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LitWatch March: Poetry events, a history of the Village Voice, and a staged reading of Brian Doyle’s ‘Mink River’

Other literary events this month include readings by nine writers at the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center in Newport and a celebration of small presses.


An stage adaptation of Brian Doyle’s “Mink River” will be read March 11 and 12 in Portland.

Dear March—Come in—
How glad I am—
I hoped for you before—
Put down your Hat—
You must have walked—
How out of Breath you are—
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest—
Did you leave Nature well—
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me—
I have so much to tell—

I got your Letter, and the Birds—
The Maples never knew that you were coming—
I declare – how Red their Faces grew—
But March, forgive me—
And all those Hills you left for me to Hue—
There was no Purple suitable—
You took it all with you—

— excerpt from Dear March—Come in by Emily Dickinson 

While March has, thus far, delivered Birds and plenty of Letters (read: book releases), it has not yet promised the hint of spring that Oregonians are so eager to glimpse. This month is thankfully bustling with warm and inviting indoor events, including nonfiction and poetry releases and readings, the Oregon Arts Commission’s Poetry Out Loud Contest, a history of the iconic “paper that couldn’t be bought” — aka the Village Voice, and a new literary event at Newport’s Pacific Maritime Heritage Center. With so much to keep us occupied, perhaps by the time we’ve settled into the month, the cherry blossom, magnolia, and camellia buds will finally be ready to take the stage.

Beloved Portland author, editor, and instructor Brian Doyle died in 2017 at age 60. A staged theatrical reading of his novel “Mink River” will be presented this month. Photo courtesy: Mary Miller Doyle.

At 7 p.m. March 11 and 12, fans of Brian Doyle’s Mink River can attend a free staged reading in two parts in the Ellyn Bye Studio at Portland Center Stage. Doyle was a beloved Portland author and recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature and three Pushcart Prizes. The novel was adapted for the stage by Myra Platt of Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle.

Told in part by a crow named Moses, Doyle’s debut novel delivers the story of a small coastal Oregon town and the lives of its inhabitants. From “love affairs and almost-love-affairs” to mystery, agony, and laughter among characters including loggers, doctors, brawlers, boaters, and Irish immigrants, Mink River turns the village of Neawanaka into a place where the reader feels at home.

Discussing the book’s journey from novel to play in 2018 for Oregon ArtsWatch, Michael N. McGregor quoted Doyle in Ruminate magazine: “I sometimes think there is no writer as addicted to music and swing and rhythm and cadence in prose as me. I really do want to push prose as close to music as I can, and play with tone and timbre in my work, play with the sinuous riverine lewd amused pop and song of the American language.”


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Week 1: March 1-7

Leila Philip in Conversation with Emma Marris
Presented by Powell’s Books, co-sponsored by The Wetlands Conservancy
7 p.m. Wednesday, March 6
Powell’s City of Books
1005 W. Burnside St., Portland

Leila Philip, award-winning nonfiction writer, poet, and educator, will meet with Emma Marris, author of Wild Souls: Freedom and Flourishing in the Non-Human World, to discuss her new narrative science release, Beaverland. Using history and contemporary storytelling, Philip considers the role of the beaver in America. She also explores the beaver’s effect on the economy and western expansion through commentary from a Montana-based Harvard scientist, an environmental restoration consultant nicknamed the “beaver whisperer,” and others, painting a thoroughly researched and heroic picture of the enigmatic animal.

Week 2: March 8-14

Get Lit at The Maritime
Presented by Pacific Maritime Heritage Center
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, March 9
Pacific Maritime Heritage Center
333 S.E. Bay Blvd., Newport
Adults $10; Teens $5; Free for CHS members, active-duty military, children

The Pacific Maritime Heritage Center will host its debut literary event, hosted by organizer and author Carla Perry and featuring nine authors reading from genres including fiction, essays, poetry, journalism, and nonfiction. The keynote speaker is Erin Litteken, author of The Memory Keeper of Kyiv and The Lost Daughters of Ukraine. Light snacks and refreshments will be available, and the event is free with museum admission.

Participants from the 2023 Poetry Out Loud Contest, presented by the Oregon Arts Commission.

2024 Poetry Out Loud Contest
Presented by Oregon Arts Commission
1 p.m. Saturday, March 9
Loucks Auditorium at Salem Public Library
585 Liberty Street S.E., Salem


Seattle Opera Pagliacci

After a virtual semifinal, 12 Oregon high school students will compete in Oregon’s 2024 Poetry Out Loud State Contest to see who will progress to the Poetry Out Loud National Finals, scheduled for late April in Washington, D.C. Youth from Lake Oswego, Beaverton, Salem, Medford, Portland, and other Oregon cities will memorize and perform poems, demonstrating their creative and presentational skills. Kim Stafford, former Oregon Poet Laureate, will make a presentation.

Two Poets: Carlos Reyes and Lisa Steinman
Presented by Broadway Books
6 p.m. Tuesday, March 12
Broadway Books
1714 N.E. Broadway St., Portland

Carlos Reyes, poet, translator, and author of The Four Hinges of the Wind, will be at Broadway Books to discuss his new collection of “sweet, simple, and satisfying” poems called The Empty Chairs of February. He will be joined by Lisa Steinman, poet, Kenan Professor of English and Humanities at Reed College, and author of Masters of Repetition: Poetry, Culture, and Work in Thomson, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Emerson, reading from her new book of poems, Invitation to Poetry.

