Peer group for poets

Ashland and the Rogue Valley are home to a large body of fine poets. For poets who want to meet kindred spirits or want to learn about poetry readings, open mikes and publication opportunities, the Rogue Valley Chapter of the Oregon State Poetry Association (OSPA) is a good place to start.

OSPA's goal, according to its mission statement, is to bring together and nurture the community of Oregon poets. The Rogue Valley chapter, which started about three years ago, is based in Ashland and aims to do that with school outreach programs, contests and hosted readings. Mostly, the group offers support to poets, providing a friendly community of fellow writers, as well as information concerning the business of poetry.

Poet Carol Brockfield is a long-time member of OSPA and a member of the Rogue Valley chapter since 2007. She says the local OSPA group gives her inspiration and a sense of community.

"OSPA helps keep my fire stoked," she said. "There seems to be an osmosis thing going, an energy exchange that happens by being in the company of people writing poetry. Hearing what others have written, and considering what poetry is or should be, gives me ideas and puts me in the mindframe that poetry is everywhere for the snatching and setting down."

The Rogue Valley chapter has hosted informal gatherings where poets snack on cookies and share their work. It has also organized workshops concerning everything from writing a fabulous sonnet to publishing a collection of poetry.

In addition to the formal workshops, the monthly meetings can include suggestions about submissions to specific magazines, upcoming contest information and where to buys or sell books by local poets.

"OSPA offers a supportive umbrella to beginning and accomplished writers alike," Brockfield said.

She urges local poets to visit or join the Rogue Valley chapter.

"The poets I've met through our local chapter have become particularly important and supportive to my writing life," she said. "It's hard for me to write in a vacuum; now I'm more in touch with what's going on in the poetry community."

Ashland poet Amy Miller is a member of OSPA and has taught workshops for the group. She said she also appreciates the connection with other writers.

"I joined OSPA two years ago, and my favorite thing so far was the OSPA Spring Conference last year in Ashland," she said. "Poets from all over the state came to visit and I made several friends that I still correspond with. Though it's an informal and friendly organization, it's a surprisingly good network for poets. Many members know about publishing opportunities and are happy to share them."

Earlier this summer, Phoenix poet Liz Robinson worked with several other members to promote OSPA's student poetry contest and help get young students interested in poetry.

"It was a delight," Robinson said. "Our OSPA group visited local elementary, middle and high schools around the valley. We talked to kids about poetry, becoming poets, we taught workshops and encouraged them to submit to contests. Whether you are 5 or 500, something wonderful comes out when you are reading poetry." "We are a weird and wonderful group," she added. "It's nice to have a gathering of language lovers, it comes from such a personal space. Poetry is conversation written down, and I want to invite people to OSPA, I want to say, 'Join us and write, write, write.'"

For more information about the Oregon State Poetry Association, visit its Web site: . For more information about the Rogue Valley Chapter of OSPA, contact Carol Brockfield at

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