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September 15th, 2020

Hawai’i is often thought of as a place for rest and relaxation, but this tourism mecca was built on land that was stolen from Native Hawaiians. Following the US invasion and overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, Native Hawaiians were removed from their ancestral lands and forbidden to practice their cultural traditions.

The University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge in collaboration with the Hawaiʻi Ponoʻī Coalition has launched the first Hawaiian History Month  to increase awareness around the Native Hawaiian community. Throughout the month of September, there will be virtual events where you can engage with Hawaiian history through storytelling, art, and action. The first event kicked off on September 2nd with a celebration of the 182nd birthday of Queen Liliʻuokalani’s 182nd birthday—the last reigning monarch of Hawai’i.

To support and celebrate the inaugural Hawaiian History Month, take a deep dive into our books by Native Hawaiian scholars and about Native Hawaiian culture.


Kaiāulu   Ancestral Places   Kanaka Hawai'i Cartography


Kaiāulu: Gathering Tides
Mehana Blaich Vaughan

An important contribution to scholarship in the fields of natural resource management, geography, Indigenous Studies, and Hawaiian Studies, Kaiāulu is a skillfully written and deeply personal tribute to a community based not on ownership, but reciprocity, responsibility, and caring for the places that shape and sustain us all.
Ancestral Places
Katrina-Ann R. Kapāʻanaokalāokeola Nākoa Oliveira
Ancestral Places explores the deep connections that ancestral Kānaka (Native Hawaiians) enjoyed with their environment. It honors the moʻolelo (historical accounts) of the ancestral places of their kūpuna (ancestors), and reveals how these moʻolelo and their relationships with the ʻāina (land) inform a Kanaka sense of place.
Kanaka Hawai'i Cartography
Renee Pualani Louis
Kanaka Hawai‘i cartographic practices are a compilation of intimate, interactive, and integrative processes that present place as “experienced space,” situate mapping in the environment, and encode spatial knowledge into bodily memory via repetitive recitations and other habitual practices, such as hula.
September 3rd, 2020

John Haines—writer, community investor, and adventurer— kayaks, bikes, and survives various terrains in his first book, Never Leaving Laramie: Travels in a Restless World. Haines traverses multiple continents, and the message of taking risks and experiencing life stays at the core. From Laramie, Wyoming, to Mali, Africa, the need for independence and adventure run wild through Haines’s writing and voice. In this interview, Haines takes a moment to dive deeper into the intrepid waters of his life on and off the river.


OSU Press: Who is John Haines beyond the author bio?

John Haines: The central theme for my life is starting things. I have started a couple of nonprofits and loan funds in hard cities on the east coast. I’ve also worked in Central Europe in finance with the Czech Environmental Fund and with the Romanian government. I’ve worked around the world from Portland to Trenton, New Jersey, to Bucharest. I’ve always had an eye on financial systems and economics.

OSU Press: Never Leaving Laramie: Travels in a Restless World is a beautiful tale of experiences across the world. With the world quarantined due to COVID-19 and experiencing restlessness, what tips do you have for folks who are itching to escape?

John Haines: What I do is read a lot. I’m reading more than I ever have. I go to this beautiful wetland and sit, read, and watch the cycle of what’s happening with the birds and noises and then I do that around the region. I’m in a wheelchair, so what I would do otherwise is be out in wilderness as remote as I can get. Find something beautiful and learn about it, whether it’s words or trees as they change. Spending more direct attention on our own surroundings seems like the best thing to do. And then dream and read about where to go.

OSU Press: What does traveling teach you about yourself and the world?

John Haines: For me, everything. I think I most often traveled either alone or without an itinerary, except later in life. Usually, I went without a return ticket or with one that was expandable so I wouldn’t come back on the same route, and I always took books about where I was, most often fiction or history, not guide books. Traveling alone or with one person and being in a position where you’re not distracted by TVs or big hotels so you have time to read, think, and observe and just sit on a corner day after day and look at things. I think it teaches you patience. After our Group Leadership Meetings for Mercy Corps, I would take time to go out in Nepal; Abu Dhabi; Egypt; and Uganda and go bird watching. Birds open up the landscape for me, always have, and I reflect on that a bit on the Niger River.

OSU Press: During your Niger River expedition, you mention that, “The Niger had put me on a river for life. Move, experience everything, but do not be captured by any one place or thing” (174). Can you speak more to how rivers and water have helped guide you through your travels? Through writing your book?