Bernadette McDonald will be joined by Graham Zimmerman for a discussion at Powell’s Books.

Bernadette McDonald in Conversation with Graham Zimmerman
Presented by Powell’s Books
7 p.m. Tuesday, March 12
Powell’s City of Books
1005 W. Burnside St., Portland

Bernadette McDonald, Canadian nonfiction author of Brotherhood of the Rope, sheds light on the sherpas, Pakistani climbers, and local heroes of Annapurna in her newest release, Alpine Rising. “The name of Maurice Herzog, the first man to reach the summit of Annapurna, is widely recognized,” reads the book’s description, “but how many know Ang Tharkay, the Sherpa who carried the seriously frostbitten Herzog on his back for miles?” Money from sales of Alpine Rising will go toward the Khumbu Climbing Center in Nepal and the ASCEND climbing program for girls. McDonald will be joined by Graham Zimmerman, author of A Fine Line: Searching for Balance Among Mountains.

Week 3: March 14-21

Yashica Dutt in Conversation with William Deresiewicz
Presented by Powell’s Books
7 p.m. Thursday, March 14
Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing
3415 S.W. Cedar Hills Blvd., Beaverton


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Yashica Dutt, author of Coming Out as Dalit, will discuss her upbringing in small-town India and how she was taught from a young age not to appear “Dalit looking.” Despite being against the law since 1950, caste-ism and discrimination against Dalits, who make up 25 percent of the population, is still common in India. Dutt’s memoir tackles the history of the caste system and its contemporary consequences through explorations of colonial British perpetuation and Gandhi’s perspective on the social climate. Dutt will be joined by William Deresiewicz, essayist and author of The End of Solitude: Selected Essays on Culture and Society.

David Lewis, Oregon Indigenous historian and author of “Tribal Histories of the Willamette Valley” appears March 14 at Tsunami Books.

David Lewis: Tribal Histories of the Willamette Valley
Presented by Tsunami Books
7 p.m. Thursday, March 14
Tsunami Books
2585 Willamette St., Eugene

David Lewis, author and Oregon Indigenous historian, will give a presentation on his new release, Tribal Histories of the Willamette Valley. Combining years of research and oral story collection, Lewis depicts the history of the Willamette Valley through Native perspectives, displaying a timeline that spans “the first years of contact between settlers and tribes, the takeover of tribal lands and creation of reservations by the U.S. Federal Government, and the assimilation efforts of boarding schools.”

Tricia Romano in Conversation with Melissa Maerz
Presented by Powell’s Books
Powell’s City of Books
7 p.m. Tuesday, March 1
1005 W. Burnside St., Portland

In The Freaks Cme Out to Write, Tricia Romano, former editor-in-chief of Seattle’s The Stranger, writes the star-studded oral history of one of America’s iconic publications, the Village Voice. It was the first paper to call Donald Trump “a corrupt con artist” in 1979, as well as the first to write about hip-hop, Off-Broadway, avant-garde art, and more. Romano tells the story of journalism, New York City, and how the Voice shaped American culture. She will be joined by  Melissa Maerz, author of Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater’s ‘Dazed and Confused.

Week 4: March 22-31

Author Bettie Lennett Denny will read March 21 at Broadway Books.

Bettie Lennett Denny: In the Wake of Madness: My Family’s Escape from the Nazis
Presented by Broadway Books
6 p.m. Thursday, March 21
Broadway Books
1714 N.E. Broadway St., Portland


Washougal Art & Music Festival

Bettie Lennett Denny will read from In the Wake of Madness: My Family’s Escape from the Nazis, chronicling the story of Elsa and Saly Levi, a German-Jewish couple seeking refuge during World War II in Belgium — until Nazi bombs began to fall. Despite their parents being trapped in Vichy France and Berlin, the couple, along with thousands of refugees fleeing Nazi occupation, dreamed of safety in America. Through a “wealth of long-neglected personal documents,” Denny puts together the important and harrowing details of her family’s escape.

Presented by Powell’s Books
4 p.m. Saturday, March 23
Powell’s City of Books
1005 W. Burnside St., Portland

Powell’s Books presents its 13th Smallpresspalooza, a marathon exhibition reading of authors published by local and national small presses. The event will be hosted by Kevin Sampsell, publisher of Future Tense Books, and features authors Cee Chávez, Shilo Niziolek, Juleen Eun Sun Johnson, A.Y. Kennedy, Tim Day, Hope Amico, Libby Rice, Xavier Cavazos, Jeff Alessandrelli, Jessica Wadleigh, Jennifer Robin, and Rex Marshall.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Amy Leona Havin is a poet, essayist, and arts journalist based in Portland, Oregon. She writes about language arts, dance, and film for Oregon ArtsWatch and is a staff writer with The Oregonian/OregonLive. Her work has been published in San Diego Poetry Annual, HereIn Arts Journal, Humana Obscura, The Chronicle, and others. She has been an artist-in-residence at Disjecta Contemporary Art Center, Archipelago Gallery, and Art/Lab, and was shortlisted for the Bridport International Creative Writing Prize in poetry. Havin holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts and is the Artistic Director of Portland-based dance performance company, The Holding Project.


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