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April 2020

Ingrid Wendt's Contextual Analysis on Ada Hastings Hedges' "Then April"

This April of 2020—with the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic raging, with each newscast bringing us higher, ever more staggering numbers of new infections and deaths, with unemployment and fear for the future growing—could there be any greater disconnect than between the rapid escalation of these horrors and the leisurely unfolding, all around us, of spring? Here in Western Oregon, glory abounds. Elsewhere in the northern hemisphere, every day brings buds and green beginnings.

How do we cope with our awareness of this simultaneity, this irony? How do we maintain emotional and intellectual balance? I think of health-care workers, grocery clerks, neighbors on the front lines, risking their lives, being either being too occupied to notice the tender beauty around them, or being stunned by it. Wounded by it. To them, and to us, a raging storm might make more sense, though a storm would bring little comfort.   

When OSU Press asked me to say a few words about my favorite Ada Hastings Hedges poems, I never saw myself writing about COVID-19. But that’s what’s on our minds these days. It’s become the lens through which we see things anew.

And so, rereading these poems, some speak to me differently now, especially “Then April,” a poem Hedges wrote after the death of her husband: a poem so skillfully crafted, so elegant in its use of convention, the reader is unprepared for the “stab of pain” in that last stanza, for the ache that rises from within, so much like the ache we feel right now for all humankind. We might even know someone, personally, whose life has been lost to the virus, or whose loved one is fighting to stay alive, even as we rejoice in the coming of spring. For just maybe, right below our brave, bright surfaces, lurks anguish. And for us, the beauty of this spring is both glorious and almost unbearably sad.

-Ingrid Wendt

Then April

I saw the silent golden leaves
Fall from the autumn pear,
With sorrow for a summer’s end,
A bough of love left bare.

And through the gray of winter days,
Unwinding like a thread,
My heart knew peace as it is known
Among the dreamless dead.

But these things brought life throbbing back
With a swift stab of pain—
Wet fragrance from a lilac tree,
A bird-song through the rain.

by Ada Hastings Hedges, Good Housekeeping, April 1937, reprinted in The Collected Poems of Ada Hastings Hedges, Alan Contreras and Ulrich Hardt, editors. OSU Press, April 2020, p, 124.


On the Enduring Appeal of Hazel Hall: An Interview with Laura Glazer

Since moving to Portland from upstate New York, artist Laura Glazer has been an active force in keeping the legacy of the poet Hazel Hall alive. She is the keeper of the Friends of Hazel Hall Facebook page, curator of a Hall-inspired art exhibit, designer of the Hazel Hall Traveling Library, and the creator of the Hazel Hall Mini Museum of Sound. We recently talked with her about the enduring appeal of Hazel Hall.

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OSU Press:
How did you first learn about Hazel Hall?

Laura Glazer: Just after moving to Portland from upstate New York, my boyfriend introduced me to an old friend with whom he attended the University of Oregon, Matthew Svoboda. Matthew asked me about my artwork and I explained that for five years I photographed the life and work of a man who handwrote the bible. (His handwriting was a beautiful, simple cursive.)

The next time we saw each other he said, "I’m working on a project that I think you might be interested in." Then he proceeded to tell me about the life and work of Hazel Hall, about whom he was composing original music. And he was right! I was immediately compelled to find out more about her and share her story.

OSU Press: What is it about Hazel Hall’s poetry that you find so compelling?

Laura Glazer: The city, its people, and its patterns were her soundtrack. What she observed from her second floor vantage point informed and inspired her poems. I study and make artwork about how the rhythms of a place can inspire us to see our circumstances differently. From 2002-2018, I was doing a similar thing as the host of a radio show I created for public radio called "Hello Pretty City." For two hours every week, I played songs that sounded unique to my ears and made me tap my toes. My goal was to make and share a soundtrack to living in a place that didn’t feel very cool or exciting. (In this instance, that place was Albany, New York.) And based on feedback from listeners, I was successful!

OSU Press: Can you tell our readers about your Traveling Library?

Laura Glazer: I designed “A Hazel Hall Traveling Library” and collaborated with an industrial engineer to fabricate it out of clear acrylic. Basically, it’s a portable bookshelf that allows me to easily transport Hazel Hall’s original three books of poetry. I can take it to classrooms, outdoor events, aHazel Hall Traveling Librarynd libraries--anywhere there might be people who want to know more about Hazel Hall. The front panel slides off and slips into the back of the case allowing people to pull out a volume and immediately begin reading her work.

OSU Press: You are a successful photographer, designer, disc jockey, and curator. Have you ever considered writing poetry?

Laura Glazer: Thanks for those compliments! Every once in a while I think about writing poetry but I have not formally put pen to paper. Mostly, I like printing my photos and adding short annotations to them like I did for an exhibit on Hazel Hall at Lane Community College. Maybe this is my own form of poetry.  

OSU Press: Do you like to sew?

Laura Glazer: I love wearing hand-sewn clothing but unfortunately, I don’t know how to sew. At some point in my life, I can imagine learning to sew especially since I love the idea that I could figure out how to add pockets to all my clothes!

Abalone: Inspiration in a Seashell

Author Ann Vileisis reflects on how the chance discovery of an abalone shell on a California beach ultimately led her to write Abalone: The Remarkable History and Uncertain Future of California's Iconic Shellfish, the first comprehensive history of this charasmatic and coveted shellfish.

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I like to take walks at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. I love the fresh breeze, the blue water, the steady beat of the waves, gulls riding air currents, whales spouting, and the draw of the expansive horizon. But I also love casting my eyes downward in search for whatever has washed ashore—sea glass, driftwood, or pieces of shell. Several years back, when I scrambled over rocks to reach a small stony cove along the rugged Big Sur coast, I had no idea that I'd find a treasure that would literally change my life.

