After Write to Publish

Write to Publish is officially in the rear-view mirror, meaning Kellie’s and my big project for the year is done. Others will be taking up Write to Publish for next year soon, but for now we’ve been assigned to other odds and ends at the press.

One of those projects is the Backlist Sales Initiative. This project entails coming up with ideas for reviving the books in our backlist, putting them out in the world again, blowing off the dust, and finding them good homes with readers who will love them.

For this task, our team was assigned Alive at the Center, which is one of our many backlist poetry titles. Alive at the Center “aims to capture the thriving poetic atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest” while focusing on three cities: Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, BC. You can learn more about the book here, and you can find it at Powell’s and Amazon.

April is National Poetry Month, which means a lot of events will be happening all around this lovely literary city of ours, so be sure to search around for a poetry event happening near you. Follow Ooligan Press on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about Alive at the Center. You might even catch a few videos of some of our amazing poets reading their work featured in the book. (Hint: You definitely will catch a few videos of some of our amazing poets reading their work, so be sure to find and follow our social media accounts!)

Where Poetry Month is Year-Round

National Poetry Month was initiated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 to “increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while… celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated.” The website for this annual celebration suggests many ways to participate, including “put a poem on the pavement” and “buy a book of poems for your library.” Far and away, “put poetry in an unexpected place” is my favorite suggestion, because it recalls for me a magnificent book hub in the heart of my old neighborhood.

As often as not, when I mention Milwaukee to people unfamiliar with the Midwest, they respond with, “where?” They ask about cheese curds and beer, or about Laverne & Shirley—all totally relevant subjects, but these aren’t the city’s only cultural signposts. Folks are often surprised to learn that Milwaukee is also home to one of the country’s great independent bookstores, specializing in small-press poetry, chapbooks, and broadsides. Founded in 1979, Woodland Pattern Book Center is a nonprofit arts organization in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, taking its name from a line of Paul Metcalf’s poem, Apalache: “South of Lake Superior, a culture center, the Woodland Pattern, with poetry but without agriculture….”

Woodland Pattern Chapbooks

One of the shelves of chapbooks at Milwaukee’s Woodland Pattern

With more than 25,000 small press titles—the largest selection in the country—Woodland Pattern boasts a massive inventory of poetry, chapbooks, broadsides, and multicultural literature, including lines from the likes of Wave, Ugly Duckling, Octopus, Gray Wolf, Fence, and others.

“As booksellers and as presenters of art and literature,” reads the center’s website, “we want people to know that there is more than what you see at your chain bookstore, more than you are taught in school, more than what is reviewed in the papers.”

For the better part of ten years, I lived mere blocks from Woodland Pattern. Nearly every day, I passed by on my way to work, or while out wandering the neighborhood. The shop sits curbside on a two-lane, high-traffic, not-particularly-pretty street, so its whitewashed façade—adorned with a fresh mural each year—was always a welcome sight. But here’s the thing: I’ve never been real big on poetry, and believing that there was “just a bunch of poetry” inside, I couldn’t find a reason to go in, content to appreciate it from outside.

However, age, education, and friends’ thoughtful recommendations have had their way with me. Last summer, on an extended visit to Milwaukee and newly hooked on Eileen Myles, I wandered into this neighborhood shop/national poetry treasure for the very first time. Inside, I not only found the book I was looking for, but also had the distinct pleasure of being surrounded by so many thousands of mostly unfamiliar volumes. Woodland Pattern feels how every bookstore should: colorful, mysterious, friendly, and a little bit overwhelming.

As if all those books were not enough, Woodland Pattern also hosts readings, writing workshops, art exhibits, film screenings, and music performances, with an emphasis on experimental and improvisational work; that such a place exists, still, is a testament to the significance of independent arts, and to the idea that poetry can sustain itself in the most unexpected places.

Alive at the Center Seattle Launch

by Kait Heacock

On Friday night, poetry fans gathered at Richard Hugo House, a literary hub in Seattle, for the first of three city launches of Alive at the Center, Ooligan Press’s latest release. The poetry anthology gathers some of the best and brightest of poets from Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver B.C. At the Seattle launch, the overall feeling was that of celebration, thankfulness, and community. Over twenty poets featured in the Seattle section of Alive at the Center read their featured poems.

Hugo House

The three Seattle editors — Kathleen Flenniken, David D. Horowitz, and Cody Walker — introduced each poet during the marathon poetry reading, which opened with Kate Lebo’s homage to Richard Hugo House’s own marketing director Brian McGuigan, “A Poem By Brian McGuigan,” and ended with Frances McCue’s poem of family and daughter love, “Kingship.” Brian McGuigan introduced the event by recapping his involvement with the project — he wrote one of the blurbs for the back of the book. He commented that this book and event were perfect for anyone who loves to stalk poets, as it gathered them all in one central location. The event was filled with applause and admiration, with many poets discussing the other poets in the collection they were excited to be listed next to.
Highlights of the night included when Jeremy Halinen, who read the poem “Afternoon Above I-5,” prefaced his poem with the offering of a blessing to everyone in the room: that the poets would write the poems they were meant to write, and that they would find the audiences who were meant to read their poems. Seattle poetry slam legend Karen Finneyfrock brought the room to an eruption of cheering with her ode to spring, “Monster.” Personifying spring as a teenage girl, Finneyfrock talks of spring’s longing to be loved like summer. The poem was a perfect fit for the rainy Seattle day.
Jyoti Roy
Since April is National Poetry Month, there is no better time for us to keep celebrating Alive at the Center, all our wonderful poets, and the community spirit of poetry. Join us for our next two launches: April 12th in Vancouver B.C. and April 19th in Portland.

