of them near tears," said Ashland High School English instructor and Chautauqua co-organizer Kathi Bowen-Jones. "My students are really connecting. We have more interest early in October for this Chautauqua event than I remember in years past. Many of their middle school teachers brought Mark Doty's work into the classroom, so students knew his work before I introduced it this fall."

Prior to his reading, Doty will be interviewed on Thursday at 9 a.m. on JPR's "Jefferson Exchange." He will also lead a workshop for the Oregon Writing Project with teachers and community members and another for students from throughout the Rogue Valley.

Tickets to the reading may be purchased in Ashland at Bloomsbury Books, The Bookwagon and Tree House Books. Student tickets are available at the main office of Ashland High School. Tickets can also be purchased in Medford at Grilla Bites.

Ticket prices are as follows: patrons: $25 ($10 is a tax deductible contribution), general $15, students with I.D. $12.

The Mountain Avenue Theater is located at 201 S. Mountain Ave. For more information, call 482-3632 or see www.ChautauquaWriters.org.

Angela Howe-Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Her e-mail is decker4@gmail.com.

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