I remember it vividly. Cliffs towered, cool salt air blew in my face, and giant waves pounded—each one striking a boom that reverberated against the eroding walls and thrust some potent charge into my body. In pauses between the thrusts of seawater, I could hear rocks rumble beneath the outwash of surf. I hopped from one large surf-tumbled stone to the next and then, on a short stretch of beach, a glimmer caught my eye—a lustrous little bowl set in the dark, coarse sand. Less than two inches in length, the shell was as thin as porcelain. I turned it over in my hand. The sea had eroded its rough exterior, leaving just a fine form of silvery mother-of-pearl, through and through.

I had no idea how the fragile shell landed intact on a beach where pummeling waves jostled bowling-ball-sized boulders like so many marbles. The shell seemed to be a gift—a precious token to enter an expansive moment of heady wonder. Holding it up to sunlight, I could see the swirls of pale pink, blue, green, and yellow that made up its mysterious iridescence. How on earth could an animal—an invertebrate—create such a stunning structure?

When I found that shell, I didn’t know much of anything about the animal that made it. I remembered abalone from a favorite childhood book, Island of the Blue Dolphins. I didn't yet know that abalone had for a time grown thick along California's coast. I didn't yet know that abalone had inspired poetry, art, and California cuisine. I hadn't yet learned about abalones' ecological relationship with their sea otter predators. I didn't yet know that for decades, perhaps millennia, people had considered hunting and eating abalone as an integral part of living on the coast. I didn't yet realize that two of California's seven abalone species had been listed as "endangered." But as a historian of food and nature, I had a strong hunch that the brilliant shell I held in my hand had an important story to tell.

Once I started to look closely and ask questions, I found vestiges of abalone in many places—in shimmering flecks along headland trails, nailed to garden posts, as pendants in Rumsen and Pomo baskets, cemented whole into seawalls, pulled proudly out of closets, and yet sometimes, only in people’s still vivid and wistful memories. Many I talked with felt nostalgic for past times when the shellfish were abundant and could be hunted and eaten with abandon, yet I realized there was a bigger and far more important story that needed to be told.

Through my previous book, Kitchen Literacy, I'd become interested in food history, heritage foods linked to specific places, and the way that people have become disconnected from the source of their foods. As an environmental historian, I knew, too, that the wild animals we eat are particularly vulnerable to being consumed into oblivion. I was also aware of what marine scientists call "shifting baselines," the phenomenon of considering historic populations of marine animals based only on relatively recent time periods, leading to misunderstanding not only the past, but the present, as well. Yet historic populations of wild animals can also be misperceived if not placed into broader human and ecological contexts. In the case of abalone, the superabundance of shellfish found by European colonizers was actually an artifact of the brutal fur trade that killed off abalones' sea otter predators and ravaged Native people decades earlier.

I soon realized that all these threads were part of the history of abalone that still needed to be woven together into a whole—into a book. That stunning little Big Sur shell inspired me to begin a journey through the history of California. I found a remarkable story that also turns out to be incredibly timely because these unique mollusks now face enormous challenges to their survival.

In just the past few years, northern California's red abalone, long considered to be the most robust population, have been decimated as a result of a series of environmental stresses that turned rich kelp forests into extensive urchin barrens. Meanwhile, in southern California, hopeful efforts to save white abalone from extinction are ramping up with marine biologists—after decades of research and work—outplanting captive-raised babies, aiming to restore self-sustaining aggregations of this rarest and most endangered mollusk.

Understanding a fuller history of abalone—one that encompasses culture, cuisine, fisheries, politics, ecology, the risk of extinction, and hope for restoration—opens the door to understanding so much about our relationship with the marine environment of the Pacific Coast, and, in particular, what we need to know to be better stewards of the ocean and marine life today.

In the past, people believed that abalone could provide an inexhaustible supply of seafood, but we know now that they are highly vulnerable to overfishing and environmental stressors. We need for state fishery agencies on the Pacific Coast to act accordingly and manage abalone—and all the wild animals we use for foods—with the utmost precaution, more so than ever in this time when marine heat waves and ocean acidification are rearranging and degrading whole ecosystems. Above all, if we want our precious marine life to endure, we must commit to tackling the climate crisis.

Correcting our course will not be easy, but I hope that the perspective of history can help more people rediscover our deep and meaningful human connection with abalone and feel moved to support the conservation and restoration of these unique animals and the larger community of marine life. Abalone have long given us sustenance, enjoyment, and economic benefit, and now it is time for us to give something back. Only by doing so can we hope that future generations will have their own opportunities to find abalone and become inspired in their own ways by the glimmer of a shell at the edge of the Pacific. 

Anita Helle: Reflections on Hazel Hall in a Time of Pandemic

On a warm day in April, when the COVID-19 public health authorities are advising Oregonians to stay home and enjoy the effulgence of spring from “balconies or open windows,” I have been thinking about the poet Hazel Hall (1886–1924), whose life and work are admirably detailed in John Witte’s introduction to OSU Press’s centenary edition of The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall (2020). The Collected Poems is three books in one, thematically linked by the burdens of social isolation and the gifts of profound solitude—Curtains (1921), Walkers (1923), and the posthumous Cry of Time (1928).

Jozef Israels (Belgium)                 Georges Serat (France)             Carl Vilhelm Holsoe (Denmark)
Woman at the Window                            Untitled                           Woman at a Sunny Window

Hall lived a shut-in existence from the turn of the century to her death in 1924, just blocks from my residence in Northwest Portland (the house still stands, marked by a historical plaque). A bustling neighborhood known for well-coiffed Victorian houses, its tree-lined streets are now stunned into sudden quiet, desolate but for the occasional jogger in a face mask.