John Haines: There’s a saying by Leonardo da Vinci I use in the beginning of Chapter 12 (What the River Says): “In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes.” The river is never the same. It’s there, then it’s gone. There’s a reference to Zen poetry and philosophy in the book from when I was in Japan. One of the things they talked about was feeling everything fully but not letting any one feeling overwhelm you. That was a really good thing to read when I was traveling alone when it was winter and kind of miserable. It puts me in that beginner’s mind. It doesn’t feel good; it’s cold, it’s lonely, I hadn’t talked to anyone for two weeks. Putting yourself in a beginner’s mind to appreciate that is, I think, a metaphor for the movement of rivers.

OSU Press: How did the water impact your relationships with the people that live on the Niger river or near it?

John Haines: We were so tethered to that river. We’d be on the river for 12 hours a day; it was part of us. We were only on land to sleep and eat so we never strayed too far from the river. We were very immersed with the river and the people who were on it or next to it. You’re going to their home, not yours—even though you feel tethered to it for months. You come into interactions there with humility and respect for the people who have lived there for centuries. That river is everything to them. You need to share yourself when you arrive in a place like that and it takes some energy. They’ll dig through your kayak, kids will want to play with the paddle, the chief will want to go on your boat—you take a deep breath, stop a couple hours early, and put yourself in the parade.

OSU Press: How was traveling as a quadriplegic in a world that wasn’t designed to accommodate folks of various abilities?

John Haines: I’m the first one off and on. If I have a connecting flight, I might miss it. It takes extraordinary patience. It can be dangerous. I just take a deep breath and say let’s go with it. Most of my trips have been alone all over US and around the world, since I do domestic work for Mercy Corps and we do Global Leadership Meetings. The China meeting was first, then Scotland, Nepal, Abu Dhabi, Egypt, Uganda, and Europe a few times so I got fairly used to doing it in a chair. If you arrive in Cairo after midnight by yourself and you don’t have any money and you’re dead tired after going to Portland from Amsterdam to there, you better wake up.

OSU Press: What do you wish people knew more about wheelchair users and folks with various abilities?

John Haines: I don’t have that much judgement of people unless they already have a preconceived idea of who I am. So, if you get a group of people in a wheelchair together and, man, you want to see diversity? Age, gender, background, the stories . . . everyone has a story. Not everyone is attitude driven. They’re pretty much impaired and learned flexibility for a world that isn’t quite right for you. By and large, you can’t get upset by the door that doesn’t work, people that cut you off, or whatever it is. There is always something that doesn’t work.

OSU Press: Never Leaving Laramie is a book filled with adventure. For those wanting to get outside and see new places, what advice would you give them?

John Haines: This may sound crazy, but don’t make too much of a preconceived plan, or you’ll just follow the plan and you won’t be surprised by the things that are out there. Go with an open mind and if you can, go alone and just sit and watch things. Take time. Take your watch off, take off the plug-ins. When I was traveling, I couldn’t have any of that. Even finding a phone in some of the cities was a bear, to call home and say I’m still alive. I’d send letters, but they [family] wouldn’t get them until two to three weeks later. Now, we’re so in tune to the luxury of connecting with anybody at any time. On the Niger River, we didn’t have maps for the upper region. We had some weird defense-mapping agency maps from the US government but they didn’t have any detail. They weren’t helpful at all. So, we had no maps whatsoever. Literally just going at the direction of asking people and finding Sori who led us. He was our map. 

OSU Press: Can you tell me more about Laramie, Wyoming, and how your hometown relates to the places you’ve traveled?

John Haines: Laramie really breathes independence. The austerity, the cold, the cowboys, the hunters, and people that do stuff in the outdoors that is seemingly dangerous. Everyone has a level of risk-taking and adventure built into them because we’re isolated. What we do is what’s outside and we can’t get enough of it. Everyone there comes with an independent streak and my contention is that we never lose that through the course of our lives. When you’re in New York City you have a different type of adventure. I know people that grew up in the city and they cruised neighborhoods more widely where you can see so much of the world in five blocks, which you just don’t see in Wyoming.

OSU Press: Where’s your favorite adventure?

John Haines: The next one . . . the next place. I like so many places for specific reasons but you know what you find? It’s like as much as you love a place like Kathmandu, Nepal . . . I hadn’t been back in 21 years and, my gosh, I couldn’t recognize the city at all because it was so polluted and built over. So sometimes you can never go back. But then I went down into Southern Nepal and saw birds and rhino. A part of Nepal I would have never seen because I was so glued to the mountains. Anything in the Himalayas is attractive and the republic of Georgia and the Slavic countries are really interesting. It’s impossible to go to Africa and not have it stuck in your heart forever, and the Niger River in particular—the people that were related to that river, who don’t bounce too far from it, appealed to a calming continuity. 

