Government shutdown = Ooligan shutdown?

Although news networks loved to focus on the striking visual images associated with the government shutdown of 2013—the outraged veterans unable to pay their respects at the WWII memorial; the big, orange CLOSED sign blocking the road to the Grand Canyon; the wilting gardens of the White House—the less visible repercussions have been far more widespread than anyone could have anticipated. The snowballing minutiae of the riderless horse means that the publishing industry, and even our little corner of the publishing industry here at Ooligan, has seen the effects.
If you had gone to the Library of Congress on the date of this blog post’s inception, you would see that the building was closed, the knowledge inside inaccessible, the miles and miles of bookcases quiet and still. But perhaps more worrisome was the discreet little note in innocuous teal at the head of their website:

Due to the lapse in government funding, the U.S. Copyright Office is closed, as is the greater Library of Congress. As such, the office is unable to update the information on this website, respond to inquiries, or process transactions. Registration submissions will be accepted for the purpose of securing date of receipt, but will not be processed. Website updates and all normal business activity will resume when the government reopens.

The Library of Congress, in addition to being one of the two largest libraries in the world, houses the United States Copyright Office, which is responsible for the registration and protection of all literary, musical, dramatic, cinematic, graphic architectural, etc. copyright in the U.S. According to its website, the Library receives some 15,000 new works each day, and adds approximately 11,000 of those items to its collection. Most of these are attained through the copyright process, which requires submission of the material in question for review. Throughout the course of the shutdown, the entirety of this process was brought to a standstill, and even though the government is, as of October 18th, resuming activity, the shutdown put this process to a stop for sixteen days. That’s a backlog of some 240,000 creative works, and all the while more works will be piling on top of it as the 3,500 jilted Librarians of Congress try to play catch up.
Though the legal implications of this are not terribly pressing given that, as the website notice states above, the office was still recording dates of receipt throughout the shutdown, the delay could potentially have financial consequences for Ooligan and small publishing houses like us. Two Ooligan projects slated for release early next year, The Wax Bullet War and We Belong in History: Writing with William Stafford, are currently in the process of attaining copyright registration, and the delay could affect the timely receipt of the Cataloguing in Publication record, or the “CIP data.”  This data must be included with the published book to facilitate easy processing of the book for libraries and book dealers nationwide. Though a shutdown resolution looming on the horizon has mostly alleviated our concern that we may not receive the data at all in time for the books’ release dates and the distribution of the books will likely not be jeopardized, the delay could yet be substantial enough to interfere with the publishing schedule. There could come a point where the entire book is waiting on that little bit of crucial CIP data, and replacing a page in the manuscript after a certain point in the publication process starts costing our little publishing house some big bucks.
It’s not sixteen days without pay. It’s not a delay in medical funding for cancer research. It’s not even a cancelled wedding party at a national park. But I’ve found myself almost more intrigued with the tiny, endlessly cascading consequences of pointless congressional quibbling. As of now, the government is back in session, but the proposed resolution is being hailed as a stopgap, and the U.S. is facing another potential shutdown in only three short months. Hopefully, the issues presented by this shutdown won’t be resolved just to begin anew this coming January—for the sake of our budget and our sanity.

Leah Stenson Guest Poet Post: “Poetlandia”

Every Thursday, Ooligan Press invites a poet whose work is included in Alive at the Center, our forthcoming anthology of poetry from Pacific Northwest writers, to blog for us. This week, we are pleased to feature Leah Stenson, a poet from Portland, OR who also worked as an editor for the collection. Please enjoy her post!


Portland is getting good coverage in the media these days. It’s a city that works—replete with good public transportation, farmers’ markets, socially conscious citizens and a thriving literary community. In fact, there are numerous literary communities in Portland and the poetry community is just one of them…and it is thriving!
When I first came to Portland in 1993, with the exception of Café Lena, there was hardly an open mic poetry venue to be found. Now there are so many poetry readings and open mics that one is hard-pressed to choose which ones to attend. I host the Studio Series Poetry Reading and Open Mic on the second Sunday of every month at Stonehenge Studios in SW Portland and many people attend the reading religiously. Sometimes I joke that I’m hosting a poetry church. We have regulars; we have new-found converts; we have hard-core poets and beginners; we have poetry devotees who are content to sit and listen; and we have the faithful who step up to the open mic week after week. In other words, we have diversity, the spice of life and the ingredient that makes a poetry reading exciting.