Happy National Poetry Month, Everyone!

A new month and a new term have begun, and we expect this to be a particularly exciting time for the William Stafford Project. I just finished sending out an email to our giant contact list of teachers, librarians, and administrators from all over the state (close to 800 of them!), reminding them about the contest and its upcoming deadline (we’ll accept submissions through the end of April). I can’t wait to see all the great work that Oregon’s students have in store for us!
If you haven’t already, check out the contest details on the William Stafford page, where you can print out lesson plans, download our contest flyer, or subscribe to our mailing list. And, of course, send in your submissions to:
William Stafford Writing ProjectOoligan Press369 Neuberger Hall724 SW Harrison Street
Portland, Oregon 97201
We hope you’ll join us in celebrating this month of poetry as well as the talent of our young Oregon writers!

Karen Finneyfrock Guest Poet Post

This is a special edition of the Alive at the Center Guest Poet Post series. Today, we are pleased to feature a piece by Karen Finneyfrock, a poet from Seattle, WA, who invites you to participate in the yearly 30 poems in 30 days writing challenge. Please enjoy her post—and pick up your pens! 

Author portrait by Inti St. Clair

30/30: National Poetry Month Challenge

We all know that National Poetry Month was created by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. (Or, at least we’re all nodding along like we did know). It’s tougher to determine the origins of April’s 30/30 Poetry Challenge.
Sometimes called 30 for 30, or NaPoWriMo, sister to the popular novel writing challenge, NanNoWriMo, the 30/30 Challenge calls upon writers to write and publicly post a new poem for each day of April.
It all begins in the waning days of March, when poets start asking one another who will be taking the challenge and where they will be posting. Poems show up on facebook, blogs, tumblr, group sites created for lots of poets to post work, even hallways and telephone poles. Poets often form haphazard e- campfires, tagging one another, commenting back and forth on poems. It’s a chance to read poems so hot off the presses, they smoke. As you would guess, the product is a mix of surprising success and expected failure. The poems often have the friction and heat of a first draft, along with the sandpapery roughness.
As a poetic and cultural phenomenon, poets reading each other’s new work for thirty days straight would be enough. But it doesn’t stop there. When I post a poem on facebook, there is no telling who will comment. I’ve had acquaintances from high school who haven’t read a poem since graduation comment on my work. I’ve had poetic heroes of mine pop over and leave a suggestion on a stanza. The challenge reaches poets and non-poets in a social media storm of metaphor.
Here’s why I anxiously await April’s 30/30 every year: For one month, I’m actively engaging with other poets. I’m not buying their books and reading them at my leisure over the coming year. I’m reading work they produced that day and commenting on it that day, in all its raw newness and slop. It contains the thrill of seeing behind the curtain, or watching the final dress rehearsal and then staying after to give feedback. You join the poet in the creative process, rather than consuming the product of that process.
The second reason for my ardor toward 30/30 is the product. I write SO MANY POEMS in so many experimental ways when I’m under the gun. “Okay, I’ve got 30 minutes to pop this poem out, let’s try a Cinquain.” Or, “Let me just write down this dream I had last night and see if it looks like a poem.” Time limits are often good for the creative voice and 30/30 is a month-long grueling timer.
Speaking of which…the Challenge? I’ve never made it. In my years of doing 30/30, I haven’t even gotten close to writing a poem every day. Does this mean I’ve failed? Not in the slightest. 30/30 is more like a writing prompt than a writing assignment. It doesn’t really matter where you end up; it matters that the journey is taking place. I generally come out of 30/30 with about five new poems that I edit, perform, and publish. For me, that is a seriously productive month. But, here is a word of warning to poets: Some journals will consider a poem “published” if it has already appeared on your blog or facebook page. If you write something you love enough to submit, you might check out a couple of publications before you post.

Now, here’s the glorious hard part, the part when I try to tell you how to get involved. Since 30/30 is more of a poetic ground swell than a waterfall, there isn’t one source of information on the web where I can direct you. One easy way to discover 30/30 poems is to seek out a poet you like on facebook and then look for posts by other poets you might enjoy on that poet’s page. Or, start your own campfire blazing by asking other writers to join you in taking the challenge. Here is a blog about NaPoWriMo where you can learn more.

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Karen Finneyfrock is a poet, novelist and teaching artist in Seattle, WA. Her young adult novel, The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door, was published by Viking Children’s Books in 2013. Her second book of poems, Ceremony for the Choking Ghost, was released on Write Bloody press in 2010.  She is a former Writer-in-Residence at Richard Hugo House in Seattle and teaches for Seattle Arts and Lectures’ Writers-in-the-Schools program. In 2010, Karen traveled to Nepal as a Cultural Envoy through the US Department of State to perform and teach poetry and in 2011, she did a reading tour in Germany sponsored by the US Embassy.
Karen’s poem “Monster” is featured in the complete Alive at the Center anthology as well as the Seattle edition. Both books are currently available from your favorite local bookshop or online retailer.