Full House at City Lights Bookstore

Back from a whirlwind visit to San Francisco (photos below) — a packed house at City Lights Books, with special guests from the Fine Arts Group: Vladimir Dupre, 94, executive secretary of the Fine Arts, and Chuck Davis, 91, who taught the original members how to set type and run a printing press. I gave a short slideshow overview, then Steve Dickison, director of the San Francisco Poetry Center, set the stage for discussion on how the Fine Arts influenced the San Francisco postwar scene. Vlad and Chuck were in fine form even though the room was thick with body heat, sharing great memories and perspectives.

Did they have any sense at the time that they were doing something important, that it would influence a generation and beyond? No, they said — they were just getting through their days of planting trees and cutting trails, trying to be creative as an antidote to the drudgery. 

Were they really living the ideals on the margins of the 1940s that would become the mainstream in the next generation? It certainly appears so. Civil rights: they sat at the same tables regardless of race. Equal rights: they wrote “he or she” when speaking generically of human beings. Health: They took a vote and requested that people not smoke during meals. Nutrition: They served a vegetarian as well as meat menu at dinners. Environmentalism: They wrote of the so-called “dead stumps” in the forest as the incubators of the next generation of trees. Just about any social movement you want to name from the 1960s and ’70s existed in some form at this isolated backwoods camp on the rain-soaked Oregon coast during the dark days of World War II. 

And on this night 70 years later at the iconic City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, two members of this once-marginalized group got to see the difference they’d made for not just one generation but also for the ones following.

During the chaotic book-signing after the talk, as Vlad and Chuck were signing away and I was talking and making new friends, a young woman suddenly stood in front of me with the light of discovery in her eyes, a look that I have come to recognize during the past year of some twenty-odd events. “I had no idea about this,” she said, and held out her copy with Vlad’s and Chuck’s names already signed. “I can’t wait to read the book!”

L-R: Chuck Davis, Steve Dickison from San Francisco Poetry Center, and Vlad Dupre.


Space was so tight, the projector came down after the slideshow so people could see the guests of honor.


Book signing after the talk. Chuck Davis (L, seated) looking up and talking to a fan. Vlad Dupre (R, seated) signing a book.


The author with Chuck Davis wearing his new City Lights ball cap.

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Gearing up for San Francisco and Berkeley

After a heady month of being named a finalist for the $10,000 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, I’m now headed to San Francisco for two shows next week.

Wednesday, Oct. 15, I’ll be at City Lights Bookstore, with two special guests: Vladimir Dupre, 94, who was executive secretary of the Fine Arts Group; and Chuck Davis, 91, who taught the Fine Arts founders how to set type and run a printer. Both men have wonderful memories and colorful stories to tell. The event will be hosted by Steve Dickison, director of The Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University. Come by for this rare opportunity to have your copy of Here on the Edge signed by two members of the Fine Arts Group!

Friday, Oct. 17, Vlad and I will be at Books, Inc. in Berkeley. That evening will feature a more in-depth slideshow and Vlad will share his memories of the camp and its effects on the ensuing generations. 

These are the only two shows in the Bay Area this year. Spread the word!

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Here on the Edge is finalist for Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Dear Friends of Here on the Edge,

I am thrilled to announce that Here on the Edge has been named a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, the prestigious award given annually to one book each in fiction and nonfiction. This is an incredible honor that brings international recognition — and a $10,000 cash award to each winner of the prize. Winners should be announced in late September.

Most finalists for this award come from major New York commercial publishing houses. Here on the Edge is the first-ever finalist published by a university press (who traditionally run on shoestring budgets with a small staff).

Read the full press release here

Feel free to pass this on to your friends, post on social media, invite your network to “like” my Facebook page, or otherwise spread the word.

Thanks to everyone for your wonderful support through the years of writing and now promotion. The story continues!

All my best,

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It was seventy years ago today…

Seven decades ago, Glen Coffield distributed copies of his second Untide Press book, and the first to use a letterpress printer. Coffield was still at Waldport when he signed the copy below, and an online search revealed a Priscilla Gipson who graduated from Linfield College in 1944. Anyone know how to contact her?


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Opposing war for 70 years

A few days ago, I received an email composed of this simple sentence:

July 25, 1944.
On this date, 70 years ago, having declared my opposition  to all wars, I was inducted into Civilian Public Service Camp No. 46  at Big Flats, N.Y.

It came from William Shank, who spent about six months with the Fine Arts at Waldport during 1945. Bill was a friend of Kenneth Patchen, and helped the poet to connect with the Untide Press, which eventually published his visually intriguing An Astonished Eye Looks Out of the Air. Does the cover design remind you of anything you’ve seen elsewhere—maybe in a famous little booklet published a decade after this one?

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Revisiting thoughts on war

I just returned from a weekend conference at Fishtrap, in the Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon. The conference was celebrating the centennial of William Stafford’s birth, and there was a fair amount of conversation on war and peace, and the complex roles they play in our society. I found myself thinking and speaking the words that I wrote when the book first came out last October. Some things bear repeating. . . .

Detail from Glen Coffield’s Ultimatum. 

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The man who taught the artists how to print

Just spent two days visiting with Chuck Davis, who came to Camp Angel in 1943 and taught the earliest Fine Arts members how to set type and run a press. In fact, he is the one who provided the first tabletop Kelsey printing press, which they used to print Glen Coffield’s The Horned Moon.

