2023 Cascadia Poetry Festival 7 – In Memoriam

Theresa Whitehill. Photo, Jendi Coursey, 2021

Michael McClure reading at City Lights Bookstore, photo by Amy Evans McClure

Michael Mclure

Michael McClure (1932–2020), was an impressionable five-year-old when he arrived in north Seattle to live with his grandparents. The blue-black waters of Puget Sound, tadpole ponds and woodlands with their myriad life forms, glaciated Mount Rainier spirit and its rivers, his grandfather’s medical library, reading the morning and the evening Seattle newspapers on his daily paper delivery routes all versed his writing whether living in Wichita, Tucson, San Francisco, New York, or the Oakland hills. McClure the poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, songwriter, founding member of the Beat Generation, authored more than forty books. Translations into French, German, Croatian, Spanish, Japanese. His journalism was featured in Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle. The actors in his play The Beard were arrested nineteen consecutive LA performances, before winning the censorship trial in California, and later an Obie in New York. Of Indigo and Saffron (1959–2010), is an essential poetry collection. Posthumously, Mule Kick Blues and Last Poems. McClure lived his last quarter-century and death-day by the headwaters of Peralta Creek.

Theresa Whitehill. Photo, Jendi Coursey, 2021

Mary Norbert Körte and Paul E Nelson

Mary Norbert Körte

The late California poet Mary Norbert Körte’s new & selected poems, edited by Iris Cushing and me, Jumping into the American River, will be out within the next month. Back in mid-December, I sent info about her to many of you (my first poetry teacher, Berkeley 1970, when I was 14; ex-Dominican nun; lived 50 years in the Mendocino woods; environmental activist; died at 88 in Nov, etc). Anne Waldman’s blurb for the book, which you’ll find in the link, gives a good overview.

Theresa Whitehill. Photo, Jendi Coursey, 2021

Bill Yake, photo by Jeannette Barreca

Bill Yake

An Olympia poet and scientist, Bill Yake was born and raised east of the mountains – moving west in 1977. He worked with the Washington State Department of Ecology as an environmental scientist tracking down toxic contaminants in fish, rivers, groundwater, sediments, and soils. Since retirement he has traveled — to Papua New Guinea, China, Sicily, Australia, France’s illustrated caves, Peru and — most recently — Mongolia.

Bill’s full-length collections include This Old Riddle: Cormorants and Rain and Unfurl, Kite, and Veer (both from Radiolarian Press, Astoria). These and several of his scientific publications are included in holdings at the Library of Congress.

His poems appear widely in anthologies and publications serving the environmental and literary communities. These include Orion, Open Spaces, Rattle, Cascadia Review, and NPR’s Krulwich’s Wonders.

Theresa Whitehill. Photo, Jendi Coursey, 2021

Mike O’Connor

Mike O’Connor

From Empty Bowl, by Charlotte Gould Warren

Mike O’Connor published a dozen books of poetry, short fiction and translations from the Chinese during his lifetime, often mixing genres fluidly in his books. Old Growth gathers a generous selection of the best of O’Connor’s original lyric poetry along with a sampling of new and uncollected poems. This collection offers readers access to the arc of O’Connor’s lifelong dedication to poetry, and to the poignant humor, insight and compassion that have illuminated his most enduring poems.

Mike O’Connor was one of the first authentic bioregion poets. He’d never have said it like that, but there he was, digging into place. He was also big-bioregion cosmopolitan. One day we’ll see how his poetry helped form the North Pacific Rim literary ecosystem. He grew up on the Olympic Peninsula—one point of reference—then twelve years on Taiwan—another point—and carved subtle, careful translations of the Chinese poets, his masters. What is east, what is west? I got to know him during two years he spent in Colorado. We climbed peaks, swapped funny deep talk, and recited our poems to each other.

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