Members of Pacific University and the Forest Grove community will continue to welcome authors from a variety a genres and backgrounds as part of this spring’s Visiting Writers Series.
The series will kick off with visiting Romanian poet Liliana Ursu on Feb. 28. Ursu has published nine books of poetry with her first book published in English in 1997. Fellow poet Tess Gallagher will help translate Ursu’s work. English professor Darlene Pagan organized Ursu’s visit with sponsorships from Pacific’s gender studies program.
On March 8, slam poet Patricia Smith will visit Forest Grove and perform in the Hacienda on Main Street at 7 p.m. Smith is the author of “Blood Dazzler,” a National Book Award Finalist in 2008, and numerous books of poetry. Smith has won four National Slam Poetry championships, making her the most successful slam poet in the competition’s lifespan. With the help of history professor Martha Rampton and Pacific’s Elise Elliot grant, Smith will bring her talent to present a new genre to the writers series.
Pacific’s Masters of Fine Arts in Writing program faculty member Debra Gwartney is a prominent non-fiction writer who resides in Oregon. Her popular memoir titled “Live Through This” was nominated for numerous awards and her other works have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The American Scholar, Oregon Humanities, Oregon Quarterly, Family Circle and a multitude of others. Gwartney will visit Pacific’s campus on April 19 and read in Taylor Auditorium at 7 p.m.
Cheryl Strayed, an Oregonian author who writes both fiction and non-fiction, will visit campus on May 3. Perhaps best known for her memoir “Wild” about her experiences hiking the Pacific Crest Trail solo before she turned 26 and her novel “Torch,” Strayed has been praised for her honest and courageous writing.
According to Pacific English professor Kathlene Postma, who is a main coordinator of the Visiting Writers Series and starts working on confirming visitors a year in advance, the impressive line-up of authors is a reflection of the emphasis placed on good writing at Pacific. “It seems like this is a campus where writing well matters,” said Postma. “Pacific is really a lovely place for writing; it’s a really natural place for students and writers to converge.”
Postma and other Pacific professors playing a role in the organization of the series try to bring in both writers from Oregon and writers who offer an international perspective.
The writers series is expanding, according to Postma, as they bring in writers from every genre and who work in different disciplines such as environmental studies, gender studies, sustainability and health professions.
In addition, “We try to pick writers who challenge our assumptions about what we can do,” Postma said. “We try to bring four to six writers every year who are doing cutting edge work.”
In addition to the evening readings, most of which will be held in Taylor Auditorium at 7 p.m. and open to all members of the Pacific and Forest Grove communities, there will be workshops with the visiting writers available for Pacific students who are interested. The workshops are held in an effort to make the visits as interactive as possible and makes for an even more fulfilling experience, according to Postma.
Senior creative writing major Kali Eichen said she has been “introduced to a lot of writers I wouldn’t have otherwise known. We have had some really breathtaking and talented artists.”
“It’s really exciting to see the electricity as we talk about what writing can do,” said Postma. “We’re all learning writers. Every single writer is working to get better.”