Chuck and his daughter Kathryn came to Eugene this weekend and viewed the Camp Waldport Records and Glen Coffield Papers at the University of Oregon Special Collections. Chuck provided some fascinating details of the Fine Arts’ beginnings, telling how in one case they discussed and debated over six hours on what typefaces to order for making their first book. He leafed through the Camp #56 library records and smiled at the list of his personal book requests to the Oregon State Library: all books on printing. 

He also answered a question that had been bugging me for years: Who was the “C D Print” that published Coffield’s The Horse of Summer at La Verne, California in 1946? It was Chuck Davis, doing a project while he was a student at La Verne College. “Glen had sent me lots of poems,” he said. “I wanted to print some of his work.”

Chuck Davis with copy of Glen Coffield’s Horned Moon.

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First Oregon Coast show a sell-out!

Had a great show in Yachats this past weekend — another full house, another box of books sold out. The interest and enthusiasm is truly humbling. There is a great scene being built at the Yachats Academy of Arts and Sciences. About five years ago, a group of volunteers decided to put together a monthly speaker series, held at the Yachats Commons, a Depression-era school that closed in the 1980s timber crash and has since been remodeled into the City Hall and community center. The Academy hosts all manner of speakers on topics ranging from nanotechnology, botany, and geology to music, history, and social commentary — much of it from experts in their fields. A little slice of intelligentsia on the Oregon Coast! Check out the videos of their monthly talks.

If you missed the show, don’t despair. This was just the first of more on the coast. Next one so far is scheduled for November at the Nye Beach Writers Series. Not yet listed on their site, but it’s official for Nov. 15 at 7:00 p.m.


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D-Day at Camp Angel, 1944

On June 6, 1944, William Everson sat down at his desk in Civilian Public Service Camp #56 and articulated a vision for those who believed so strongly in peace that they refused to fight for it. Here are a few short paragraphs from the prospectus for the Fine Arts at Waldport:

 “This is D Day. In the narrow slit between the continent of Europe and the island of England, tens of thousands of men are hurling eastward in the final assault upon a civilization. Here in the West, on this shelf of earth and stone that forms the Pacific scarp, what can be said about art, that will be taken by the millions who watch that denouement, as more than idle prattle? And yet, if it cannot be said on D Day, it should not be said at all; and if it deals with possibilities, the possibilities are of the variety that need as lucid exposition at this time as they ever did in the course of the war.

“The Fine Arts at Waldport is a simple association of artists. It is a group of men who, at one time or another in their lives, found they could no longer think only in terms of being artists, but were compelled by the convergence of events to become pacifists; not half-pacifists, or part-pacifists, but full-time pacifists. We were, in short, inducted in Civilian Public Service. And here we perform the duties the Government has decreed to be fit and proper labor for men who profess our particular kind of disbelief.

“But in being pacifists we did not forget that we were also artists. As time went on, as the forms of procedure within the CPS system stabilized themselves and gradually permitted the opportunity for development of group action into tangible forms . . . we began to see that we, too, could consolidate ourselves, and our particular talents be drawn to a focus that could give our pacifism a breadth it could not otherwise obtain.

“…We are very new, very small; there is much more here in the way of intention than in accomplishment. It is not a program that can be brought to maturity in a six months span. But the attempt should be made. And at the very least we hope to show, when the camps have been folded up and stowed away, that of all this effort, of all this money, and of all this time, the things of the imagination have not been forgotten.”

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“Fascinating, funny, and surprising on every page”

Here on the Edge is “fascinating, funny, and surprising on every page,” says Adam at Grass Roots Books, the locally-owned, independent bookstore in downtown Corvallis since 1971. That’s right: 1971. They’ve been doing business in a real store for 43 years. And now you can support them even if you don’t live there. Buy Here on the Edge through a local, independent bookseller!

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Another great talk with the next generation

This past week, I was invited to visit some history classes at Toledo High School, a few miles inland from Newport on the Oregon Coast, and a two-hour drive from my home. The kids had been reading through 20th century history (remember, that’s the last century to them), and they had a sense that war was part of a cycle of human behavior — and maybe not the most attractive kind of behavior at that. 

I gave them a slideshow presentation, adpated somewhat to their time references and locale. They had little idea of the Sixties, but they knew about Vietnam, and they understood what it meant when enough people with enough energy speak with a single voice.

Their teacher, Joe Jordan, said they were talking about it later during the day: “One great insight a student made was that there is no sharp dividing line between decades and movements; they flow, one into another.”

I’ve done about fifteen shows since October, and every last one has been a delight. But there’s something about talking with the kids, something that resonates beyond sharing a great story. Something vital, that lightens the weight of time. I guess you could call it optimism. Not bad for a four-hour round-trip drive.

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Inspiring show at Camp Angell

It has been an amazing spring break. After the show in Davis with Vlad Dupre (see below), I went over to the coast and gave a talk to the students at the current Camp Angell. They packed the gymnasium, listened to my talk and watched my slideshow, asked pertintent and thoughtful questions, then gathered around me at the front and shared thoughts, more questions, and just generally engaged in the moment. (We couldn’t take photos due to privacy laws.)

One young woman shyly said she coudn’t afford to buy a book, but would I sign the slip of paper she had? Before I even recognized what I was doing, I had pulled out a book, signed it, and given it to her.

“Do you promise you’ll share it with your friends?” I asked.

Yes, she certainly would.

The look on her face will keep me going for years.

I gave out a few others as well. What else can you do when a kid with no money wants to learn about history so that they can understand the present and do something about the future? To paraphrase Thoreau: In youth is the preservation of the world.


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