July 2nd, 2020

The Independence Day holiday just past offers a sober reminder that, for many Americans, the founding ideals of liberty, justice, and equality remain just that: ideals. In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and the sustained, international protests that have continued ever since, we at OSU Press are more conscious than ever of our mission to amplify underrepresented voices through the books we publish. We are deeply grateful to the authors and communities who entrust their stories to us, as well as to all the readers who understand that knowledge is a powerful antidote to racism. From now through the end of August, we're offering 30% off and free shipping through our website on a selection of books that illuminate the experiences of marginalized communities in Oregon and beyond. Enter the promo code AMPLIFY at checkout to obtain the discount.


Asserting Native Resilience

Zoltán Grossman and Alan Parker, editors
Gathers together perspectives on Indigenous responses to the climate crisis, reflecting the voices of more than twenty contributors, including Indigenous leaders and Native and non-Native scientists, scholars, and activists from the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, Alaska, and Aotearoa/New Zealand.
List price: $24.95 / sale price: $17.47

At the Hearth of the Crossed Races: A French-Indian Community in Nineteenth-Century Oregon, 1812-1859
Melinda Marie Jetté
This history of French Prairie in the mid-Willamette Valley provides a window into the multi-racial history of the Pacific Northwest and offers an alternative vision of early Oregon in the lives of the biracial French-Indian families whose community challenged notions of white supremacy, racial separation, and social exclusion.
List price: $22.95 / sale price: $16.07

Black Woman in Green: Gloria Brown and the Unmarked Trail to Forest Service Leadership
Gloria D. Brown and Donna L. Sinclair
An urban African American woman rises from clerical worker to leader in the USDA Forest Service of the twentieth century West. Along the way, she faces personal and agency challenges to become the first black female forest supervisor in the United States.
List price: $19.95 / sale price: $13.97

Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in Oregon
R. Gregory Nokes
Tells the story of the only slavery case ever adjudicated in Oregon courts—Holmes v. Ford—shedding light on a somber part of Pacific Northwest history and bringing the story of slavery in Oregon to a broader audience.
List price: $19.95 / sale price: $13.97


The Color of Night: Race, Railroaders, and
Murder in the Wartime West
Max G. Geier
When a black trainman was wrongfully accused of murdering a white woman on a train in rural Oregon, the ensuing investigation and sensational trial galvanized civil rights activists, labor organizers, and community leaders into challenging Oregon's death penalty.
List price: $24.95 / sale price: $17.47

Dangerous Subjects: James D. Saules and the Rise of Black Exclusion in Oregon 
Kenneth R. Coleman 
Winner of the Oregon Book Award, Dangerous Subjects describes the life and times of James D. Saules, a black sailor who was shipwrecked off the coast of Oregon in 1841 and who inspired and later had to contend with a web of black exclusion laws designed to deny Black people citizenship, mobility, and land.
List price: $19.95 / sale price: $13.97

A Deeper Sense of Place: Stories and Journeys of Collaboration in Indigenous Research 
Jay T. Johnson and Soren C. Larsen, editors 
These stories, essays, and reflections offer insights into the challenges and rewards encountered by geographers—both Native and non-Native—in their academic and personal approaches to research when working collaboratively with Indigenous communities. 
List price: $22.95 / sale price: $16.07

Embracing a Western Identity: Jewish Oregonians, 1849-1950 
Ellen Eisenberg 
Historian Ellen Eisenberg places Jewish history in the larger context of western narratives, challenging the traditional view that the "authentic" North American Jewish experience stems from New York. 
List price: $24.95 / sale price: $17.47


A Force for Change: Beatrice Morrow Cannady and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Oregon, 1912-1936

Kimberley Mangun
The first full-length study of the life and work of one of Oregon’s most dynamic civil rights activists, African American journalist Beatrice Morrow Cannady.
List price: $24.95 / sale price: $17.47

Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Drawing on her experiences as a scientist, mother, teacher, and writer of Native American heritage, Kimmerer explains mosses in scientific terms as well as in the framework of Indigenous ways of knowing.
List price: $18.95 / sale price: $13.27

Giving Back: Research and Reciprocity in Indigenous Settings
R. D. K. Herman, editor
This collection of essays addresses the need for reciprocity in the research process, especially in regard to Indigenous communities.
List price: $29.95 / sale price: $20.97

The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue: Voices and Images from Sherman Institute
Clifford E. Trafzer, Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, and Lorene Sisquoc, editors
Focused on an off-reservation Indian boarding school, this collection of writings and images shares the fascinating story of the Sherman Institute through the voices of its students.
List price: $24.95 / sale price: $17.47


The Jewish Oregon Story: 1950-2010

Ellen Eisenberg
This richly detailed history demonstrates how Jewish Oregonians contributed to and were shaped by the “Oregon Story,” a political shift that fueled the state's emerging reputation for progressivism and sustainability.
List price: $24.95 / sale price: $17.47

