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Poetry is hot in Central Washington

By on July 26, 2021 in Arts with 0 Comments
Susan Lagsdin reads her work from the Shrub-Steppe Poetry Journal, Spring 2021 issue.

By Susan Blair

and Susan Sampson

If you think poetry is just for ancient aristocrats holed up in dusty libraries, think again. Think, The Shrub-Steppe Poetry Journal.

 The third edition of The Shrub-Steppe Poetry Journal is hot off the press. To celebrate, the June launch party was held in the Board Room at Pybus Market in Wenatchee.

Poets from Yakima, Ellensburg, Roslyn, East Wenatchee and Wenatchee read their work, caught up with friends and sampled delicious treats from Café Columbia. Inside, the view of local artists’ work complemented the view of the Columbia River sparkling in the sun. (There’s probably a poem in that.)

 The Journal is the brainchild of Susan Blair of Wenatchee.

Over breakfast one morning with fellow poets, she went down the list: Yakima has its Coffeehouse Poets, with its open mics and annual contest; Tieton, near Yakima, has LiTFUSE, an annual weekend-long poetry workshop; Ellensburg has its annual Inland Poetry Prowl; Twisp has its Confluence Poets; even Roslyn has a strong group of poets.

What about Wenatchee?

Paraphrasing the poet Adrienne Rich, Susan said she heard a silence that needed to be broken. She decided to create a print publication to showcase the talents of Central Washington poets, the first of its kind.

 She recruited a staff of volunteers. Retired journalist, poet and president of the Yakima Coffeehouse Poets Ed Stover agreed to serve as assistant editor. Susan Sampson put on her retired lawyer hat and helped organize the SSPJ as a non-profit organization, also donning the hat of assistant editor.

Bruce McCammon, who says he loves to tinker with computer software, agreed to lay out the book (using InDesign and then Affinity). Pictures by local photographers and visual artists have graced the covers of all three editions.

 This year’s published poets hail from Cashmere, Chelan, Cle Elum, Coulee City, East Wenatchee, Ellensburg, Freeland, Lake Wenatchee, Leavenworth, Naches, Richland, Tonasket, Twisp, Wenatchee and Walla Walla.

The poems are as diverse as the poets: lyrical, narrative, experimental, haiku and free verse from scientists, visual artists, farmers, gardeners, educators, students — and one career U.S. Army officer.

As with the past two editions, many of them have expressed excitement about seeing their work in print, and have been very pleased with the quality of the book. Clearly, The Shrub-Steppe Poetry Journal satisfies a need in our Central Washington community.

 The 2021 launch party was a double celebration: after a year of pandemic-related restrictions, writers could gather again.

To lighten the mood last year, Shrub-Steppe Poetry called for submissions of poems about cats and/or dogs. The result: Cats and Dogs Reigning, a collection of 49 poems about poet’s beloved pets.

 Besides publishing the annual Journal, Shrub-Steppe Poetry sponsors the Poetry Podium. This is a free, public, poetry-only reading hosted by Susan Blair.

She encourages participants to read their own work or a favorite poem by someone else — or just sit and listen. Chad Yenney graciously offers the Collapse Gallery as the venue, so poets read surrounded by art.

 It is all a labor of love, challenging, interesting and rewarding. Hot stuff!

Organizers of The Shrub-Steppe Poetry Journal intend for it to continue as an annual publication.

The call for submissions for the next issue will go out in January 2022. Sharpen your pencils, start writing, consider sending your poems.

Visit the website, shrubsteppepoetry.org or contact Susan Blair at sfblair61@gmail.com to learn more about poetry events, publications or submissions.

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