Hall was not a shut-in poet by choice or public duty. She was confined to a wheelchair following a childhood bout with scarlet fever, limited to viewing the outer world from a second story’s cross-pane windows in her family home. From this narrow space, poems were written and posted to national publications, earning her a lasting literary reputation. To assist with family finances, she took in sewing and needlework; her poems include fascinating details about fashioning often-glamorous fabrics into elaborate garments and embroidered table linens for the wealthy. She propped a mirror on the window sill to expand the limits of vision from her stationary position. Yet it is impossible not to note that Hall was also the casualty of a pandemic. In the pre-antibiotic age, the Bureau of Labor and Commerce Tenth US Census Report notes that scarlet fever outbreaks were especially severe in Western Oregon in the waning years of the nineteenth century: many died. Long-term effects of untreated or inadequately treated scarletina included a range of potential complications, from rheumatoid arthritis to heart conditions. Although exact details of Hall’s illness and lingering disability are scarce, the phenomenon of the “cytokine storm,” a reactive misfiring of the immune system we hear so much about in COVID-19 cases, offers at least a plausible explanation for her fragility. We know—the poems tell us—that she could not move without pain; she enjoyed literary celebrity as a poet for a decade, and died in her thirties.

    Gwen John (UK)                           Childe Hassam (US)               George Albert Thompson (US)
Woman Sewing By the Window         The Goldfish Window                    Woman by the Window

I find it easy to reach for Hall’s poems now because they evoke the sensations of a life in which the colors and pollens of spring are experienced largely at a distance. These include a keen awareness of space, of visualization, a heightened attentiveness to listening for what lies in the world beyond the scope of a narrow room. Above all, her poems take the measure of the troubled human spirit in imaginative unrest. In some poems, the sense of limited mobility is nearly unbearable; in others it also opens onto soaring transport. Her poems combine scrutiny of the walls, floors, ceilings, and window views, with contemplation of vast unknowns and the passage of time. Many poems achieve their effects by juxtaposing that which is most painful—an impending dread or acceptance of inevitable mortality--with that which is most immediately beautiful—the touch of luxurious fabric, the warmth of the sun on her hand, the flicker of shadows on the wall. In one poem, she describes the sun as her “glamour” (3). Witte’s introduction describes the moments of transport as “oceanic” (xv). Today, the poems seem nearly to collapse the distinction between individual and private illness and our collective isolation, the sensations of cramped-in solitude we are witnessing on a larger scale, while news daily floods the grids of our screens.

          Mo Nong (China)                          Henri Matisse (France)            C.D. Friedrich (Germany)
Chinese Woman by the Window         Young Woman by the Window       A Woman by the Window

Hall’s poems, while disciplined and detailed, register what we can readily observe in our housebound selves--the mind’s propensity to wander and dig deep when the body is confined. A single Hall poem may travels all seasons within its compass. Window frames organize the movement between things and thoughts, the metaphoric edges of her existence. In “Counterpanes,” the mind travels from the “four grey walls’ grey winds” to a compensatory patchwork of lines on the page that offer gratification in the shape of a poem:

I will patch me a counterpane
For mine is worn with scars
And I fear the iron rain
Of a ceiling’s splashing stars” (14).

“Curtains” juxtaposes the beauty of “filmy seeming” and “chintz of dreaming” with the grim deluge of “what rains utter” (1). And in “Frames,” the narrow space of the window sill marks the threshold of wonderment:

Brown window-sill, you hold my all of skies
And all I know of springing year and fall,
And everything of earth that greets my eyes—
Brown window-sill, how can you hold it all? (2)

The arts of pandemic for our time, I’d like to think, include the tensions between housebound domesticity and the forces that propel the imagination toward outward and inward vistas. In visual art from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the genre paintings of “women by the window” took up the question of emerging women’s voices and represent the force of that longing. I have assembled a compilation of my favorites here.

In the meantime, Hazel Hall’s poems make worthwhile reading now. Her time has come round again, as we settle uneasily before our open windows, and wonder when and how all this will come to an end.

- Anita Helle, Professor of English in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film at Oregon State University

The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall: A Mini Museum of Sound

Welcome to the Hazel Hall Mini Museum of Sound

Portland poet Hazel Hall knew a thing or two about isolation and social distance. Reliant on a wheelchair since childhood, Hall viewed life from the window of an upper room in her family’s house in Portland, Oregon. To better observe passersby on the sidewalk, she positioned a small mirror on her windowsill. Hall was an accomplished seamstress; her fine needlework helped to support the family and provided a vivid body of imagery for her precisely crafted, often gorgeously embellished poems.

In celebration of Hall's legacy, Portland artist Laura Glazer created this Mini Museum of Sound, which was originally slated to debut May 1 at a book launch celebration for the new paperback edition of The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall, edited by John Witte, with a new afterword by Anita Helle. That exhibit has been postponed, but we're delighted to be able to bring you this collection of regional voices reading poetry by Hazel Hall. Each contributor was familiar with her work and selected a poem to read.

                                  request a postcard for National Poem in Your Pocket Day!


The complete playlist is available on the OSU Press Soundcloud.