Jumptown: The Golden Years of Portland Jazz, 1942-1957
Robert Dietsche
A fascinating blend of music, politics, and social history, Jumptown sheds light on a time and place overlooked by histories of Portland and jazz, for the first time collecting hundreds of pieces of local jazz history to create "an anatomy of a jazz village."
List price: $24.95 / sale price: $17.47

Kaiāulu: Gathering Tides
Mehana Blaich Vaughan
An important contribution to scholarship in the fields of natural resource management, geography, Indigenous Studies, and Hawaiian Studies, Kaiāulu is a skillfully written and deeply personal tribute to a community based not on ownership, but reciprocity, responsibility, and caring for the places that shape and sustain us all.
List price: $19.95 / sale price: $13.97

Legends of the Northern Paiute: As Told by Wilson Wewa
compiled and edited and with an introduction by James A. Gardner
Includes 21 legends of the Northern Paiutes as told by Wilson Wewa, historian and spiritual leader of the Northern Paiutes on the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon.
List price: $19.95 / sale price: $13.97



Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon

R. Gregory Nokes
Examines the once-substantial presence of Chinese laborers in the interior Pacific Northwest, describing why they came, how their efforts contributed to the region's development, and how too often mistreatment and abuse were their only reward.
List price: $19.95 / sale price: $13.27

Mexicanos in Oregon: Their Stories, Their Lives
Erlinda V. Gonzales-Berry and Marcela Mendoza
Reveals the stories and lives of Mexicanos in Oregon: why migrants come to Oregon fields, construction sites, and warehouses, what their experiences are when they settle here, and how they adapt to life in the United States.
List price: $22.95 / sale price: $16.07

My Life, by Louis Kenoyer: Reminiscences of a Grand Ronde Reservation Childhood
Louis Kenoyer, Henry Zenk, and Jedd Schrock

A rare, first-person narrative by the last known speaker of Tualatin Northern Kalapuya, discussing life on an Oregon reservation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
List price: $35.00 / sale price: $24.50

Native Space: Geographic Strategies to Unsettle Settler Colonialism
Natchee Blu Barnd
Explores how Indigenous communities and individuals sustain and create geographies through place-naming, everyday cultural practices, and artistic activism, within the boundaries of the settler colonial nation of the United States.
List price: $24.95 / sale price: $17.47



Remembering the Power of Words: The Life of an Oregon Activist, Legislator, and Community Leader

Avel Louise Gordly with Patricia A. Schechter

Recounts the personal and professional journey of Avel Gordly, the first African American woman elected to the Oregon State Senate.
List price: $18.95 / sale price: $13.27

Salmon Is Everything: Community-Based Theatre in the Klamath Watershed, Second Edition
Theresa May with Suzanne Burcell, Kathleen McCovery, Marta Lu Clifford, Jean O’Hara, and Kirby Brown
Simultaneously illuminates the logistics of a crisis in the third largest watershed in the Pacific Northwest and documents what happened when one community decided to use art to amplify the experiences of its members.
List price: $19.95 / sale price: $13.97

Sonny Montes and Mexican American Activism in Oregon
Glenn Anthony May
This biography of Oregon’s leading Mexican American activist also tells the broader story of the state’s Mexican American community during the 1960s and 1970s, a story in which Sonny Montes had an important part.
List price: $24.95 / sale price: $17.47

Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family
Lauren Kessler

The Yasuis family story seemed like the American immigrant dream come true — until December 7, 1941, changed their lives forever and they found themselves among the 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry along the West Coast who were forced from their homes and interned in vast inland internment camps.
List price: $19.95 / sale price: $13.97


To Win the Indian Heart: Music at Chemawa Indian School

Melissa D. Parkhurst 
Records the history of the Chemawa Indian School's musical life, exploring the crucial role music was meant to play in the total transformation of Indian children, and the cultural recovery and resiliency it often inspired instead. 
List price: $22.95 / sale price: $16.07

Enter the promo code AMPLIFY at checkout for 30% off and free shipping. Valid through August 31, 2020.
June 4th, 2020

Avel Louise Gordly, the first African American woman elected to the Oregon State Senate, begins her book, Remembering the Power of Words, with an epigraph from poet Audre Lorde:

“While we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”

That words have power is a constant undercurrent in Gordly’s memoir and a truth she learned early in her life. “Growing up, finding my own voice,” she writes, “was tied up with denying my voice or having it forcefully rejected.” For too long black voices have been diminished in America. Today, amidst the widespread outrage and sorrow over the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and other victims of police brutality, it’s time to amplify those voices.

