"Go in late and leave early." - Advice on writing poems
What is OPN all about?
A man with a beard steps up to the microphone and reads a poem in memory of his wife. In the voice of her grandmother, a woman tells the joys and sorrows of coming to America. A college student writes about love in the rain. Someone else uses words to describe what fear really feels like, alone in the woods.
The third Wednesday of every month poets and poetry lovers gather at Traditions Café, 300 5th Ave SW, in downtown Olympia to celebrate well-crafted writing that touches a range of emotion. These readings are sponsored by the Olympia Poetry Network, an organization that has been around over 25 years. The beauty, diversity and energy of the South Sound make writing from the heart a natural way to connect with the environment and other like-minded people.
The usual format for the Wednesday evening readings includes a featured poet who reads their own work, and often talks about inspiration and the poetic process. Preceding this, 10 people are given the opportunity to read poems for 3 minutes apiece. OPN provides a sympathetic setting where even first-time readers can feel confident that their voice will be heard and respected.
“For me, poetry—both reading and writing—is a kind of spiritual practice,” says OPN Board member Chris Dahl. “It’s one of the means by which I learn and understand the world.”
In April, which is National Poetry Month, OPN breaks from its usual format to resurrect Dead Poets. Instead of a featured reader, each of the 6 Board members assumes the voice and character of a poet who has passed on. Past guests have included such greats as Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dorothy Parker, Jonathan Swift and Phyllis Wheatley. The April event begins at 6:30. All OPN readings are free of charge with donations optional.
In addition to the monthly readings, OPN offers workshops on the craft of writing. In the past, these have been funded by Joyce Gillie in memory of her husband Paul Gillie, a local poet and educator. Paul was a member of OPN from its beginning. These sessions, now called OPN Workshops, are taught by different poets and emphasize different aspects of style and subject matter. Check the Events page to see what's on the docket.
According to founder Jim Bill, The Olympia Poetry Network got its start in 1990 when a group of poets got together to relaunch a poetry radio show on KAOS. While they were waiting for the on-air details to be worked out they began giving monthly readings at Four Seasons Books which then occupied the site where Traditions is today. The venue changed several times over the years eventually coming back to what is now Traditions Fair Trade Café.
Former board Member Suzanne Simons says that poetry helps her “appreciate the everyday.” Terri Cohlene adds, “Poetry cyrstalizes the moment. It’s a thrill to write and a thrill to share what I’ve written.”
Anyone can become a member of OPN. The $15.00 annual fee includes a copy of the monthly publication, “News and Letters.” In it, editor Chris Dahl offers information about upcoming poetry events, interviews with poets, writing prompts, ideas for where and how to publish, and suggestions for staying inspired.
Checks should be made out to OPN, and along with name and address, sent to: Olympia Poetry Network, PO Box 1312, Olympia WA 98507-1312.