Saturday, October 18, 2003

Suzanne Paola

The first thing I want to mention about tonight's guest writers is that Suzanne Paola and Bruce Beasley, who have both received Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, teach at Western Washington University and live in Bellingham, are married. That particular fact seems to have struck a strong chord somewhere in my brain that tickles when I read their work, perhaps a reaction from watching Ozzie and Harriet as a child.

I mean, not only do we have here a couple of extremely intelligent human beings, both who have independently developed habits of thinking in metaphysical terms about the world in which they live, and then filtering their own difficult life-experiences through two uniquely crafted crucibles of internal, intellectual critique....they have also undergone self-reinvention. Add to the mix that they have educated, reflected upon and re-educated themselves about an enormous and dizzying array of topics having to do with things theological, historical and current. Then, I ask you, consider these folks at breakfast. I smell overdone eggs, burned toast, boiling coffee. ("Not so," says Suzanne, "we are mundane, normal. The eggs and coffee are perfect.")

Suzanne Paola, author of poetry books Petitioner, Glass, and Bardo, which won the 1998 Brittingham Prize in Poetry, and most recently The Lives of The Saints, is also Suzanne Antonetta, author of her memoir Body Toxic, winner of the 2002 American Book Award. In Body Toxic, she writes of heroin addiction, the saints of every day, of god, of a quiet nuclear and chemical-dumping disaster she still experiences, we will all experience, for the rest of our lives, in horrific images and beautiful language.

Please welcome Suzanne Antonetta Paola.

Bruce Beasley

Whenever I feel a little too upbeat, maybe a little too sane or satisfied, and even though I know better, I can rely on a few select Southern writers to remind me of the realm of refractive gloom and gothic moodiness that I probably deserve. I¹m talking about writers like Carson McCullers, William Faulkner, Flannery O¹Connor, fun folks, who, if there was opportunity to accompany them in an elevator during a potential power outage, might make one consider the stairs. Excellent writers, tough topics: alcoholism, humiliation, misery, the nature of evil, humanity and the gods we invent.

Our next reader is Southern, a scribe with an unflinching knack for slicing into the big questions of existence, the recipient of several awards and the author of four volumes of poetry including Spirituals, The Creation, Summer Mystagogia and most recently, Signs and Abominations.

Please welcome Bruce Beasley.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Mitch Luckett

A fellow recently asked me if being a good writer was anything like being a good liar. I shot from the hip and told him that I hadn't thought about the topic too much, but conceded that I considered myself a good writer and an adequate liar.

I've been ruminating on his question and all its ramifications ever since.

An essential aspect about being a good writer and an adequate liar is that you hope your hindsight is better than 20-20, and if you have doubts, you ruminate until it is.

I had to consider the fact that my questioner was, after all, an attorney, so where did he get off asking me if I was a good liar? I judiciously and perhaps generously decided that being a good attorney was not necessarily synonymous with being a good liar, even though I have seen Johnny Cochran in action. I finally concluded that being a good attorney had more to do with concocting a version of the facts that was more favorable towards a particular point of view. Which turned out to be a bad idea, because that made me think of politicians.

More ruminating, and I realized politicians concoct versions of something in their line of work, but don't rely on all the facts, the use-ratio at best one or two out of a hundred. They call this spin. Politicians are, I must admit, much better liars than writers or lawyers, but when you get right down to it, I'd rather read a good book or hear a good yarn than be harangued by a politician or cross-examined by an attorney, and if the writer, who in this case is an adequate liar and can also sing and play blue grass banjo and harmonica and has written a very strange and humorous book called To Kill a Common Loon, I think the best thing to do is just introduce him and sit down.

Please welcome Mitch Luckett

Alice Derry

If there is one thing you can say about the experience of civilization and being human, there is no shortage of trouble.

Sometimes it seems as if the collective recognition of history is only a generalized distillation of banal and often inaccurate information about what has gone on in different times and places for the purpose of boring high school students or providing demagogues, politicians and pundits with enough information to skew facts sufficiently so they may sway us to applaud or vote for them. Afterwards, we the people are often left scratching our heads, if indeed, we are lucky enough to still have one, and ask ourselves what the hell just happened. Often this generalizing influence leads us to smug conclusions and arbitrary bias that are more revealing about our own self-protecting insecurities than they are accurate about the cause and effect of history.