OSU Press stands in solidarity with all who fight for racial justice. To help Oregonians better understand our state’s long history of racial exclusion, white supremacy, and efforts at resistance, we recommend the following books and resources.

Black Voices

Black Woman in Green: Gloria Brown and the Unmarked Trail to Forest Service Leadership by Gloria D. Brown and Donna L. Sinclair

Remembering the Power of Words: The Life of an Oregon Activist, Legislator, and Community Leader by Avel Louise Gordly with Patricia A. Schechter

This is Not For You: A Memoir by Richard Brown and Brian Benson (forthcoming, Spring 2021)

History of Black Exclusion and Racism in Oregon

Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in Oregon by R. Gregory Nokes

The Color of Night: Race, Railroaders, and Murder in the Wartime West by Max G. Geier

Dangerous Subjects: James D. Saules and the Rise of Black Exclusion in Oregon by Kenneth R. Coleman

A Force for Change: Beatrice Morrow Cannady and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Oregon, 1912-1936 by Kimberley Mangun

Jumptown: The Golden Years of Portland Jazz, 1942-1957 by Robert Dietsche

The Troubled Life of Peter Burnett: Oregon Pioneer and First Governor of California by R. Gregory Nokes

Further Reading

Association of University Presses, “Statement on Equity and Anti-racism” 

Oregon Historical Society, “History is who we are and why we are the way we are

OSU President Edward Ray, “After another tragedy, it’s time to make real change a priority

Vanport Mosaic

May 21st, 2020

We’re excited to promote and celebrate the publishing birth month of Bob H. Reinhardt’s Struggle on the North Santiam: Power and Community on the Margins of the American West. With the restrictions and unfortunate outcomes of COVID-19, we offer an excerpt of Reinhardt’s brilliance as a satisfying distraction from these quarantine times.



Next to a well-traveled highway on the margins of the American West, there is a place that seems easy to ignore. This particular place is the North Santiam Canyon, a fifty-one-mile stretch along Oregon’s Highway 22 on the western side of the Cascade mountain range, surrounded by Douglas fir trees on the banks of the North Santiam River. It takes about an hour, depending on speed traps, to drive through the canyon. A few landmarks jump out to motorists: Mt. Jefferson to the east, occasionally peeking out over the treetops; two large dams (Detroit Dam and its regulating dam, Big Cliff) and their full reservoirs or empty reservoir beds, depending on the season; and always the North Santiam River, burbling, swirling, crashing, pooling, and tumbling alongside the highway. Houses and buildings are scattered along the roadside, sometimes gathered into villages and towns, and perceptive drivers might even notice the signs alerting them that they have entered or left behind one of these communities. But driving along at fifty-five miles per hour, one would be forgiven for not finding anything remarkable or memorable about the North Santiam Canyon, like so many other marginal places in the American West.

But those who slow down a little—even just to the forty-five-mile-per-hour limit posted in a few of the towns—will see more detail that suggests depth and complexity in the North Santiam Canyon. Those welcome signs have names on them such as Mill City and Gates, marking specific places with their own stories. Some of the signs are in the shape of circular saws and evoke the area’s logging past, present, and future; a few signs include images of mountains and rivers, suggesting other ideas about the area’s economy and identity. Higher on the hillsides away from the road, clear-cuts mar the view, but second- and third-growth stands peak out, as do patches of old-growth forest. Buildings more than a century old stand faded and dilapidated as well as repainted and renovated, occupied by residents of different means and interests who have their own sense of home in the canyon. And that’s just the view from inside the car window. Stopping at a roadside restaurant such as Cedars Lounge in Detroit or Marion Forks Lodge offers not just a good sandwich or slice of pizza, but also selected stories about the area’s past: paper menus with a map of Old Detroit, now submerged under the reservoir, from which Cedars Lounge was hauled up on a sled; paintings of Native peoples situated next to old maps and taxidermized animal heads, mounted on walls made of lumber produced in now-defunct mills not that far from Marion Forks Lodge. Intrepid and interested travelers might even stop for a while to visit the Canyon Life Museum in Mill City, where a floor studded with holes from loggers’ boots supports exhibits on farming, mining, and more. In short, there is history in the North Santiam Canyon, as in other such places in the West.

