Cafe Lena

Leanne Grabel talks about comedy, outrage and the heyday of Portland’s lit scene

A new interview series with Portland poets kicks off with long-time poetry activist Leanne Grabel

On a cloudy day in May, I sat at a wooden café patio table waiting to meet Portland poet Leanne Grabel for the first time. Though I had knowledge of her work, I wasn’t sure of what to expect during an era when in-person meetings still seem few and far between. My coffee was warm in my hand as the sun peeked periodically through the silver sky, and I looked up at the sound of an approaching bicycle. 

Leanne rode up to me like a ray of light beaming through a stormy fog, sporting a bright magenta sweatshirt embellished with sparkling gold hand-drawn flowers across the front of the Blazer logo, paired with reflective sunglasses resting over her expressive eyes.

“I brought some gifts!” she said cheerfully, as she reached into her horse-patterned carpetbag, pulling out three of her recent books. I leafed through them as she stepped away to order a latte.

Leanne performing at Ivories Jazz Lounge, photograph courtesy of Facebook


ArtsWatch Weekly: Sheer poetry with Grabel and the fishing crew

Leanne Grabel and Breads & Roses, FisherPoets and the song of the sea. Plus the week's dance, drama, sight, and sound.

IT’S A BIG WEEK FOR POETS IN OREGON, and an especially big week for longtime Portland poet Leanne Grabel, who’s been named the winner of the second annual Soapstone Bread and Roses Award. The prize, given by the women’s literary organization Soapstone to honor a writer who has helped sustain the writing culture in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, comes with a $1,000 award. It’ll be officially presented at a Soapstone board meeting on March 6, two days before International Women’s Day.

Portland poet Leanne Grabel, the 2020 Soapstone Bread and Roses Award winner. Photo courtesy Soapstone, Inc.