Reader’s name:
Chayo Wilson
Poem read: Curtains
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Chayo Wilson is named for her Costa Rican Grandmother, Chayo, who made pottery. She took every ceramics class she could take during her school years, obtaining her teaching degree from Washington State University. After graduation, she taught classes in clay in the Seattle schools as a roving ceramics teacher. She taught clay in the Los Altos Waldorf School and was involved in the “Teaching Teachers to Teach” program. Now she teaches out of her studio in Portland where she creates sculpture and utilitarian pieces full time. www.chayoceramics.com


Reader’s name:
Anne Greenwood
Poem read: Instruction
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Anne Greenwood Rioseco (b. Jamestown, North Dakota, 1967) is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, curator, and community arts facilitator based in Portland, Oregon. Her artistic practice navigates an infinite network of connections: narrating the simple and complex, physical and ephemeral, past and present, within the context of place, history, and transformation. https://www.annegreenwood.net/


Reader’s name: Kim Stafford
Poem read: Seams
Listen Here (spoken word only) | Listen Here (with harp accompaniment) | Get the PDF

Kim Stafford writes, teaches, and travels to restore the human spirit. He is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, most recently Wild Honey, Tough Salt. He has served as Oregon's poet laureate 2018-2020. 


Reader’s name:
Leanne Grabel
Poem read: Filet Crochet
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Leanne Grabel, M.Ed., is a writer, illustrator, performer & retired special education teacher. Currently, Grabel is teaching graphic flash memoir to adults in arts centers and retirement communities throughout the Pacific Northwest. In love with mixing genres, Grabel has written & produced numerous spoken-word multi-media shows, including “The Lighter Side of Chronic Depression”; and “Anger: The Musical.” Her poetry books include Lonesome & Very Quarrelsome Heroes; Short Poems by a Short Person; Badgirls (a collection of flash non-fiction & a theater piece); & Gold Shoes, a collection of graphic prose poems. Grabel has just completed Tainted Illustrated, an illustrated stretched memoir, which is being serialized in THE OPIATE and HUSBAND, a collection of graphic flash memoir. She and her husband Steve Sander are the founders of Café Lena, Portland’s legendary poetry hub of the 90s. Grabel is the 2020 recipient of the Bread and Roses Award for contributions to women's literature in the Pacific Northwest. http://www.orartswatch.org/conversations-with-leanne-grabel/


Reader’s name:
Andrea Hollander
Poem read: Breath
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Andrea Hollander moved to Portland in 2011, after living for more than three decades in the Arkansas Ozarks, where she was innkeeper of a bed & breakfast for 15 years and the Writer-in-Residence at Lyon College for 22. Hollander’s 5th full-length poetry collection was a finalist for the Best Book Award in Poetry from the American Book Fest; her 4th was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award; her 1st won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays appear widely in anthologies, college textbooks, and literary journals, including a recent feature in The New York Times Magazine. Other honors include two Pushcart Prizes (in poetry and literary nonfiction) and two poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2017 she initiated the Ambassador Writing Seminars, which she conducts in her home. Her website is www.andreahollander.net.


Reader’s name: Matthew Svoboda
Poem read: On the Street
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Matthew Svoboda is a teacher, conductor, pianist, and composer living in Eugene, Oregon. He enjoys improvisations and collaborations with instrumentalists, poets, dancers and choreographers.  For his latest large scale work, The Room Upstairs: Uncovering the Life and Poetry of Hazel Hall (2019), Svoboda collaborated with many artists to present a tribute to Hazel Hall through the lens of dance, music, poetry, storytelling, and the visual arts. When he is not doing something musical, Matthew can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his family and friends.


Reader’s name: Sue Mach
Poem read: Rain
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Sue Mach’s plays have been produced by Theatre for the New City in Manhattan, Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, Portland Repertory Theatre, Artists Repertory Theatre, Icarus Theatre Ensemble, and Clackamas Community College where she teaches writing and literature.


Reader’s name: John Witte
Poem read: A Baby’s Dress
Listen Here | Get the PDF

John Witte is a widely published poet, teacher, and former editor of Northwest Review. He is the editor of The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall. His more recent book is Disquiet. He lives in Eugene, Oregon. 


Reader’s name: Anita Helle
Poem read: Seams
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Anita Helle wrote the afterword for the 2020 edition of The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall. She is a professor of English in the School of Writing, Literature, and Film at Oregon Statue University. She has served as poetry editor for American Literary Scholarship and is the author of The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath.


Reader’s name: Brandi Haile
Poem read: Echoes
Listen Here (song by Brandi Haile) | Get the PDF

Many Americans traveled the Oregon Trail in the middle years of the 19th century, leaving their homes in colonial lands behind to seek new lives in the great western territories.

Brandi Haile arrived in Portland by jet airplane in 2014, bidding adieu and au revoir to her rural western Kentucky hometown and the brighter lights of Nashville, Tennessee, where she made her mark and sharpened her star as a singer-songwriter.

Many labels have been thrown at her. Folk. Indie. Avant-Americana. Female solo artist. Sometimes these apply, and sometimes they do not. She is not a creature beholden to definition. Equally adept behind a piano, funeral-parlor organ or six-stringed acoustic guitar, she is a good witch who casts spells of nostalgia, pain, love, loss, beauty and misery in equal measure.

"For this song, I was trying to find a poem that encompassed sound but also lended to visualizing her at the window too."

Bonus Track: "Ravelling" by Brandi Haile
"A hodgepodge from multiple [Hazel Hall] poems and some of my own lines and artistic liberties."
Listen Here


Reader’s name: David Biespiel
Poem read: Stranger
Listen Here | Get the PDF

David Biespiel is the founder of the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters in Portland, Oregon, and Poet-in-Residence at Oregon State University.

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In late 2020, these recordings will be installed on-site at the Mini Museum inside NOUN, a boutique and gallery in southeast Portland, at 3030 SE Belmont Street. The museum is a restored wooden phone booth from the 1940s, complete with its original accordion door and pressed tin walls.