 Paying attention to that history leads to interesting questions about important events and themes in the history of the American West. Visitors might note repeated use of the name “Minto” and wonder why someone who never even lived in the area got his name on a mountain pass, park, road, and other landmarks. Others might have a vague (and generally correct) sense that the word “Santiam” has Native American origins and perhaps puzzle about what happened to those Native peoples. Railroad history buffs might stop in Mill City to see the old railroad bridge now used by pedestrians in the same spot that the Oregon Pacific Railroad crossed the river in 1888, supposedly on its way to becoming a transcontinental railroad—an aspiration that died in the upper canyon just a few years later. That projected route ran right through Marion Forks and Township 11, Range 7, where at the beginning of the twentieth century twelve false homestead claims led to the infamous Oregon Land Fraud Trials and the downfall—and death—of a US senator. If driving by Detroit Reservoir during the late fall or increasingly dry summers, passersby would certainly take note of the empty reservoir and stumps, but they would see no sign of the old town of Detroit that sat at the bottom of the reservoir and how “new” Detroit came to be in 1953. Seeing the vacant mill buildings in Idanha might remind some travelers that the North Santiam Canyon featured prominently in the old-growth forest controversies of the 1980s and 1990s, and a few might make the connection between the Yellow Ribbon Rallies of that time and the Save Our Lake (SOL) protests that occurred during the summer of 2001, when Detroit Reservoir went dry and the vulnerabilities of the tourism industry became apparent. In short, visitors might be surprised to learn that the North Santiam Canyon has been the site of interesting and important regional and national history.

To see, interpret, and make sense of the history of this place, and to suggest a path for studies of other such communities, this book focuses on power in the North Santiam Canyon. As long as people have lived in the region, they have sought to assert their autonomy. They have done so for myriad reasons: to control their homelands and cultures, as did the indigenous Santiam Kalapuyans and Molallans; to build their own farms and homes, like Euro-American families in the middle and late nineteenth century; and to profit from the area’s resources, from miners in the nineteenth century and loggers in the twentieth century to tourism businesses in the twenty-first century. Their expressions of power have taken a variety of forms, from the resourcefulness of Depression-era subsistence hunting to loud demands for government assistance at the same time; from enthusiastic embrace of federal river development projects to passive acceptance or modest resistance to the same; from beautiful moments of family and community life to ugly expressions of xenophobia and racism. These efforts have shaped work, life, community, and lived experience, although local autonomy has always been structured and limited by powerful forces from beyond the area: citizens of larger urban areas in the Willamette Valley, capitalists from Portland and San Francisco and New York, national politicians and agents of the federal government, and, most importantly, distant and abstract market forces. In their responses to these external forces, people in the North Santiam Canyon have developed a narrative that celebrates local resiliency and independence while pitting a victimized “us” (local residents) versus a powerful “them” (outsiders, city folk, “the government”). That story has become a part of the identity of the North Santiam Canyon, where, as in so many other similar marginalized places in the American West, residents have in a multitude of ways, out of many motives, and to varying degrees of success tried to exercise limited power over their lives, their work, and their community.



This book draws on, builds upon, and departs from other histories of the American West that examine the workings of power on and within marginalized communities. Broad perspectives surveying the sweep of the region’s history have explored the breadth and depth of external power exerted upon places like the North Santiam Canyon. In contrast to urban centers of wealth and power, small resource-dependent communities can seem like hapless, powerless victims of distant forces: distant politicians and entrenched government bureaucrats, cultural and social pressures emanating from urbane trendsetters, and global economic systems. In a famous 1934 essay for Harper’s, Bernard DeVoto described the West as a “Plundered Province,” an economic colony whose residents had been “looted, betrayed, [and] sold out” by ungrateful Easterners.1 This direct interpretation was simplistic in laying blame solely on outsiders, but its focus on the influence of external forces has resonated with historians for decades, from the enthusiastic endorsement of Walter Prescott Webb to the thoughtful and complex analyses of Nancy Langston, Patricia Nelson Limerick, Earl Pomeroy, Hal Rothman, Richard White, Donald Worster, and others.2 William Robbins has developed perhaps the most convincing and nuanced of these interpretations through histories written at different scales, from a history of a small Oregon coastal community to a broad survey of the entire American West.3 As Robbins explains, the relationships of marginalized places to larger sources of power, “Isolated, with relatively small populations, and lacking significant influence in the trade and exchange relation, resource-dependent communities are by-products of industrial strategies and decisions made elsewhere.”4 From historical perspectives that appreciate the power of national and global forces, small communities like the North Santiam Canyon can seem relatively insignificant and powerless.