Thus, we concoct notions that Blacks and Native Americans are inferior, the indigent bring poverty upon themselves, various Supreme Beings have various Chosen People, arbitrary lines drawn on a map dictate the character of those living within them, terrorists attacked World Trade Center Towers because they hate freedom, and the United States holds the moral high ground in the arena of world politics. On the strength of these poorly constructed ideas we condemn ourselves to repeat the worst moments of history. It is only through the ex

All of Alice Derry's work is an intensely personal look at individual lives. From her initial manuscript, Stages of Twilight, through chapbooks Getting Used to the Body and Not as You Once Imagined, and a second book, Clearwater, she chronicles the lives and truths of ordinary people, including her own. But it is in her seminal third volume, Strangers to Their Courage, that Derry unsparingly uses the crucible of poetry to dispel the myths and generalizing of history surrounding postwar Germany.amination of the lives of individuals may we divine the truth of a moment or an era.

In the words of reviewer Li-Young Lee: "This book asks us to surrender our simplistic ideas about race and prejudice, memory and forgetfulness, and to begin to uncover a new paradigm for 'human.'

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Paul Lisicky

PAUL LISICKY received his BA and MA from Rutgers University and his MFA from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is the author of the novel Lawnboy, and the memoir Famous Builder published in 2002.

Lawnboy is the adventure of 17-year-old Evan. The book begins with Evan mowing a neighbor's lawn, an ordinary chore that launches him into an extraordinary world of adult desire, confusion, and betrayal. It is a book about the possibility of finding love and finding self in a world of broken relationships and decaying motels sinking back into the swamps of South Florida.

"Nobody writes about hilarious longing the way Paul Lisicky does," writes Elizabeth McCracken about Lawnboy.

"I love to make people laugh," says Lisicky. "I love to be with people who make me laugh. If one of the goals of memoir is the attempt to capture the self on the page, then it would be false not to enact my sense of humor.... The truth is the tone of Famous Builder is probably just as heartbroken as it is funny. The reader can only stand so much rawness and pain before he/she starts to feel annihilated by it."

Lisicky's stories and essays have appeared in Ploughshares, Sonora Review, and other magazines and in the anthologies Men On Men; Best American Gay Fiction 2, Flash Fiction, Boulevard, Quarterly West, Gulf Coast, Mississippi Review, Black Warrior Review, and the Carolina Quarterly.

Lisicky's honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, James Michener/Copernicus Society, Henfield Foundation, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He lives in New York and Provincetown, teaching fiction/creative nonfiction at Sarah Lawrence College and in the low-residency MFA program at Antioch University, Los Angeles.

Mark Doty

MARK DOTY was born in 1953. His mother's family, Irish immigrants, left during the potato famine to settle in Sweetwater, Tennessee. Mark Doty's father was an army engineer and their family moved often during his childhood.
I grew up with a sense that home was something one constructed or carried around inside. I grew up loving books because they were reliable company.
Doty is the author of six books of poems including
  • Source
  • Sweet Machine,
  • Bethlehem in Broad Daylight
  • Turtle, Swan
  • Atlantis (recipient of the Ambassador Book Award, Bingham Poetry Prize, and a Lambda Literary Award)
  • My Alexandria (chosen by Philip Levine for the National Poetry Series, and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and Britain's T.S. Eliot Prize).
Doty has also published three prose books: Heaven's Coast: A Memoir, which won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, the autobiography Firebird, and Still Life With Oysters and Lemon. He is the only American to have won the T.S. Eliot Prize.

Doty writes -
In the face of an increasingly homogeneous, market-driven culture, we need readers, we need to sign up anyone we can who cares about the portrayal of human individuality, of human stories. Start anywhere, I say, read anything. The entrances to the paradise of aesthetics are everywhere, some of them homespun, some of them rough attempts to sketch a self out of whatever material's at hand. But they lead someplace: toward heightened perceptiveness. At this moment I am grateful for poetry in any permutation, in any form, even poetry I don't like. It is a sign of hope, a sign which marks an attempt to blow on the coals of an old, old fire.
Mark Doty has received many other honors for his poetry including Whiting Writers Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest Award. He is a National Book Award finalist, and the two-time recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He lives in Provincetown, Massachusetts and in Houston, Texas, where he teaches at the University of Houston.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Chuck Palahniuk

CHUCK PALAHNIUK was a featured author of the Nye Beach Writers' Series in 1999, just before his novel Fight Club was released as a movie starring Brad Pitt. He has written four other books including Choke, Survivor, Invisible Monsters, and his newest, Lullaby, which involves a lethal African poem, an unwitting serial killer, haunted-house broker and a frozen baby. All of Chuck's books have been bestsellers.

Lullaby is a chillingly pertinent parable about the dangers of psychic infection and control in an era of wildly over proliferated information: "Imagine a plague you catch through your ears ...."

Chuck was born in Pasco, Washington. He worked as a diesel truck service mechanic for thirteen years after graduating from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism. He won an Oregon Newspaper Editors Association Award for most comprehensive coverage of a news event, an Oregon Book Award for best novel, and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award. And, he has been a major underwriter of the Nye Beach Writers' Series, for which we are eternally grateful.

