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LitWatch Monthly: It’s National Poetry Month

April marks National Poetry Month – along with eight of the most exciting ways for you to celebrate.


A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep.” Salman Rushdie

April marks National Poetry Month, a 30-day-long event created in 1996 by the American Academy of Poets to honor poetry writers across the country and spark an increased appreciation for poetry in the United States. This year marks the 25th anniversary of an event that has become one of the largest literary celebrations in the world. 

Poetry has been continually making its way into mainstream media and the world of television commercials and radio ads, particularly so after the spellbinding success of National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda S.C. Gorman’s internationally broadcasted poem recitation during President Joe Biden’s inauguration. It is important to remember that as poetry becomes increasingly popularized, its true preservation will come from our everyday actions. Just as the greatest poetry comes from the minds of ordinary people seeking to “shape the world, and stop it going to sleep,” the greatest advocacy for poetry comes not from commercial conglomerates, but from the dedicated patronage of individuals. 

We should remind ourselves that to keep our favorite bookshops open, we must each choose to purchase their books. To keep our independent presses publishing, we must subscribe to their publications. To keep our poets writing, we must endeavor to show our support for the work they do to further the literary world. 

In honor of National Poetry Month, I have created a list of eight great ways to celebrate, appreciate, and support Oregon poetry this April, in addition to a full calendar of literary events. Enjoy!

  1. Purchase a poetry book from an independent bookstore

If you’re in the mood to discover new poetry, head to any of your local bookstores, such as Powell’s Books, Belmont Books, Broadway Books, Wallace Books, Annie Bloom’s Books, and more. Enjoy an afternoon browsing the many local poets either online or in-person while supporting independent bookstores.

  1. Attend an upcoming Kim Stafford reading

This April includes not only one, but two virtual Kim Stafford readings: one hosted by Annie Bloom’s Books on April 12, the other hosted by Broadway Books featuring poet John Morrison on April 19. If you miss the initial launch event for Stafford’s newest book of poems, Singer Come From Afar, make sure to catch the second reading, which promises to be a lively occasion in honor of National Poetry Month.

  1. Sign up for a Poem-A-Day email

The Poetry Foundation website features an online Poem of the Day every day of the year. To start each morning with a little slice of poetic inspiration, subscribe to receive a poem in your inbox by entering your name and email address.

  1. Register for the Oregon Book Award Poetry Finalist Reading

The Oregon Book Award Poetry Finalist Reading features work from the five Oregon-based poet finalists, from former Fulbright Fellows to three-time Pushcart Prize award winners, offering a wide variety of poetry styles.

  1. Support your local library

Celebrate National Poetry Month by borrowing a few poetry titles from your local library. For those living in Multnomah County, make sure to ask your local librarians for their poetry recommendations: They are always pleased to suggest their favorites.

  1. Attend Joy Harjo’s upcoming lecture

Harjo, the 23rd United States Poet Laureate and a Muscogee (Creek) Nation writer and performer, will present a lecture as part of the 2020/2021 Arts and Lecture Series hosted by Literary Arts. Her newest book of poems, American Sunrise, “is full of celebration, crisis, brokenness, and healing…” (Daisy Fried, New York Times)

  1. Participate in an open mic

This month’s Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic, hosted by Christopher Luna and Morgan Paige, features poet Eileen Davis Elliot. Along with work from Elliots’s newest book, Pobrecitos, the floor will be open to anyone interested in sharing their work with the virtual audience. To register in advance for the open mic portion of the night, send an email to christopherjluna@gmail.com.

  1. Write a poem of your own

Though writing does not necessarily come easily to all, it is an endeavor open to be explored by everyone. This month, consider writing a poem or two of your own in honor of National Poetry Month. Whether you consider yourself a writer or not, the act of writing can be both exciting and introspective, leaving one with a greater appreciation for their surroundings.

Week 1: April 1-7

Chamber Music Northwest Orion Quartet The Old Church Portland Oregon

Livestream Reading: Jamie Yourdon

Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Tuesday, April 6
7-8pm via ZOOM
Free Event

Portland author Jamie Yourdon returns to Annie Bloom’s Books for a livestream reading from his newest book, The Space Between Two Deaths. In this mystery-filled novel, Yourdon’s characters must navigate the hardships between finding peace within their home of ancient Sumeria and striking out on their own to find freedom in the wake of a grisly accident.

Willy Vlautin in Conversation With Chelsea Cain

Presented by Powell’s Books
Wednesday, April 7
6pm via ZOOM
Free Event

Vlautin, author of The Night Always Comes, will be joined in conversation by author Cain to discuss the attainability of the “American Dream,” the impact of trickle-down greed, and the cost of gentrification. Based in Portland over a two-day span of suspense, ambition, and difficulty, The Night Always Comes follows a young protagonist as she struggles to help her family survive in an increasingly financially inaccessible city.