Laura Glazer makes artwork that combines photography, publishing, and curating, and is based in Portland, Oregon. She regulary shares her visual and audio discoveries in her online journal, Minutiae is my muse.

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For National Poetry Month, Add Your Voice to the Hazel Hall Chorus

- Post your own recording of a Hazel Hall poem to your social media feed. (Use hashtag #HazelHall and #OSUPress on Twitter)

- Mail a postcard to your poetry-loving friends. Send your postal address to osu.press@oregonstate.edu and we'll happily send you up to 10 pre-printed postcards to share. Just let us know how many.

- If you live in Portland, walk past NOUN at 3300 SE Belmont Street and admire the Hazel Hall window exhibit beginning May 1.

- Celebrate National Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 30 by requesting a postcard or by downloading one of the PDFs. Put the poem in your pocket, or post it above your kitchen sink (inspired by Poets House).

Meet Ada Hastings Hedges: April Playlist

Meet Ada Hastings Hedges

Ada Hastings Hedges was among Oregon’s foremost mid–twentieth-century poets, best known for her superb poems set in Oregon’s high desert. Hedges wrote in a style notable for precision, clarity, and smoothness of line. A poet of the city as well as the desert, her work offers a compelling perspective on mid-century Portland life. For readers interested in women’s literature, Pacific Northwest poetry, and the literature of Eastern Oregon, The Collected Poems of Ada Hastings Hedges reintroduces a compelling regional voice.

For National Poetry Month

Celebrate National Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 30 by downloading one of our PDFs. Put the poem in your pocket, or post it above your kitchen sink (inspired by Poets House). Better yet, read an Ada Hastings Hedges poem aloud and post it to your own social media channels (tag @OSUPress).


The complete playlist is available on the OSU Press Soundcloud.

Reader’s name:
Alan Contreras
Poem read: Wild Geese
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Alan Contreras is coeditor of The Collected Poems of Ada Hastings Hedges. He is best known for his writing about the natural world and higher education. He is the editor of Edge of Awe and the author of Afield, both published by OSU Press. He lives in Eugene, Oregon.


Reader’s name: Ulrich Hardt
Poem read: Sonnet XIII from Desert Poems
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Ulrich Hardt is coeditor of The Collected Poems of Ada Hastings Hedges. He was managing editor of the Oregon Literature Series published by OSU Press with the Oregon Council of Teachers of English, and he is coeditor-in-chief of the Oregon Encyclopedia of History and Culture.


Reader’s name: Ingrid Wendt
Poem read: Then April
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Ingrid Wendt wrote the afterword for The Collected Poems of Ada Hastings Hedges. She is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award, the Carolyn Kizer Award, and three Fulbright Professorships. As coeditor of From Here We Speak: An Anthology of Oregon Poetry, she researched and selected the works of poets born before 1930, including Ada Hedges. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.


Reader’s name: Quinton Hallett
Poem read: Resurgence
Listen Here | Get the PDF

Quinton Hallett writes and edits from Noti, Oregon. For the Oregon Poetry Association, she has co-hosted a reading series, facilitated poet visits to a rural high school, led craft workshops, and served on the board. She has four chapbooks and a full-length collection, Mrs. Schrödinger’s Breast, from Uttered Chaos Press.

Historian Christopher Foss on His New Book, COVID-19, and US Politics

Foss CoverIn the interview below, Chris Foss, author of Facing the World: Defense Spending and International Trade in the Pacific Northwest Since World War II, discusses his motivation for writing the book, the coronavirus crisis, and his hopes for the future of US politics.


Ashley: Why did you decide to write a book on this particular aspect of Northwest history?

Chris: This book began during my frantic search for a dissertation topic, as I was coming to the end of my graduate coursework at the University of Colorado and a deadline loomed for me to decide on my project. I read an article in the academic journal Diplomatic History by Andy Fry, a history professor at UNLV, who argued that historians of US relations with the world should also consider how different regions of the US were impacted in unique ways by US foreign policy. I had one of those "light bulb" moments when I read that article. I'm from Portland, and I had read and heard about Wayne Morse, Mark Hatfield, Henry Jackson, Tom Foley, and others in some of my coursework already. It seemed like many of these Pacific Northwest politicians played an outsized role in US foreign policy during the post–World War II period. I set out to understand why this was.

Over the course of my research, I found out that the reason was, to be blunt, power. These men (and a few women) wanted to gain and maintain political power. I don't think they sought to be malevolent in their use of this power, however. They sought to be responsive to their constituents. In an era in which the US was highly involved in global affairs, senators, congressmen/women, and even governors particularly saw defense spending and international trade as arenas both for undertaking the national mission of bettering America as a whole and the local mission of taking care of the constituent by "bringing home the bacon" in terms of defense contracts, forging new trade agreements, and so on.

I found all of this really fascinating because I had never thought of Northwest politicians as merging domestic and foreign policies in this way. We either think of Mark Hatfield working on behalf of Oregon's infrastructure on the one hand, and against the Vietnam War on the other hand, but my contribution is to show how his various foreign and domestic policies were intertwined. Same with the other figures I spend an extensive time talking about in the book.

Ashley: Why do you think it’s important that we recognize the intertwined nature of foreign and domestic policies?

Chris: Because, especially as current events (i.e., the rapid global spread of COVID-19) have demonstrated, there is increasingly little difference between so-called "foreign" and "domestic" policies. Almost any policy enacted, even at the local level, will have some sort of ramification beyond US shores. Even during the Cold War, this was often true. It seemed like Americans saw almost everything through the prism of fear of international communism. The political figures I discuss in Facing the World recognized this, and seized on the growing importance of foreign affairs to the American public to gain support for their pro-defense, pro-trade policies.

