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Poetry series carries steam through second performance

Six more poets will read at the Ledding Library's poetry series

The Milwaukie Poetry Series celebrated its second success story when guest poet Kim Stafford came to read his work in front of an eager audience on Dec. 12.

Ledding Library board member Tom Hogan organized the series and also leads the committee that picks the poets.

He said he was thrilled to have Stafford attend, and added, 'We've been wanting to do this for a long time. It's designed to be a venue for local artists to read their work.'

The entire poetry committee was in attendance for the second installment of the series, setting up chairs, holiday sweets and welcoming the early guests.

A warm greeting awaited Stafford, whose personality and smile eased the company to begin the evening. Stafford is the son of 1975 Oregon Poet Laureate William Stafford.

'What a privilege to be here,' he said.

His poetry was short and brilliant. 'I don't want to drag on through night,' he said. Halfway into the hour, Stafford brought out his acoustic guitar and sang, and the crowd was encouraged to sing the chorus on 'Big John, Walk On.'

When asked why he writes poetry, Stafford responded, 'To say the most in the shortest amount of space.'

Now, some would think to write great poetry, you should read great work, but Stafford said he is inspired by e-mails from friends in distant places.

Why does he write? 'I had good teachers,' he smiled.

'And I love to write. Something really fun to do for writers is to write a run-on sentence. Dashes allowed, semicolons forbidden.'

In defining his writer's voice, he said it's 'the part of me that sings.'

At the conclusion of the hour, Stafford made [the audience] laugh, some were crying and one woman said she was even inspired to begin writing again.

After thanking the group for a lovely night, Stafford stayed on for another hour, signing autographs and discussing poetry and details about his upcoming classes.

'Your job is to find what the world can be,' Stafford said, adding, 'For writers and artists of all kinds.'

Grants help to set up event

Hogan said that the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition and the Oregon Cultural Trust awarded the library a grant of $2,800 to produce and promote the poetry reading series that began in November and continues into next spring.

'Introductions take about five minutes. Then [the poets will] read from their work for about an hour. During the last half hour they can take questions and answers or socialize,' Hogan said.

'There's a committee; seven of us. We take recommendations and seek out poets from the region. Just local writers.'

The first poet to speak was Paulann Peterson, who held a captive group of listeners for over an hour. Hogan was pleasantly surprised.

'[The place] was packed. People were standing in the back,' he said.

Pond House an asset

His expectations are to use the Library Pond House for year-round community events.

Another board member, Pat Duval, mentioned a possible sky bridge to connect the library to the pond house from across the water.

'Of course, that is a ways down the road,' Duval said.

Many people assumed the house was owned privately due to the many renovations seen over the months. In truth, the city bought it a little over a year ago after the chiropractor who previously worked there moved on.

Colleen Schacht, another Ledding Library Board member, has high hopes of transforming the garage into a used bookstore.