Week 2: April 8-14

Everybody Reads 2021: Ross Gay

Presented by Literary Arts
Thursday, April 8
Hosted Virtually
$0-$100 sliding scale

Ross Gay and his collection of essays, The Book of Delights, have been selected as this year’s Multnomah County Library annual community reading project, Everybody Reads. His 30-minute lecture will be followed by a 40-minute interview with Oregon writer Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan, as part of the project’s 19th consecutive year. A National Book Critics Circle Award winner and New York Times best-selling author, Gay will discuss his newest nonfiction work, which focuses on the little joys that are commonly overlooked in daily life.

Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic Featuring Eileen Davis Elliott

Presented by Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic
Hosted by Christopher Luna & Morgan Paige
Thursday, April 8
7-10pm via ZOOM
$5 suggested donation

This month’s Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic features poet and visual artist Eileen Davis Elliot. Elliot, author of Prodigal Cowgirl and Miles of Pies, will share work from her third book, Porbrecitos, outlining a love story to all the individuals we meet on our paths through life. To participate in the open mic portion of the evening, register in advance by sending an email to Christopher Luna at christopherjluna@gmail.com.

Jeff VanderMeer in Conversation with Sylvia Moreno-Garcia

Presented by Literary Arts, San Antonio Book Festival, and Portland Book Festival
Friday, April 9
Hosted Virtually
Free Event

The San Antonio Book Festival and Portland Book Festival present author Jeff VanderMeer in conversation with New York Times bestselling author Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, moderated by Texas Monthly editor Kathy Blackwell. In VanderMeer’s new novel, Hummingbird Salamander, he shifts from fantasy to noir with a story of mystery, danger, and suspense as “Security consultant Jane Smith receives an envelope with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and clues leading her to a taxidermied salamander… Soon, Jane and her family are in danger, with few allies to help her make sense of the true scope of the peril.” (MCD Books)

Livestream Reading: Kim Stafford

Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Tuesday, April 12
7-8pm via ZOOM
Free Event

Oregon poet Kim Stafford, who is the son of the renowned poet and former Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress William Stafford, returns to Annie Bloom’s Books for the launch of his newest book of poems, Singer Come from Afar. Kim, a former Poet Laureate of Oregon, will read from his collection on peace, war, challenges, and hardships of the pandemic. He will be joined by Sisters musician, poet, and author of Believe the Bird, Beth Wood.

Oregon Book Award Poetry Finalist Reading

Presented by Literary Arts
Wednesday, April 14
7-8pm via ZOOM
Free Event

Five Oregon poets will participate in a reading to commemorate this year’s Oregon Book Award Poetry Finalists. Former Fulbright Fellow Anna Elkins, Raghead author Eman Hassan, Copper Canyon Press author Ed Skoog, three-time Pushcart Prize recipient Floyd Skloot, and 2017 Oregon Book Award in Poetry winner Joe Wilkins will read work in this celebratory live-streamed event.

Week 3: April 15-21

Michio Kaku

Presented by Powell’s Books
Thursday, April 15
5pm via ZOOM
Free Event

New York Times bestselling author and theoretical physicist Michio Kaku will join Powell’s Books to speak about his newest work, The God Equation: The Quest for a Theory of Everything (Doubleday). Kaku, the author of Hyperspace, Einstein’s Cosmos, and The Future of Humanity, will talk about the endeavor to unite two schools of theory that have previously proven contradictory: 20th-century theories about relativity and quantum mechanics, and Newton’s laws of motion and gravity.

Kim Stafford and John Morrison: A Virtual Event

Presented by Broadway Books
Monday, April 19
Hosted Virtually
Free Event

If you miss Kim Stafford’s earlier April livestream reading at Annie Bloom’s Books, Broadway Books will present you with another chance to catch him reading his work, this time alongside poet John Morrison, in an evening of poetry, music, and even a bit of film. Stafford will read from Singer Come from Afar, a new book considering the effects of war, peace, and pandemic struggles. Morrison, a Portland Community College instructor and Attic Institute Associate Fellow, will read from his new collection, Monkey Island.

Livestream Reading: Levi Rogers

Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Tuesday, April 20
7-8pm via ZOOM
Free Event

Portland author Levi Rogers joins Annie Bloom’s Books for a reading from his debut fiction novel, Utah! A Novel, in which a family must flee from spreading wildfires and the threat of Yellowstone National Park’s erupting Supervolcano. Rooted in Utah’s rich and diverse landscape, Utah! A Novel features typical Utahn inhabitants including Mormons, ministers, housewives, and army veterans while striving to break apart the preconceptions of a misunderstood state.