Ashley: There are a lot of public crises that the US is currently facing, many of them—like COVID-19—hitting the Northwest particularly hard. You write about Senator Mark Hatfield's efforts to redirect national security funding to health, especially to the National Institutes for Health and OHSU. What can we learn from Hatfield’s warning that you discuss in your book—that "viruses are coming, and they're here"?

Chris: Hatfield understood, in ways that most politicians—and, I dare say, most Americans—fail to understand, that research and thinking in the long run about tomorrow's problems are important. He also understood that public health is an arm of national security. Hatfield was not against national security, per se. He was against military adventurism, such as in Vietnam, where the US mission was unclear and all we were doing was shooting and bombing. To him, however, disease was a clear national security threat. How could you have a functioning society, he wondered, if you didn't have a healthy people? Those ideas informed his support for OHSU and the NIH over the decades.

Critics accused him, in terms of OHSU, of being a pork-barrel spender, bringing Oregon goodies and not taking the needs of the nation as a whole into account. But when OHSU is on the front line fighting COVID-19 in Oregon, I doubt anyone is going to think of it as a waste of money anymore. Hatfield wasn't able to build up the health infrastructure of the US and Oregon as much as he would've liked, though; merely saving the NIH was the best he could do on a national level. Even before he died, the SARS and H1N1 pandemics threatened the US; Ebola and Zika followed right after his death, yet the American people and leaders were complacent. He's probably looking down at us right now and saying, "I told you so!"

Ashley: What do you think Hatfield would be advocating for today, in the midst of the current pandemic?

Chris: Hatfield would be demanding more widespread COVID-19 testing to help protect the public and provide more knowledge about the outbreak, and he'd be trying to speed money through Congress to give healthcare providers more tools to fight the outbreak: more masks for the doctors and nurses working with sick patients, more hospital beds, more money to convert nonmedical facilities to become temporary hospitals. Given his knowledge and expertise, he'd become the de facto expert in Congress on COVID-19. In addition, he would also be a calming voice to a rattled public. Hatfield was very good at public speaking and at connecting with people, and while he'd relay honest information, he would also, I think, want to let us know that we'll be OK in the long run. He survived the Great Depression and fighting in the Pacific theater of World War II, after all.

Ashley: Broadly, what do you hope readers will walk away with after finishing Facing the World?

Chris: I hope the big takeaway for readers is that politicians can be effective, and that they can work for the public good. It's easy today to become jaded and cynical about politicians and to think that they are only out for themselves, that they're only out to win the next election, that they pander/cater to special interests and put those interests above the citizenry, that they are hyper-partisan. That may all be true to an extent today, but Facing the World covers a period of time in which all of those elements were somewhat muted in American society, particularly partisanship.

Bipartisan thinking pervades the work of these politicians. Henry Jackson relied on conservative support to bolster his Senate campaigns, even though he was a liberal. Tom Foley was a liberal congressman in a conservative part of Washington State. Mark Hatfield was a liberal Republican, an extinct species even by the time of his 1996 retirement. Wayne Morse was first a Republican, then an Independent, then a Democrat who supported Hatfield's first election campaign. Vic Atiyeh was perhaps the most partisan of the individuals I focus on, but even he was a moderate by today's standards–he held strong pro-civil rights credentials, he helped form the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, and he hired a female chief of staff (Gerry Thompson) when that was unheard of, to have a woman in that high of a position of authority in the governor's office.

Unfortunately, we're in a different time now, and I'm not too optimistic that we can get back to the kind of civility (to start with), but also the set of particular historical conditions, either regionally or nationally, that allowed for bipartisan figures like Hatfield and Morse to gain power.

A Conversation with Author DJ Lee

 DJ Lee’s Remote: Finding Home in the Bitterroots takes readers on a journey not only through the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness but also through history, acquiring access to family legacies, and recovering selfhood in a time of loss. In today’s blog, Lee’s colleague, Peter Chilson, a literature and writing professor at Washington State University, interviews Lee about her writing process and how her emotional connection to the Selway-Bitterroots enabled her to persist through the challenges of her journey. 


Chilson: Your book starts off with your friend Connie’s disappearance. Can you talk about that? 

Lee: I’ve been actually writing this book for fifteen years, and going back into the wilderness, really in search of my grandparents’ story. I was in the midst of getting the manuscript into shape when my parents called and told me that Connie had gone missing and I couldn’t believe it. Connie Saylor Johnson knew the Selway-Bitterroot more than almost anyone. She helped me learn the trails, I hiked back there with her, visited her, we corresponded. I went back several times and she showed me documents about the history. So on a very physical level, but also a scholarly and intellectual and on a spiritual level, she was super important to the book. And to me--so when she went missing, it was devastating. It was devastating for me and hundreds of people who loved her. Because she was such an important part of my book and the process itself, I had to start from scratch and rewrite the book to incorporate her disappearance. 

Chilson: That’s a compelling story. I read the book and you talk about Connie being not only important to you but key to your understanding of what wilderness is all about. Can you talk more about that?

Lee: I think with the things I learned from Connie and that everybody learned from her is that wilderness is something almost mystical. It’s the solid trees and rocks and water and wild animals and stewardship of the land, but it’s also something bigger than the sum of its parts. Connie really gave people not just the physical being in the place but also the way that it contributes to your soul. 