"Humor is crucial," Chuck says. "Otherwise, why bother?

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Alan Siporin

Alan Siporin almost needs no introduction anywhere in Oregon. After twenty years on National Public Radio, first as Oregon's primary NPR correspondent and later with local affiliate KLCC in Eugene and its family of sister stations across the state, Siporin's calm delivery and measured tone signal to listeners the highest standards of journalistic ethics and balanced reportage, in sharp contrast to nearly every other talk-show host on the dial, where spin, bombast, political polarization of issues and outright misinformation color important topics daily. Indeed, without Alan's presence on the airwaves one might come to believe that a prerequisite for talk-show hostship would be to formally declare oneself a right-wing lackey.

Winner of over a hundred awards, including ACLU and NAACP awards for significant service to the community, Alan's commentaries have been a regular staple of NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Morning Edition." A regular contributor to the Eugene Weekly, he has also written articles appearing in the New York Times and Northwest Magazine. He currently hosts and produces "Critical Mass," the award-winning listener call-in talk show heard Sundays on KLCC.

In the skewed environment of greed, political correctness and compromised social objectives Americans currently experience, it has been noted that while nonfiction is about relating facts, fiction is sometimes the place where one can tell the truth. Inspired by the raw-edged muse of experience garnered while covering hate-crimes, forest fires and other news particular to the Northwest and its people, Alan has crossed the not-always distinct divide between journalism and fiction.

It is an honor to present Alan Siporin...

Commentaries can be found at:

Saturday, February 15, 2003

Willa Schneberg

One reason why poetry is the least-read of all categories of writing, just slightly more popular than the public announcements in the classified section of the newspaper that begin: "Whereas, in the matter concerning the estate of so-and-so..." is because of a certain intrinsic density of verbiage. A good poet tries to have the most impact with the fewest words, so there are rarely explanations. The reader, like a juror, is responsible for drawing his own conclusions from the information presented, not always an easy task. Yet, like any other form of writing there is bias, point of view, attitude. Often, because of these factors and the life issues which poets choose to address, that attitude may be less than pleasant. Let's face it, we've all read depressing poetry, cynical poetry, angry poetry.

So, it is a great relief when we encounter the work of a poet who evokes optimism even when the subject matter includes themes of hate, war, poverty and oppression. The otherwise unpalatable bites of world and personal history we may digest willingly, when laced with a sauce of humor, wisdom and a rich, often erotic sensuality.

Willa’s work has been welcomed by many well-recognized literary journals including The Exquisite Corpse, American Poetry Review, Michigan Quarterly Review and Southern Poetry Review. She has won two Oregon Literary Fellowships, a grant in poetry from the Money for Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, and other awards. She has worked as an art therapist in Israel and as an election official and medical liaison officer in Cambodia. Her first book of poetry, Box Poems, was published by Alice James Books. She is also a photographer, clay sculptor and social worker in private practice.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Clemens Starck

Featured on September 19, 1997 and January 18, 2003

Clemens Starck is no stranger to the Writer's Series, except that when we showcased him back in 1997, it was the Yachats Writer's Series, and it wasn't "we" because I was just a guy in the audience. And I wasn't sure about this Writer's Series thing either, because, just who were these writers who put on the Series, anyway? I mean, the World Series, yeah, I was okay with that, but a Writer's Series? What was that all about? Was there going to be a Writer's Super Bowl?

Another confusing thing was some of the poetry. I mean, I was starting to feel like one of the yes-men in the Emperor's New Clothes. People would go up to the lectern and read their work, and often I didn't have a clue what it was about. People during intermission would say: gosh that was so great... so-and-so put those words together in such an incredible way... And I'd ask, but what was it about? And they'd all move away from me...

But Clemens Starck was a breath of fresh air. I could understand what the man was saying. I bought his first book, Journeyman's Wages, took it home and I could still understand it. His work, a combination of narrative and reflection beautifully wrought, was actually about something, and I thought that was so cool, like Hamlet and The Odyssey and The Cat in the Hat and Archy and Mehitabel. Words put together simply and wisely to tell a story. What a concept.

Winner of the Oregon Book Award for Poetry and the William Stafford Memorial Poetry Award, Clemens Starck's work is about things he's actually done, structures built, roads traveled, people known, all filtered through an extremely acute sensibility. He worked in the Merchant Marine, did a little cowboying, labored in heavy construction and eventually divined the mysteries of finish carpentry. He taught himself Russian and meditates on the ancient poetry of the Chinese masters. Not surprisingly, he has developed a reputation for being a perfectionist.

His newest book is China Basin.

Please welcome Clemens Starck...