Stonehenge Studios Storefront

Stonehenge Studios Storefront

The poetry community in Portland, or “Poetlandia” as I’ve taken to calling it, is rich in diversity as well. There are lyric poets and narrative poets, word poets and slam poets, performance poets, and we even have some poets who have coined a name for their particular kind of poetry—Inflectionism. The great thing about the Portland poetry community is that these different kinds of poets come together in community. Once a year, in January, poets join together to participate in poetry readings that celebrate the life and poetry of William Stafford, formerly Poet Laureate of Oregon and Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress, who was also a conscientious objector in World War II and a beloved teacher at Lewis and Clark College. Thanks to Paulann Petersen, the current Poet Laureate of Oregon, who organized the first Stafford reading back in 1998, Portland poets have a reason to come together in the coldest, darkest time of the year. This January there were over twenty-six Stafford readings in the Portland metropolitan area alone. Poets from various poetry “sects” communed and created community as they gathered in Stafford’s name. I believe that this act of celebrating a mentor, not only a fine poet but a fine man of integrity, has elevated the creative consciousness of Portland’s poetry community. Ripples of that consciousness have spread to other parts of Oregon as well as other cities in the United States, in addition to a number of countries abroad that have taken to hosting commemorative Stafford events.
Portland also is home to the VoiceCatcher (VC) anthology which showcases women’s poetry, prose, and visual art. The idea of a women’s cultural collection isn’t remarkable, but VC is remarkable in its support of women creatives. The editors work patiently with writers to suggest ways in which a piece might be improved. Frequently, writers are encouraged to resubmit that piece after reworking it. This kind of nurturing and hand-holding is hard to find in the competitive world of poetry publication.
And now we have Alive at the Center, an anthology that showcases poets of the Portland metro area as well as those of Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., extending the sense of literary community we have here in Portland to the wider Pacific Northwest. Somehow, it just seems so Poetlandia-ish that such a project should originate here. The idea of a student-run university press is a novel idea, and Ooligan Press’ initiative to take on a project that would not only create a greater sense of community in Portland but extend that community to two other cities in a similar geographic area—one in another country, no less—is visionary. Moreover, there was a real need, in my opinion at least, for a poetry anthology featuring Pacific Northwest poetry that branched out beyond the natural world—which understandably dazzles poets fortunate enough dwell in this Pacific Northwest paradise—to focus on a more urban, edgy experience.
When I heard that Pacific Poetry Project was going to have an urban orientation, I was delighted, and I was honored to have a say in deciding whose work was chosen. For that, I owe a debt of gratitude to John Sibley Williams.
Over the years, Portland has provided many venues for many new poetic voices. In publishing Alive at the Center,Portland has invited poets from two Pacific Northwest sister cities to join the party. I feel very much alive at the center of Portland and its thriving poetic demimonde, Poetlandia.

Leah Stenson earned an MA in English Literature in 1971, and went on to do editorial work for the Soka Gakkai, serve as Managing Director of the Oregon Peace Institute for three years, actively support various nonprofit organizations, and publish multiple chapbooks, Leah has co-authored an English textbook as well as articles and book reviews, some of which have appeared in The Oregonian, The World Tribune, and School Library Journal. Her poetry has appeared in Oregon Literary ReviewNorthwest Women’s Journal, and Verseweavers, among others.
Leah’s poem “Night Train” is featured in the complete Alive at the Center anthology as well as the Portland edition. Both books are currently available from your favorite local bookshop or online retailer. Click here to hear Leah read “Night Train” and perform other poems! Or use the video below.