Things look a little different closer up. Historians studying marginal communities in the American West have explored how people in such communities have sought to assert their autonomy. These examinations of local power offer examples and paths that this book seeks to follow and extend. The first step on that path is to try to re-create a place’s history and explain how and why that place changed over time; Richard White’s Land Use, Environment, and Social Change, William deBuys’s Enchantment and Exploitation, and William Willingham’s Starting Over approach such description and analysis from the perspective of environmental change, evolving ideas about and uses of the land, and careful demographic study of the local population, respectively.5 In exploring the myriad ways people respond to the overwhelming influence of a specific source of power, Brian Leech’s The City That Ate Itself provides an excellent guide, showing how the residents of Butte, Montana, created community, endured hardship in the mines and in their homes, and at times actively resisted the power of the Anaconda Mining Company. 6 Bonnie Christensen’s history of tourism in Red Lodge, Montana, shows the multitude of ways in which Westerners have transformed their communities, their identities, and even themselves in an effort to confront the challenges of the transition from natural resource extraction to a tourism-based economy.7 To make sense of the actual experience of life and work in a Western natural resource extraction community, James Feldman’s engaging history of Sand Island, Wisconsin, demonstrates how local conditions, and the way local people understood and interacted with those conditions, shape exactly how “a peripheral economy work(s).”8 Such on the-ground perspectives explain a variety of ways in which people on the Western periphery have worked against and with external forces. Such an approach does not ignore or minimize the influence of outside forces, but it does show how the people subject to those forces have not sat back and watched things happen to them—they made things happen, too. By building on these analyses and focusing on local perspectives, choices, and actions, this book examines how residents of the canyon have responded to, interacted with, and even, rarely, gotten the better of external forces.


To explore those local perspectives, this book draws on both local archives and histories as well as regional and national sources. The North Santiam Historical Society (NSHS) has sought to preserve the area’s past, collecting thousands of photographs, hundreds of personal recollections, dozens of boxes of documents, and a bank vault full of newspaper clippings, maps, and other ephemera. The NSHS maintains an archive of local newspapers, which provide an invaluable chronicle of events as well as express a local point of view that needs critical contextualization, as William Willingham explains.9 The NSHS also maintains a number of local reminisces and narratives, from the oral histories recorded in Just a Few of Our Memories to the unpublished, three-hundred-plus-page manuscript of longtime resident and history buff John Lengacher. Others have written about aspects of the area’s history, including Cara Kelly’s master’s thesis on precontact land-use patterns, Evangelyn Fleetwood’s twenty-page time line of notable events, Jim Petersen’s history of the Freres Lumber Company in Lyons, Jim Quiring’s forthcoming book about the Little North Fork River, and the “autobiography of a place” about Niagara written by Lisa Chaldize, Melody Munger, and Debbie Corning.10 These local perspectives and sources complement insights from other sources, including qualitative and quantitative information from the US Census, records from the US Army Corps of Engineers, urban newspapers and trade journals, and materials preserved by the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem and the Oregon Historical Society in Portland. Taken together and critically analyzed, these firsthand accounts and information reveal the many ways people in the North Santiam Canyon have sought to assert their autonomy in relationship to the world outside.





The path through the North Santiam Canyon’s history follows the routes that run into and through the area, especially Highway 22, a popular road connecting Oregon's Williamette

Valley to central Oregon and beyond. The Willamette Valley is the center of state and regional economic, political, and cultural power: it is the location of the state’s biggest cities (Portland in the north and Eugene in the south),                                                                                                             The North Santiam Canyon. Map illustrator: Edwin Xavier Pinedo.  
most of the state’s population, and the state capital in Salem. About twenty-two miles east of Salem on the highway, the North Santiam Canyon begins at the towns of Lyons and Mehama.11 There, the gently sloped farmlands of the Willamette Valley transition into mountain terrain and dense Douglas fir forests, and the highway saddles up alongside the North Santiam River for a sixty-mile journey into the Cascade mountains. Continuing east along the river brings one into Mill City, the largest population center of the area with about eighteen hundred residents living on either side of the river, which divides Marion and Linn Counties. A few miles up the river, the steep hillsides briefly spread out into a valley and the town of Gates, the last part of the lower canyon.

After Gates, the walls close in again and travelers enter the upper canyon. Ten miles up Highway 22, Detroit Dam rises 463 feet above the river, backing up a reservoir with thirty-two miles of shoreline. The town of Detroit sits at the northeast end of the reservoir. Idanha comes next, about fifty miles from Salem; its two hundred residents and vacant mill buildings represent the last population center. A few miles later, travelers come to a few vacation homes, a fish hatchery, and a historic restaurant at Marion Forks. The highway then skips over the North Santiam River for another ten miles, when the river breaks east for its headwaters in the Cascade mountains. Highway 22 continues to the junction with Highway 20, which crests the Cascades at Santiam Pass and heads east toward central Oregon. Each village and town along the North Santiam River has its own specific history, and there are differences between the lower canyon closer to the Willamette Valley and the more isolated upper canyon. But in practice—here in this book and in the lived experience of people in the area—the communities of the North Santiam Canyon have more in common than not.


