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… poetry wooed you? So asks Alice Quinn, longtime poetry editor for the New Yorker and current executive director for the Poetry Society of America. The answers are informing, coming from three famous University of Oregon Alumni, gathered around after a Seattle Arts & Lecture (SAL) reading in Seattle.

Major Jackson describes the importance of being raised in  the church, not because of the religious aspect, but because of the respect and honor shown to ritual in his Philadelphia family home. Sacred speech,  like Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay, was a beckoning.

Susan Rich found her older sister’s concern for her reading selections pointed her toward poetry with early gifts, like Adrienne Rich’s The Will to Change. Rich also discussed how her desire to be a poet made her reach for more in life, seeking deepened experiences as a foundation for creative process.

Brian Turner remembers encountering Philip Levine on campus at Fresno, and how, when his class was full, he created an independent study group, starting Turner down a new path. (Levine reads in Seattle 4/19/2011)

Introduced by  Rebecca Hoogs, SAL Director of Education and Poetry Series Curator, the evening was a varied mixture of lush images, clipped rhythms and hazardous verbs…and it was over all too soon, leaving words hanging in the air as guests waited for their books to be signed in the lobby outside the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall.

For me, how I wonder at the poems Quinn was first to see in her tenure at the New Yorker, and all those sweet, word-remnants on the cutting room floor and my own calling to write.

“Behold the beginning of formless, sentient life.”—Major Jackson