Portland Arts and Lectures: Joy Harjo 

Presented by Literary Arts
Tuesday, April 20
Hosted Virtually
$90-$355 series event tickets

The 2020/2021 Portland Arts and Lectures series presents 23rd United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. A performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Harjo has written nine poetry books, a memoir, and various children’s books and plays. Winner of the 2017 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize and 2015 Wallace Stevens Award, Harjo creates work that Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has described as “powerfully connect[ing] us to the earth and the spiritual world with direct, inventive lyricism.” Harjo’s newest book of poems, American Sunrise, was published in 2019. When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, the first historically comprehensive Native poetry anthology, which Harjo edited, followed in 2020.

Week 4: April 22-30

Patrick Radden Keefe in Conversation With Lydia Polgreen

Presented by Powell’s Books
Thursday, April 22
5pm via ZOOM
Free Event

Author of Say Nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe, will be joined in conversation by journalist Lydia Polgreen to discuss his new nonfiction book, Empire of Pain. Based on three generations of the famous Sackler family, who made their fortune promoting the sale of Valium, Empire of Pain chronicles the history of their enterprise from affiliations with Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oxford, and the Louvre, to making and marketing Oxycontin, a painkiller that became the catalyst for the opioid crises. Through exploring multiple investigations into the Sackler name, Keefe exposes the drama and vengeance within the lives of America’s most greedy elite.

Brittney Corrigan & Charles Seluzicki: A Virtual Reading

Presented by Airlie Press and Broadway Books
Monday, April 26
4:30pm via ZOOM
Free Event

In honor of National Poetry Month, Broadway Books presents poets Brittney Corrigan and Charles Seluzicki reading from their new chapbooks. In Breaking, Corrigan responds to issues such as gun violence, politics, climate change, and natural disasters that have populated news channels over the past year. “This is a book with both palms open… one in offering and the other in supplication,” says Portland author Wendy Willis. Seluzicki’s Eligiac (Carnegie Mellon University Press) takes a more personal tone with poems that celebrate the lives of lost friends. “Charles Seluzicki has delivered a late-breaking heartfelt and startlingly beautiful book of poems…” writes Portland poet Michael Dickman.

New York City: Paul Auster and Jonathan Safran Foer

Presented by Literary Arts
Wednesdays, April 28-June 2
6-8pm via ZOOM

For those dreaming of a springtime New York City getaway, join graphic designer and writer Ivonne Saed for a Literary Arts Delve Readers Seminar on the writings of Paul Auster and Jonathan Safran Foer, two authors whose work center on New York City as a symbolic space for their characters. Seminar participants will discuss Auster’s Leviathan (1992) and Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005), examining the concept of New York City as a literary character.

Livestream Reading: Jutta Donath

Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Thursday, April 29
7-8pm via ZOOM
Free Event

Jutta Donath will join Annie Bloom’s Books for a livestream reading from her memoir Refugee: The Journey of an East German Woman. Originally from East Germany, Donath holds a master’s degree in German from Portland State University and has taught German and English as a Nonnative Language (ENNL) at Portland Community College for 25 years. Her memoir tells the story of her family’s escape from communism, her immigration to Oregon, and the difficulty of acclimating to a foreign home.

Submit your literary events, workshops, readings, and book releases to the Oregon ArtsWatch LitWatch Monthly calendar. Send your event information, press materials, and book review inquiries to Amy Leona Havin at amyleonahavin@gmail.com.

Amy Leona Havin is a writer, choreographer, and filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington, and is the Artistic Director of Portland-based multi-media dance company The Holding Project. Her works can be read in Humana Obscura, San Diego Poetry Annual, The Dust Magazine, The Chronicle, Mountain Bluebird Magazine, and others, and she has been shortlisted for the Bridport International Writing Competition Prize in Poetry. Havin’s artistic process is rooted in classical and somatic movement practices, non-fiction writing, and honoring the landscape of the natural world.


One Response

  1. Ode to Blinding Beauty …

    Her looks transcend the barrier called

    fair / His heart and will to resist her

    she binds / Thinking naught but of her

    smile he pines / For the release of her

    bouncy brown hair / Her leaving his small

    realm he could not bear / Like the silky

    long curls her finger winds / He’s limp,

    all for that beauty that blinds / From all

    else yet at her helpless he’d stare. //

    While seeing the shallows though not the

    signs / Showing more than a pretty visual

    layer / Whether the twain may too meet

    with their minds / Hearts will share their

    most secrets should they dare / Feelings

    far further than vague dating lines / To

    know eternity their souls shall share.

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