Orcas Center will present the second of the 2008 Slightly OffCenter Local Artist Showcase on Sunday, April 27. In celebration of National Poetry Month, the showcase is curated by JoEllen Moldoff and will feature 15 Orcas poets.
Moldoff said, “Born and raised in New York, where I was a teacher and counselor, my love of poetry was nurtured by the many readings and workshops offered in the area by outstanding poets and teachers. Since my conversion to an Orcas Islander in 2001, I enjoy teaching poetry and memoir writing, and coordinating writing activities such as the monthly Writer’s Roundtables. I find the creative exchange with poets and writers in classes, workshops and readings a great inspiration and joy. “
The 2008 showcase program follows a highly successful series of three showcases in 2007 that was curated by Carolyn Cruso and featured 16 local singer/songwriters and spoken word artists. This year, the criterion for the showcase series has been broadened to include other genres and emphasizes the performances of original work.
Tickets to “The Slightly OffCenter Local Poets Showcase” on Sunday, April 27 at 7:30 pm are $10 and available at the door of the Off Center Stage, and in advance at the Orcas Center box office.
The following individuals will read their original work:
Jackie Abell says her “current big ambition is to write one significant poem.” The loves of her life are: “interacting with members of my family, watching them grow in confidence and stature; being in wilderness areas amidst beautiful scenery and expansive horizons; and exploring the sounds and syntax of speech and the meaning of words.”
Maurine Barnett is a poet and non-fiction writer who has been “making poems” since age nine. She has been awarded fellowships to Hedgebrook and Fishtrap, and has had her work published in Kalliope, Verve, Hurricane Alice, Kayak, and several anthologies.
When Henry had just turned 60 and “mowing wasn’t enough,” she joined a writing group and spent seven years coming up with a new poem every week. “It was as though the dam had broken,” she says. She wrote two self-published books, “to clear out the growth, and have been slightly less quick to share the work since then. I run out, runaway, wish to be better and sometimes just stare at the blank page but somehow something comes and I feel well there’s that for now. How else can a person write poetry?”
Jill Johnson is the Director of Artsmith, a non-profit to support arts education and the creation of new works of art. Jill is also an MFA candidate at Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writers Workshop. She is the recipient of a Deborah Tall Fellowship, a residency at the Anderson Center in Red Wing, Minnesota, and winner of the Whidbey Writers Workshop literary award. Jill and her husband, Charles Toxey, own the Kangaroo House Bed & Breakfast in Eastsound.
David Kobrin, a recent arrival, started writing poetry about four years ago after team-teaching with a colleague. “She taught English and I taught A-P U.S. history,” he recounts. He began showing her and other fellow teachers his poems and received a lot of encouragement. So he continued. To his poetry he brings a lifetime of observation and of teaching at the middle school, high school, and university levels. Asked which age students were his favorite to teach, he answers, “High school. The kids are a lot of fun to work with. They’re less pompous than university students.” He says that he writes poetry for fun. “I don’t worry about publishing it,” he says. Now, after he completes a poem, he posts it on his website, www.northernforestpoet.org, and then he forgets about it.
Following an Artist’s Way workshop with fellow Orcas Islanders, Jan Loudin wrote two children’s stories, one of which was a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Conference, while the other, The Witch and the ‘Roo of Wicky Woo, was self-published. Jan joined an Orcas writers group, thereby inspiring her to create adult short stories, novellas and, eventually, prose poems. Observing the daily beauty, intimacy and goings-on of the Islands tickles her fancy, prompting that urgent need to “write it down”! She manages her husband Frank’s art business.
River Malcolm has been an Orcas resident for 14 years. Her passions, in addition to poetry, include daily walks in Moran Park, the extraordinary clients and colleagues she feels privileged to work with as a marriage and family therapist, her two Samoyeds Nikki and Misty and three cats, Callisto, Echo and Slate. In 2007 she published The Mother Poems: A Daughter Wrestling with a Difficult Love. River looks forward to publishing Magic Carpet: Selected Poems –“ soon, I hope.”
One of the first things Elsie McFarland did upon moving permanently to Orcas four years ago was to attend “my first propitious class with the Moldoff muse,” and ever since then she has been “dancing with things literary including poetry, memoirs, and one-act playwriting. “
McFarland has lived in a variety of living accommodations on the islands sinde the early 1980s, including a goat shed at Morning Star Farm, so that she could be close to her grandchildren and a part of Island life.
After retiring from a career in engineering and management 18 years ago, Bill McMillen has been able to spend more time with the writing he has done “off and on, throughout my life as part of my job, for my children and grandchildren and just because I’ve had no choice.”
He continued in verse: “Sometimes thoughts/demand to be written/and tramp around in the brain/with heavy boots/until heeded.”
Suzanne Olson, who writes for several Orcas organizations, says, “When my daughter Laura was in the second grade, she published about 27 books bound in cardboard and covered in wallpaper samples. My favorite one is called My Mom the Poet. It’s a short book – fully illustrated – and it goes like this: My mom is a poet. She types poems all day. I read her poems. I love my Mom’s poems. She is a good poet. Getting such acclaim and reward early in my writing career has freed me up to simply write for the fun of it. It brings me joy.”
Laurel Rust says that, at 14, an English teacher saved her life and soul by introducing her to the world of poetry and literature. She continued to write throughout high school. “I can’t believe that those teachers actually encouraged us to write this stuff—the stuff they had to read!—but I’m sure glad they did.” An early riser, she puts pen to paper first thing in the morning, around 4. Asked if any particular themes interest her more than others, she replies, “Being human. My poems are about us living our lives.”
In 1998, Brooding Heron Press on Waldron Island published What Is Given. Laurel self-publishes her work annually in hand-bound chapbooks available from Darvill’s or from the author. After living on Waldron Island for 10 years, Laurel moved to Orcas in 2001, and has worked at the Orcas ferry landing ever since. She is the single mother of a 14 year old son, Will, and sponsor of an elderly Labrador retriever named Sadie.
Sandy Thompson “came home” to Orcas Island in April 1994, with no idea this move would bring her back to poetry (to which she had paid no attention since high school, in upstate New York). But one day she wrote a poem, then another, and then more. For whatever reason, now seems to be the time and place for her to write poetry.
Looking back over her poetry, she notices that the words “silence” and “silent” keep appearing. Her musical background provides a rhythmic, sonic sense that leads her poems as they prowl around in what she calls, “the connective tissue beneath experience.”
“I find it interesting that the recent poetry events which I’ve attended have drawn many other people too. There seems to be a lot of interest in poetry right now,” she observes.
Born, raised, and educated in New England, Trogdon married a man from Seattle and moved west with him many years ago, and began living full time on Orcas 20 years ago. “My interest in poetry has been life-long but only in recent years have I had the luxury of real stretches of time to devote to reading and writing. Now I am delighted to find myself a member of a vibrant community of island poets.”
Ken Wood’s poetry has evolved over two decades. “Like my father before me, I was born and raised on the family cattle ranch in the mountains of North Idaho. Twenty years ago, Kate and I came to Orcas and I began writing. At first those poems that must be written and now (finally) I am coming to the poems I want to write; poems from my life, lived in this place, with these gentle people, this kindly rain.”