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Poet's work rides political waves

Barbara LaMorticella has always been one to speak her mind, especially in verse.

The now 70-year-old poet, who lives in a cabin in the hills above Hillsboro, has been a fixture of the Oregon literary arts scene for nearly three decades. Her poetry chronicles ripples of political waves, tides of social change, and the depths of a personal journey.

LaMorticella, who won the Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award in 2005, will be featured at Conversations with Writers, a free monthly literary forum that focuses on the writer’s craft.

Her talk starts at 7 p.m. Monday, July 29, at Influence Music Hall and Gallery, 135 N.E. Third Ave. in downtown Hillsboro.

This event is one of only a few appearances LaMorticella has made in the last year and a half, as the Oregon Book Award finalist and her husband of 52 years, Robert, have been recovering from ongoing health issues. On Aug. 19, after a year off the air, she will resume hosting KBOO’s Talking Earth, a spoken word program where she has helped to showcase national poets alongside emerging local writers.

LaMorticella began writing verse after leaving San Francisco in the late ’60s and moving to Oregon. She saw poetry as an inexpensive artform with a priceless payoff.

“I knew I was an artist,” she said. “And I figured this was an art I could practice wherever, that wouldn’t cost money, and that all I needed to practice the art was a life and writing tools.”

Though she took writing workshops from some notable poets, including William Stafford and Robert Bly, LaMorticella still considers herself an amateur.” I don’t teach at a university, and I don’t make money writing poems,” she said. While she never made a living from her verses, poetry has held a much deeper purpose in her life.

“You have to keep your spirit sharp,” she said. “And poetry is one method of doing that.”

LaMorticella has published two books of poetry. The second, Rain on Waterless Mountain, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Her poems have appeared in several collections and she has edited or co-edited three anthologies. She is working on her third collection of poems.



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