Oregon My Oregon

This photo is from last year’s Holiday Cheer event in a post by Janet Fisher.

Yesterday was the Holiday Cheer book fair at the Oregon Historical Society. I was there with my book of poetry & Portland photography, and I can’t believe, after nearly 20 years in Oregon, more than 10 of which were in Portland, that I’d never been to OHS! Please go sometime, if you haven’t been—it’s a huge place, with so much to see (that is, even without the book fair). When I arrived at 11:30AM, the rooms were lined with tables and books and already bustling with authors. I was led to my book table on the main floor and informed that the author hospitality room with food & drink was on the 3rd floor. I spotted an elevator and decided to go get a snack before the doors opened to the public at noon.

I pushed “3” and when the elevator doors opened, I stepped out to a deserted, somewhat dark room. To my left was the glimmering of a 1950s TV set airing decades-old programming in a 1950s living room. After a disoriented pause, I stepped forward toward another very softly lit room and found myself traveling alone and backward through time, past a long canoe and a stuffed beaver, some WWII era hats and boots, a replica of a canvas-walled trading store, and an 1860s covered wagon, where the disembodied voice of a pioneer woman was describing the hardships of the time. So far there were no live persons, nor any snacks… was I still on the third floor? I followed the turns from one exhibit to the next, starting to hurry, until at last I spotted a ’50s diner with red vinyl topped stools and a soda fountain. Aha! I thought. Maybe this was the hospitality room? But alas, I was still alone in yet another unmanned exhibit in the mostly unlit space. Finally I found myself again at the television and elevator, so I shrugged and headed back down to floor one, where a security person escorted me to a different elevator that could take me to the correct 3rd floor room. And there I was finally able to collect two tangerines and a water. Not all elevators lead to Oregon My Oregon, my friends.

Finally back at my table, I sat down, never suspecting I’d soon be fast friends with my neighbors, photographer Laura Fletcher and the only other poet in the house (as far as we knew), Larry Beckett. In our four hours talking poetry and all that’s related, we discovered we’d each previously lived on the exact same street in NW Portland, both share a sense that musical instruments & their players possess a kind of magic, both usually do readings for invited guests only (but ask us anyway!), both have written about the Willamette, and both of us got lost in Oregon My Oregon at different points after stepping unassumingly into an elevator in search of 3rd floor hospitality.

Meeting Larry and his delightful wife Laura was definitely the highlight of this event for me, and though I didn’t get a chance to see most of the other books there, here are a few books & authors I can recommend checking out:

Larry Beckett: Beat Poetry This book “is the only book to date centering on the poetry of the Beat Generation. Sure, there are anthologies, sociologies, encyclopedias, collections of photographs and interviews, and studies on the individual Beats. But this is an entirely different beast. Beat Poetry is the missing link.” It is being used as a textbook at a university in England, as well as now, by me. You might want to check out Beckett’s recently published Paul Bunyan, too.

Robert Michael Pyle: Chasing Monarchs Robert Michael Pyle has authored many books, but after he stopped by our corner to say hello, I know I very much want to read his work about butterflies, starting with this one.

Jennifer Grace Bird: Permission Granted—Take the Bible into Your Own Hands  This book caught my eye because my dad’s birthday’s coming up, and I think he’d really enjoy this. From Amazon: “In Permission Granted, Jennifer Grace Bird encourages people of faith to explore the texts on their own, freed from long-held myths and misconceptions; experience the Bible anew and appreciate this holy book for what it is, not what we think it should be. With the sensitivity of one who has discovered this freedom herself, Bird invites readers to engage what the Bible really says about twelve key issues, including sin, sex, and the role of women.” Cool.

Michael McGregor: Pure Act When Michael strolled past my table, I recognized him from my grad school days at PSU; he’s a popular professor on the faculty there. After we said our, “Hey! How are you’s?!” he said he was there with his biography on poet Michael Lax, whom he’d known. Talking with poets in person is the only thing that can top reading about them, as my four hours with Larry proved, but I’m always up for reading a poet’s biography! As Michael McGregor flipped through my book, he paused at the back cover flap, looking at the page that states the printing location. He turned the book toward me. Made in the USA, San Bernardino, CA, he pointed out. Both our jaws were dropped. Of all places, that’s where my OHS Holiday Cheer batch of books was printed. Kinda trippy.

Book fair name tag
Michael McGregor makes eerie discovery of how my poetry & San Bernardino cross paths
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2 comments on “Oregon My Oregon

  1. I love this post! It’s like I got to experience it personally, even the mystical “other” third floor. I hope you got a lot of practice signing books!

    • Trista, that’s just what I was hoping for in writing this! I’m so glad you went with me to the “other third floor” through the magic carpet (magic elevator?) of the written word. Oh—I forgot to mention, Larry also gave me some excellent tips on book signing while we were there! 😉

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