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MailTribune.com
  • Poetry is alive and well in Douglas County

    Revival of Umpqua Valley group offers inspiration to new and experienced writers alike
  • For prose lovers hesitant to embrace another form of writing KatSue Grant of Green has a secret. "Poetry is just playing with words," she says.
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  • For prose lovers hesitant to embrace another form of writing KatSue Grant of Green has a secret. "Poetry is just playing with words," she says.
    Grant, 64, is spearheading the revitalization of the Umpqua Valley Poets, hoping to unite Douglas County poets willing to provide inspiration for and critique each other's work. She said she'd love to see membership burgeon once the word is out.
    As the Douglas County branch of the Oregon Poetry Association, Umpqua Valley Poets began meeting in 2006. Its members hosted a poetry conference in Roseburg in 2008 that was a great success, Grant said. The effort of putting together the conference caused a decline in membership, however, and the group shut down in the spring of 2009.
    Nearly four years later, Grant said she decided to relaunch the group "because now I had the time and needed a new challenge." Grant joined another local writing club, Takin' Care of Business. But she said she wanted to have a group that was dedicated solely to poetry.
    "The poetry community is very close and intense," she said. "I want the fringe people to get involved." The group meets at 1 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at a member's house. Activities include studying new poetic forms to develop new skills and broaden horizons, writing off of a given prompt and critiquing and discussing each others' work.
    "The monthly meetings will get your juices flowing again," Grant said.
    Green poet Tim Rogers, 69, helped restart the group after Grant suggested it because he wanted there to be another outlet for poets. He said he found his love of writing late in life and is enjoying catching up.
    "There are other groups in the area but they teach journalism and writing, we want to get people together who want to write poetry," he said.
    Rogers helped found the monthly Poets Nights Out at My Coffee and the Wine Experience that started in 2012. Held at 6:45 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month, the gathering is now sponsored by Umpqua Valley Poets. The next Poet's Night Out is Jan. 17.
    Participants and visitors can expect an open mic forum in which poets read their pieces for the public. A guest poet also reads five to 10 poems during the evening. The audience then does a call-and-response period with the poet, discussing style and use of form.
    The venue holds between 25 and 35 people, Grant said, and is usually full.
    "That is amazingly popular for a poetry event that happens every month," she said.
    The group also plans to attend poetry events such as the state association conferences, as well as writing seminars at colleges.
    Grant said she is inspired to write from the beautiful surroundings in Douglas County.
    "I love it because it's so much fun, so creative," she said. "You can write about anything."
    Roseburg poet Susan Kay, 57, found her calling in her 40s, which is also when she began writing prose.
    She said her favorite part about poetry is struggling to say a lot with a few words.
    "I like to describe things; I like to look at my plant and see it in a way different from how somebody else would see it," she said. "You personify things you might not think about." She said she has found encouragement from the group, which plans to put together an anthology of its members' compositions every two years.
    Monthly dues are $1 to $4. Attendees do not need to be a member of the state association to join the local group.
    The group also will put on the Earth Day Fair poetry contest again this year. That contest is for original poems with earth themes for county residents as young as 6.
    An initial meeting of the revived Umpqua Valley Poets drew seven people. Grant said she expects the attendance to rise.
    Kay said she plans to keep going to the meetings to continue to improve her poetry.
    "The biggest thing is it's come one, come all. No one will discourage someone who is just starting out and doesn't know what they're doing," Kay said.
    "Some are professionals, but nobody will ever feel embarrassed by what they bring. The people are great because they want to encourage the other writer."
    You can reach reporter Betsy Swanback at 541-957-4208 or email at bswanback@nrtoday.com.
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