Chilson: Another character in this book who knew Connie but whom I also find very compelling is Dick Walker. I’m a student of the French writer [Antoine de] Saint-Exupéry, who was also a pilot like Dick. Saint-Exupéry spent all these years criss-crossing the Sahara delivering the mail in the French African colonies during the 1920s. He also flew the mail across South America in a plane very much like Dick and you flew together over the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness. That’s part of what I bring to your book as a reader. Your book seems rooted in the stories of these kinds of people. Dick Walker is this compelling, visceral character, and so is Connie, and there are people in the book that have names like Puck. These people have real, hard substance They’re golden characters for a story. How do you find these people and get them to talk to you? 

Lee: Well, you probably remember the part about meeting Dick for the first time, I learned his name from a forest service archeologist who told me I should get in touch with Dick Walker. The way the person described Dick, I got an image in my mind of some kind of hermit living out in the woods, which he does. He lives up on a mountaintop. But even just hearing about him, he was a frightening kind of figure for me. The archeologist said that he had a lot of documents and history stored in his house. I was looking for information about my grandparents. So finally I drove to his house, up this mountain, dirt road, and he was kind of frightening to me at first, but I just spent time with him and was open to everything he had to teach me and made a fool of myself again and again and again because I didn’t know anything about the wilderness. Some of the conflicts that we had are detailed in the book, but besides Connie, Dick was one of my greatest teachers. 

Chilson: Can you tell us a little bit about the process of writing the book and how that has changed you? 

Lee: This is where my family story comes in and where it transitions from history and on-the-ground research to memoir. On my grandmother’s deathbed, she gave me this box that was full of documents and letters and photographs about the Selway-Bitterroot. At that point, I had no idea that this place even existed. I heard the word ‘wilderness’ once or twice in my childhood, but I was in my mid-thirties when my grandmother passed away. She was very important to my life, but my mother and I had a conflicted relationship just as my grandmother and my mother had, so I felt compelled to go to the Selway-Bitterroot wilderness. I was very trepidatious. I didn’t want to step on toes. I didn’t want to hurt my mother by trying to find out more about the family history than I should have known. I didn’t want to uncover dark secrets that would hurt people, but at the same time I wanted to. I couldn’t help it. I’m an archivist and scholar and historian. When I found that box of letters and documents and photos, I had to pursue it. I think the greatest change—or maybe the one most important to me—is that through that painful process of going back again and again, sometimes with my mother also was going back there and my father and other members of my family, my mother and I started off, in my mind, kind of competing for information and family memories, but by the end we were walking hand in hand. The land itself and the journey changed us. 

Chilson: So your mother was a willing participant in your research? 

Lee: She was. Sometimes she didn’t know she was. My grandmother had some mental illness and that was kind of hard for my mother and I to start talking about, but I asked her and she would open up. At some point, I told her I was writing this family story and she said, “You write what you need to write. It’s your story.” That was a big moment for me, so I’d say she’s a willing participant cautiously. 

Chilson: I know a little bit about the Selway-Bitterroots. I hiked into it a few times myself. Both alone and with other people including you and your family at least once. It’s one of the most beautiful—and at the same time foreboding—wilderness places I have ever been to in my life. High-peak mountains, rattle snakes, wolves, beautiful rivers. It’s an incredible place. But you came to this wilderness as a scholar, as somebody who really wasn’t that experienced in hiking in the backcountry. How did you acclimate? 

Lee: It was hard. I grew up in Seattle. I spent many years in Calgary, Alberta. I lived in London for a bit. I’m a city person. I had this odd confidence that I could just do this. Like why not? Like of course. But it was physically really difficult for me. My very first trek in was so difficult I almost turned back and I would have if it would have been easier to turn back. There were other times where it was hard for me to be back there just physically. I mean blisters and scrapes and wild animal encounters and trail finding. A friend and I almost drowned in a rushing creek called Bad Luck Creek in late May one year. We were doing a fifty-mile hike down the Selway River, total wilderness, and we almost drowned. It was very frightening...And then like flying in fogs a couple of times with the plane getting really squirrelly. There were also times when I was really searching for my grandparents when I was there by myself and then after Connie went missing, I’d been camping there by myself all fall— I just felt very comfortable there. After she went missing, I physically felt okay, but psychologically and spiritually I felt a disturbance and it was hard for me to be there sometimes. I feel like I’ve acclimated, but I don’t know if I’ll ever feel 100 percent at home there and I think that’s a good thing. I think a wilderness should not be a place where you feel comfortable like you’re sitting on your couch in front of a TV. You should always feel a little bit challenged. 

Chilson: You write about the place with a great deal of respect. I think that comes from, in regard to wilderness, a certain amount of fear. That being said, we’ve been talking a lot about your own story within the wilderness and Connie and Dick and your mother, but you also weave in a lot of history. Lewis and Clarke, the history of the forest service, homesteading, and the Nimíipuu. How did you strike a balance between these different layers of history and your own story?

Lee: That’s a good question, because at first there was no balance. It was all history and context...My own story was not important to me at first. I was really interested in my grandparents, but I denied the personal part. I thought they were only historical subjects. I’ve written about a lot of authors and historical characters from the early nineteenth century, so I just approached them as historical characters and the place as a place that I just had to contextualize in terms of geological history, indigenous history, the history of colonial settlement, and all the different stakeholders that have passed there throughout the years. Maybe about seven years in, I realized that this was my story. I always kept a journal. I’ve been a journal and diary keeper since I was seven years old, so I had all of these personal notes too, and I realized that my story was intimately wrapped up with the story of this place. I did a lot of personal writing in the later draft of the book, but the first drafts were mostly historical….I realized that, when I started doing the first edits, that a little bit of scholarship goes a long way, so I had to learn a different kind of writing. I had to learn a writing that braided the history and the personal in a much more intimate way than I was used to. 