This analysis of the North Santiam Canyon breaks roughly into two halves. The first part covers the period prior to Euro American contact in the mid-nineteenth century up through the Great Depression. Chapter 1 begins with the first people to call the area home: the Santiam bands of the Molalla and Kalapuya peoples. These Native groups created a multitude of connections into and through the area, creating a sense of home that incorporated the canyon as a place in which to survive and thrive and as a corridor through which to move. Chapter 1 also describes the first Euro Americans in the area: fur trappers and miners, explorers and road builders, and the first Euro American families to resettle the area, so recently dispossessed from Kalapuyans and Molallans, in the nineteenth century. These newcomers initially used and conceived of the canyon as a path to other places, establishing connections to the outside world, especially federal land policy largesse, that made their enterprises possible. Chapter 2 narrates the construction of the Oregon Pacific Railroad into the North Santiam Canyon during the 1870s and 1880s, a development that opened up opportunities for local agency as well as external influence, both legal and not. Chapter 3 focuses on life, work, and community in the area under the shadow of the Hammond Lumber Company, which dominated the area from 1894 to 1934. Chapter 4 considers the Great Depression and connections to the outside world, which had made it vulnerable to the effects of the Depression, retracted during this period, and local residents responded by pursing both self-sufficiency and government support. The Great Depression period highlights the theme of the book’s first section: people living in the canyon exercised autonomy and cultivated connections to external forces, hoping that both local power and outside power could coexist and even reinforce each other.


The second part of the book shows more powerful and abstract outside forces coming to the canyon, and explores how residents increasingly responded with anxiety, alarm, and anger. Chapter 5 details two infrastructure projects built between 1934 and 1953 that fundamentally transformed the North Santiam Canyon and the region: Highway 22 and the Army Corps of Engineers’ Detroit Dam. Although most local residents enthusiastically supported these changes and their promised economic development, a few people expressed reservations about how these technological wonders might transform—or even destroy—their homes and communities. Chapter 6 examines the timber economy and identity of a “timber community” that developed along the new highway from the 1940s through the 1980s, during which time timber workers and local timber companies sometimes convicted but often cooperated with each other and among themselves, attracting at one time unwanted legal attention. Chapter 7 explains the development of a fiercely independent identity in the canyon at the end of the twentieth century. That identity crystalized during the old-growth controversies of the 1980s and 1990s, and it hardened into a more general canyon-versus-outsiders perspective at the beginning of the twenty-first century, when the vulnerabilities of the local tourism economy became increasingly obvious.

At the end of this journey through this place and its history, the book’s epilogue considers the community that has emerged from the transformations and tumult of the second half of the twentieth century, reflecting on the possibilities for local autonomy in the twenty-first century. In looking toward this future, the people of the North Santiam Canyon, like other such marginal places in the community, have a deep reservoir of history from which to draw. That history contains frustrations, failures, and even foolish and destructive responses to external forces. But it contains power, too—the power of knowing that the residents of the North Santiam Canyon and places like it are real people making real decisions that have real consequences.






1 DeVoto, “The West,” 364.

2 Pomeroy, Pacific Slope; Limerick, Legacy of Conquest; Worster, Rivers of Empire; White, “It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own”; Rothman, “Selling the Meaning of Place”; idem, Devil’s Bargains; Langston, Forest Dreams.

3 Robbins, Hard Times in Paradise; idem, Colony and Empire. For Robbins’s analysis applied at the scale of Oregon’s history, see “Town and Country in Oregon.” See also his Landscapes of Conflict and Oregon.

4 Robbins, “The ‘Plundered Province,’ ” 595.

5 White, Land Use, Environment, and Social Change; Willingham, Starting Over; deBuys, Enchantment and Exploitation.

6 Leech, The City That Ate Itself.

7 Christensen, Red Lodge and the Mythic West.

8 Feldman, “View from Sand Island.”

9 Willingham, Starting Over, 7-9.

10 Lengacher, “History of North Santiam Canyon”; Petersen, Santiam Song; Lisa Chalidze, Melody Munger, and Debbie Corning, “Niagara, Oregon”; Fleetwood, “Timeline—North Santiam Canyon.” Other residents, current and former, have written about the North Santiam Canyon, including Rada, Singing My Song; Grafe, Gates of the North Santiam; and Ray Stout,“Mehama Story.”

11 Some definitions of the North Santiam Canyon extend downstream to Stayton and beyond, to where the North Santiam River joins with the South Santiam River to become the Santiam River, but that area is both moreproximate and similar to the Willamette Valley in its geography, climate, and economy than the North SantiamCanyon as defined here.

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April 30th, 2020

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.


April 29th, 2020

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.

                                                    *     *     *     *     *     *

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!

April 28th, 2020
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.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

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. 

April 22nd, 2020
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
Member of AAUP