Maybe it’s the sky. That constant, overcast gray looming overhead does wonders for daydreaming. Anyone on a bus or train can gaze outside and be a poet, if just for a moment. Ooligan Press is tapping into that phenomenon with its new poetry anthology, Alive at the Center. The collection gathers work from Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, in the debut release from Ooligan’s Pacific Poetry Project.
Maybe it’s the sky. That constant, overcast gray looming overhead does wonders for daydreaming. Anyone on a bus or train can gaze outside and be a poet, if just for a moment.
Ooligan Press is tapping into that phenomenon with its new poetry anthology, Alive at the Center. The collection gathers work from Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, in the debut release from Ooligan’s Pacific Poetry Project.
Tina Morgan and Jessica Snavlin are heading up the initiative as project managers.
“Ooligan Press is committed to publishing work that celebrates and deepens our understanding of the Pacific Northwest, and the Pacific Poetry Project was created to do just that,” Morgan said in an email. “It’s a cultural conversation between the three cities that define the region, and though the poems and poets are all very different, they all speak eloquently to the experience of living and writing in this part of the world.”
Though the anthology version of Alive at the Center will feature poets from all three cities, individual volumes for Portland, Seattle and Vancouver will be made available in limited quantities. The larger compendium seems to be the best bet for those who want to get the most out of the interplay of the communities within the Northwest.
“Our goal is to put the cities in conversation with one another, not to pit them against one another. There isn’t a specific spirit or style for each city, and that’s what gives the reader such a multifaceted experience,” Morgan said. “You can follow an image—a river, a bar, honey, rain—through the poems of that city, and that image will be different every time. You’re experiencing the Pacific Northwest through all these unique lenses.”
Portlanders and PSU students will get a chance to see for themselves when Ooligan hosts a book launch downtown at Literary Arts on Friday, April 19. Refreshments will be available to attendees of the free event.
The launch will be celebrated with a live reading from several area poets, including Carl Adamshick, Emily Kendal Frey and Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen.
Also among those set to give voice to their work is John Sibley Williams, Portlander and former acquisitions manager for Ooligan Press. He’s intent on delivering more to the live audience than they could get by reading his piece at home by themselves.
“To me, simply reading one’s work line by line, without inflection and thoughtful pauses, without inviting the audience into the world you’ve created, doesn’t provide anything more than simply reading the book alone would,” Williams said in an email. “So you have to create new meaning through the act of speaking. You have to say without actually saying ‘here is the world as I see it’ and then convince the audience that it’s their world too.”
Those who have yet to attend a poetry reading might already have a preconceived image, one of berets and snapping fingers in a dark, smoke-filled room. In Portland, the range of poetry experiences prove that stereotype doesn’t hold water.
“You can go to [Portland poetry readings] in bars that are completely rowdy and have bands playing in between [readers], or you can go to ones where you sit there and you feel like you’re at your grandmother’s funeral,” said Ooligan Press’ Jyoti Roy, who manages events and promotions.
Alive at the Center book launch
Friday, April 19, 7 p.m.—9 p.m.
925 SW Washington St.
Free and open to the public
Friday’s reading will likely strike a balance between those two poles. Literary Arts will provide an intimate space with opportunities to meet and talk with local poets and grab some autographs. With so many authors in one place, the network-savvy will be hard-pressed not to make a connection or two.
Though poetry can appear intimidating and at times impenetrable, Ooligan wants to stress that both the art form and the event are accessible to anyone with an open mind.
“There’s this idea that poetry is stuffy and traditionalist,” Roy said. “Or the other extreme, that it’s way out there and performance-art-based and just above everybody’s heads. But you know it’s something that’s really an integral part of the community and an integral part of how [Portland, Seattle and Vancouver] shape the identity of their cities.”
Those who don’t know where to begin with poetry might do well to take a chance with Alive at the Center.
“I love the idea of the anthology as a ‘starter kit,’” Morgan said. “If you wrote poetry in high school, or loved a certain poetry class in college but you haven’t thought about poetry since, you can pick up Alive at the Center and find out whose work you respond to. Then you can buy that poet’s book, see that poet read in town.”