Chilson: You do have all of these scholarly books in your past. You’re a scholar of the great romantic poets and you’ve done a lot of that type of writing. Was it difficult to make the transition from scholarly, third person, formal writing to memoir?

Lee: Yeah. It was. I think the topics are similar. Of course I love the British romantic poets like Woodsworth and Blake and Keates and Coleridge and the novelists Jane Austen and Mary Shelley. But my first book was about the slave trade and British poetry, so I’ve always been interested in these social justice topics and these histories that have maybe not received as much attention as the great artistic movements and I like bringing those two together. That mode of braiding came naturally to me. The technique itself was really hard for me. I’m not saying this is a general rule, but for me personally it was hard to learn a way of writing that was much more intimate and honest and close to the bone. It’s a difficult thing for some scholars to go to that deep on personal level and find language for it that you’re willing to put into writing. That’s something I had to learn. 

Chilson: One of the historical narratives within the book that you explore is the history of the Nimíipuu in this particular wilderness. I’m wondering how you did that research. There are human characters involved in that story, some of whom you met in your life. I’m wondering how you blended the historical research with the human characters. 

Lee: My grandmother was a good friend with a Nimíipuu elder. They grew up together on the edge of the wilderness. They went to school together and kept in touch. When I met him I was in my twenties. He made a very strong impression on me. He had a really deep, kind of commanding voice, but a really gentle manner. I guess what really struck me is the way he and my grandmother talked about people they knew just like you’d gossip with your friend in junior high school, but they were in their eighties. I really liked observing their friendship and hearing them talk about the old times. But one time when I was visiting them, they talked about what I later realized was the wilderness. They both had stories and lives back there. I did know some about the Nimíipuu, but I did a lot more research. I spent probably an entire year in this history. I read all of the accounts of General Howard. I read the first New York Times article criticizing the Nez Perce war of 1877. Later I went back with this archeologist and he told me about how the Nimíipuu had lived. A lot of that didn’t make it into the narrative because it’s been told by other people, but it was a really important story to me. It’s a really important story for the land. I mean the land is the Nimíipuu’s land. It doesn't belong to the National Forest Service or the Wilderness Preservation System of the US government. I consider it Nimíipuu homeland to this day. I think it always will be. As long as this earth is here, it will always be Nimíipuu land. 

Chilson: In my reading of the book, I noticed that there’s a real gender balance here. There are a lot of major male characters in the book as well as major female characters, but to me the women in the book are the governing characters of the story. Do you see the book as making the contribution to the subject of women in environmental history in the United States or women in the wilderness? 

Lee: I very much do. I see it as a book about women in the wilderness. Connie, for example, is the spirit of women in the wilderness. There’s also my grandmother who was back there for twelve years off and on and had a very conflicted relationship with the wilderness. There’s my mother, too. I’m not going to give you a spoiler—you know it—but she’s very comfortable back there. My mother is more comfortable back in the wilderness than almost any woman I’ve seen back there. Of course there’s me, but there are also a lot of other women. One of my favorites is a woman named Amy. I’d met her early on but I also reconnected with her after Connie was gone. She has to be one of my favorite wilderness women. There are so many other women that I wasn’t even able to write about like my friend Marg, who’s an amazing horse woman and a mule wrangler. There’s my friend Hannah who packs back there and rides back there. 

Chilson: You mention the photograph of Amy which I noticed because it’s from the present day. It’s probably a photograph you took. Because so many of the other photographs are from history. I’m wondering how did you select the photographs and, even more importantly, where did you find them. Were they a part of the family archive or did you do more detective work to find them? 

Lee: Some of them came from Dick Walker. He’s an archivist himself. He collected thousands of Selway-Bitterroot photographs. It’s an amazing collection. Some of them came from the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest archeologist and some of them I took. I was very fortunate because the publishers let me have twenty-eight photographs. The photographs tell a story separately. Some of them illustrate chapters, but if you line them all up, they also tell their own narrative. They interweave into different chapters where you don’t expect them. I wanted the photographs to tell a narrative that was complementary but also separate from the book itself. 

Chilson: I find the book, just the way it’s designed, to be very handsome. The foreboding nature of the wilderness is right there on the cover with the shadowy photograph of the woman looking down into the wilderness. Then we open up the book and we have this beautiful map. Maps like this are really hard to get published in books. How do you go about capturing a sense of this incredible wilderness on the page? I realized it took you a number of years to write this, and that’s part of it, but sitting down at the typewriter: how do you do that? 

Lee: Thank you. The map is beautiful. It’s made by a company called Cairn Cartographics in Missoula. I know the woman who made it. Amelia Hagen Dillon. She loves the Selway-Bitterroot, so it was really special to have her make me the map. But yeah, a map is a map. It’s a different kind of imaginative place than it is when you hike it and when you know all the history and when you put your blood, sweat and tears into the place. I think that was one of the reasons why it took me so long to write about this place because it’s such a complex, nuanced place. It’s a mythological place. 


DJ Lee is Regents Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at Washington State University and earned a PhD from the University of Arizona and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her creative work includes over thirty nonfiction pieces in magazines and anthologies. She has published eight books on literature, history, and the environment, most recently the 2017 collection The Land Speaks: New Voices at the Intersection of Oral and Environmental History. Lee is the director of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness History Project and a scholar-fellow at the Black Earth Institute.


Peter Chilson teaches writing and literature at Washington State University. He has written four books, including most recently Writing Abroad: A Guide for Travelers (with Joanne Mulcahy). His work has appeared in The New England Review, The American Scholar, New Letters, Consequence, Foreign Policy, Poetry International, Gulf Coast, Best American Travel Writing, and elsewhere.




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