Verse in the valley

Verse is bursting out all over the Rogue Valley — in libraries, bookshops and other local businesses — in honor of National Poetry Month in April.

The annual tradition opens avenues of expression for a wide range of poets and poetry lovers, from established poets to inspired scribblers to those who want to read a favorite stanza from childhood, says Amy Blossom, branch manager of the Ashland library.

The library will hold a public reading at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 15, at 410 Siskiyou Blvd. To sign up, call Blossom at 541-774-6987.

"It's about celebrating poetry in our valley," says Blossom. "And it can bring a lot of surprises and pleasure to people. A lot of young people come and a lot of established poets."

The Medford library will hold its "Poetry and Pie" reading from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 14, in the large community meeting room. There's no sign-up necessary but there will be plenty of pie — as long as you stand up and read poetry, says Carol Brockfield, chairwoman of the Rogue Valley chapter of the Oregon Poetry Association.

"It's for anyone who comes, published poet or bring your own poems or read Shel Silverstein or recite something your mother used to read to you," says Brockfield.

"Once we had a motorcyclist come in and want the pie, but we said he'd have to read a poem first, so we gave him a poem, he read it, got his pie, ate it and then put his helmet back on and left."

The event allows participants to associate with other poets and get some exposure, Brockfield says. It attracts many who write but don't get out a lot and appreciate a chance to read their work in public.

Established poets will read a favorite work by another poet at the Medford event. They include Amy Miller, Dave Harvey, Dewell Byrd, Angela Decker, Brockfield, Charlotte Abernathy, Amy MacClennan, Liz Robinson and Sally Ehrman.

The local OPA chapter offers monthly workshops aimed at improving poetry-writing and appreciation skills, said Brockfield. She can be reached at She encourages residents to join in "Poem in Your Pocket" Day, April 26, by posting verses in public places, writing lines on your business card, texting poems to friends or on blogs, and passing out poems on the street.

Widely published poets Jonah Bornstein, Angela Decker and Richard Lehnert will read on Monday, April 2, the first of five days of readings throughout April at Bloomsbury Books, 290 E. Main St., Ashland. All are at 7 p.m. and are free.

Bornstein describes the labor of penning poetry: "When writing on the page, I mumble the words, trying to find the rhythm, the entrance into the truth of the specific poem. When I read publicly or hear someone else read aloud, if the rhythms, the ideas, and the metaphors are in sync, the poem reverberates in the mind and in the body. In that way, poetry is healing, just as music can be. I believe great poetry reverberates in our cells, activating them, at least temporarily."

Decker, a columnist and freelance journalist for the Ashland Daily Tidings, has published poetry in Comstock Review, Hip Mama, Jefferson Monthly and other reviews. Lehnert's work has been published in many reviews and in two books, "A Short History of the Usual," released in 2003, and "The Only Empty Place," which is forthcoming.

On Monday, April 9, the "High Desert Poetry Cell" from Bend will read at Bloomsbury. John Martin, Don Kunz, Peter Lovering, Larry Jacobs and John Kvapil have written "The Guy's Big Book of Poetry" and "The Guy's Home Relationship Maintenance & Improvement Poetry Manual."

Steve Dieffenbacher, a copy editor and page designer with the Mail Tribune, will read from his just-published, full-length poetry collection, "The Sky is a Bird of Sorrow," at Bloomsbury on Thursday, April 12. Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen writes on the book jacket, "Brimming with stunning tropes, alive with liquid music, Dieffenbacher's poems carry "... the mute undertow of another earth.'"

Joining Dieffenbacher will be Chris Anderson, who will read from his work "The Next Thing Always Belongs." The collection of poems seeks the hidden connections beneath randomness and loss and "the mystery that keeps interrupting our lives," says Bornstein, an organizer of the Bloomsbury event.

On Monday, April 23, Lisa Steinman and Jim Shugrue will read from their works at Bloomsbury. Steinman is the author of five collections of poems, including "Carslaw's Sequences," and three books about poetry. Shugrue is the author of three chapbooks and has received a fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission and an Open Voice Award. He and Steinman, his wife, co-edit the poetry magazine Hubbub.

Donna Emerson and Ron Thomas will read on Monday, April 30, at Bloomsbury. Emerson is a Santa Rosa Junior College instructor and clinical social worker who has had three chapbooks published, including her latest, "Wild Mercy." Ron Thomas is author of the chapbook "Approaching Shore."

Illahe Studios and Gallery in Ashland will stage "Performance Poetry with Michael Holstein" at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 14, at the gallery, 215 Fourth St.

Then on Thursday, April 19, the gallery will hold "Poetry in the Neighborhood" from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The evening will feature readings by Carter McKenzie, Kylan Rice and Anita Sullivan. The cost is $5.

The Downtowne Coffeehouse in Talent holds open mic poetry readings every second Thursday evening, with April 12 being its award ceremony for the best poem read in the past year.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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