Spring Wears the Clothes of Winter and a Smile

It’s becoming a tradition in the Pacific Northwest. Prize-winning Portland playwright and poet William S. Gregory sends his solar season’s tribute to the cycles of the sun. Enjoy. -Editor . . . → Read More

Reading Off the Charts Book Reviews: Mink River

Oregon Coast at Nightfall by Patrick Hudson

Mink River, destined to become the quintessential, post-modern novel of Western Oregon life, embraces magical realism as the only brush possible to paint all the colors seen. Even though it takes place at the Coast rather than the Valley, City or High Desert, and is very embedded in the strata of the Pacific Marine ecosystem, its themes of timeless stories that live through generations and the changes that time works, is an everywhere theme, an anyplace kind of experience. Maybe that is one of the factors that makes Mink River so universal in spite of specific terms of unique place. . . . → Read More

Ascending Manna

Slug breaks fast

Writer and naturalist poet Kathryn Ryan celebrates the seasons, the rubrical rhythm of life, seen and unseen, at the Equinox of Spring in true Celtic manner. Three poems are offered for your consideration, “Native Land,” “Moments,” and “Ascending Manna.” -Editor . . . → Read More

Reading Off the Charts Book Reviews: Lavinia Lives

By Ursula K. Le Guin
Published in 2008 by Harcourt, Inc.

I can’t imagine writing a book like Lavinia but I am so grateful Ursula K. Le Guin did. It is a wonderful story, deeply felt and poetically told that not only recreates an alternate world but one that was once our world, literally and culturally. She queries the intersections of myth, legend and literature and uses the inquiry as part of the structure of the novel itself. Perhaps best known for her imaginative and challenging novels of future times and far-away places, she transports us to a past that we can rightly claim as our own, tenuous as the characters may have been, and transforms them into flesh and blood. Lavinia lives. Lavinia, the king of Latium‘s daughter, in pre-Roman Italy, narrates her life story with its key events foretold by the oracle and by the classical Roman poet, Publicus Vergilius Maro, or Virgil as we know him, centuries later (70-19 BCE).

Until this book by Le Guin, again centuries later, Virgil’s is the only mention of Lavinia in literature or in his epic of the survivors of the Trojan Wars, The Aeneid. which chronicles the tragic and redemptive life of the hero Aeneas. One of the legends of Rome was that Aeneas and Lavinia’s descendants . . . → Read More

An Accidental Rescue Dog: The Tale of Skippy

This is a true story about a dog I knew through my wonderful and weird old neighbourhood in San Francisco, many years ago in the mid-seventies. Young and hopeful, I lived in an old area dubbed “Dogpatch” by the locals and “Irish Hill” by the local historians, near the then-still working waterfront. Bethlehem Steel had a ship building yard with large cranes and the Mission Point “park” was a sturdy public pier next to the Mission Rock Beer Bait and Boats shop. We had the lovely lower flat an pre-quake Italianate Victorian a block and a half west of the water that was, with a few other domestic buildings, mixed in with many warehouses, machine shops, the SF railyard and scattered little factories, fleet yards, and a corner garage at Third and Tennessee, Fred and Jim’s.

A perfect site for an artist, I thought when I first saw the place. (I was trying hard to develop into a professional artist back then.) Now it is absorbed by the name “China Basin District,” once just referring to the channel area of the SF Bay a little north that berthed some small Bay fishing boats, a few houseboats and an antiquated small, old steel bridge that raised its deck for the boats to go through, located on the back route to downtown . . . → Read More

An Oregon Poet Goes to the Dog

Two poems salute the canines in our lives who teach us to celebrate each moment.

Nanook stands in for Alexi

Samoyed Homecoming

A day of showers mixed with sun,
the shrubs all trimmed, the mowing done,
the parents leave for Beaverton
to pick up their Samoyed son

Alexi’s coming home! . . . → Read More

An American Original: Louis Bromfield

Louis Bromfield and Roswell Garst, Malabar Farm, 1954, courtesy of {link:}The Ohio Historical Society{/link}, the Joe Munroe Archives

In 1786 homesick Thomas Jefferson, in Paris, wrote a letter glorifying his Virginia farm: “And our own dear Monticello…with what majesty do we ride above the storm!” Political tempests would come and go. The one thing that tormented him unto death in 1826, however, was the ever-rising river of debt issuing from “dear Monticello.”

In 1932 homesick novelist Louis Bromfield, close by Paris, wrote a note, singing of his youth on an Ohio farm. “It was a good way of life” he recalled, having “in it two fundamental things which were once and may be again intensely American…integrity and idealism. Jefferson has been dead more than a hundred years but (these) things are immortal.” Seven years later, he moved back to Ohio and built America’s most famous farm, vowing to create “a world of my own or die trying.” As it turned out, he did help usher in a new world of sustainable farming. But his farm’s rising river of debt lead to his early death.

While it’s unfair to compare even an imposing . . . → Read More

A Four Season Cycle: Dance, Dwell, Dark and Rain

In celebration of National Poetry Month, April 2011, West By is honored to present Portland playwright and poet, William S. Gregory’s Four Seasons Cycle. Also featuring the photography of fabric and metal artist, Brooke Stone.

Indian Plum in Spring, Spencer Creek Valley
by Brooke Stone

Spring Equinox 2011

Rain– during news of distant disasters
Rain– while revolutions collapse desert kingdoms

Rain– in the morning when foolish Senators make us turn the clocks
Rain– at night when the cold streets mirror the lights

Rain– every day of the week and on weekends
Rain– breaking and setting records

Rain– on the bones of winter, left root bare on the soil
Rain– on the early buds and trees

And now they say it’s spring.

And today–

William S. Gregory . . . → Read More