Passages Bookshop

Poets helping dancers: It’s one of the benefits

A Poet’s Benefit for Linda Austin’s Performance Works Northwest celebrates 20 years of dance and literature

“Beneath the ivy are the brambles / beneath the brambles are the needles… Beneath the dirt is the water / beneath the water is the rock… Beneath the bones are the seas / beneath the sea is the glass…”

These were some of the words recited over a Zoom call by poet Chris Ashby, who wore a deep blue flannel shirt and gazed down at what he referred to as “a medley of geographic water poems.”

Performance Works Northwest’s Linda Austin

Ashby let flow a series of sea-driven passages, all paralleling the abundant yet shifting state of Oregon’s poetry community today, one full of writers eager to share their words while limited to the virtual boundaries of a post-pandemic world. Ashby was one of more than 12 poets who took part in A Poet’s Benefit for PWNW: The dance moves on and prose limps hopelessly behind, a virtual literary fundraiser presented by Spare Room and Passages Bookshop on January 31.

This event, originally created during the summer of 2020 in honor of the 20th anniversary year of Linda Austin’s Performance Works Northwest, also marked 19 years of the Spare Room Reading Series, hosted by David Abel. While the original live event concept had to be virtually revived due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the online aspect of the evening allowed for all five founding members of the Spare Room Reading Series to be joined by poet performers in Oakland, Arizona, and Toronto, in addition to Portland.

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