Summer 2010 : Work
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Summer 2010 : Work
Oregon Humanities: Summer 2010
Sitting on a bench overlooking a sea of sun-baked asphalt at the Portland Expo Center, Kaia Sand unrolls a long scroll of paper, the basis for her collection of poetry Remember to Wave. The paper crackles as semi trucks roar along Marine Drive and race cars whine at Portland International Raceway.
Every day for a month, Sand visited this site with a typewriter and her bicycle. She observed the activity of the present—men toting rifles to a gun show, blue herons wading alongside the mounds of the golf course, and MAX trains reaching the end of the line—while contemplating the area’s complicated past. In 1942, atop a livestock holding area in what is now the Expo Center, Japanese Americans were imprisoned before being sent to internment camps by train. At the same time, about forty thousand people were living on the surrounding acres, in a shoddy city named Vanport that was built for shipyard workers. In 1948, Vanport City flooded when a dike broke, releasing the Columbia River onto the floodplain. Some residents died, and the city was obliterated.
“The present can overwhelm the senses,” Sand writes in the book. “But if we muster an imaginative memory, we can read this geography in terms of displacements and exclusions.” The book weaves Sand’s words with images and found poetry: a page of the Vanport resident handbook, a modern sign advising against eating toxic fish from the slough, and a copy of the government order for Japanese Americans to evacuate. “Poetic form is a way to shape the mess that is history, information, and knowledge,” Sand says. “I love undertaking investigations and finding forms for how to shape that mess.”
As part of her investigations, Sand led a free tour of the site for the public in the fall of 2008, a project funded by a grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council, then additional tours in 2009 and 2010. “Inexpert inquiry allows me to do things collaboratively and have conversations,” she says. “I find that by not positioning myself as an authority, I open a bit of a space for people to enter.” For example, a tour attendee told Sand about a restaurant located next to the livestock zone; she had a piece of the old building in her garden. Someone else observed that a crumbling rock-and-cement wall near the golf course most likely wasn’t made by Italian immigrants—the work was too shoddy.
Sand isn’t currently organizing tours of the Expo Center, but she used the experience to create new projects, including half-day writing classes offered through Portland Parks and Recreation. She and other writers take participants into “lost neighborhoods,” such as Old Town and Forest Park. In addition, she’s been conducting writing workshops that tackle issues of displacement, prejudice, and civil liberties for school-age kids and homeless adults through the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, Street Roots, and Sisters of the Road. “People are so witty and interesting and creative with language all around us,” she says. “I try to create conditions for poetry to happen that’s not about making it easy and simplistic, which I hope honors all people.”
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Oregon Humanities magazine examines topics of broad public interest from a variety of perspectives and approaches. Recent issues of this publication have focused on stuff, nostalgia, and civility. Through good and thoughtful writing, Oregon Humanities magazine enriches our understanding of important subjects and stimulates conversation and reflection among readers, their friends, families, colleagues, and neighbors.
Barry Johnson has written about the arts since 1978 when he started writing about dance for the now-defunct Seattle Sun. He has edited arts sections at Willamette Week and The Oregonian, where he recently finished a twenty-six-year stint. You can find his up-to-the-minute thoughts on the arts at http://artsdispatch.blogspot.com.
Bette Lynch Husted lives and writes in Pendleton. She is the author of Above the Clearwater: Living on Stolen Land (OSU Press, 2004) and At This Distance: Poems (Wordcraft of Oregon, 2010). Lessons from the Borderlands, her collection of memoir essays about teaching, class, gender, and race, is forthcoming from Plain View Press. She is a 2004 Oregon Book Award and WILLA finalist and was awarded a 2007 Oregon Arts Commission fellowship.
Bob Bussel is associate professor of history and director of the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon. He has published numerous articles on labor history and contemporary labor issues, including a history of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. He is currently working on a book about working-class citizens.
Camela Raymond is a Portland-based writer whose work has appeared in Modern Painters, Plazm, the Oregonian, and elsewhere. She was previously an editor at Portland Monthly magazine and the founding editor/publisher of the Organ. She serves on the editorial advisory board of Oregon Humanities magazine.
Dave Weich is the president of Sheepscot Creative. The Portland-based company fosters engaging and profitable communication among businesses, consumers, colleagues, and fans. Weich is on the editorial advisory board of Oregon Humanities magazine.
David Bragdon served on the Portland regional Metro Council for nearly twelve years and was elected president in 2002. The major accomplishment of his service was an expansion of the regional parks and natural areas network known as the Intertwine. He resigned from the Metro Council in September 2010 in order to accept New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s appointment as director of the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.
Jedidiah Chavez is a visual artist and writer based in Portland. His work has been showcased in a variety of venues nationally and in the Pacific Northwest. Chavez was awarded a 2010 project grant by the Regional Arts and Culture Council.
Lucy Burningham is an independent writer and journalist who lives in Portland. She holds a master’s degree in nonfiction writing from Portland State University.
M. Allen Cunningham is the author of Lost Son, a novel about the life of Rainer Maria Rilke. His first novel, The Green Age of Asher Witherow was a #1 Booksense Pick and was shortlisted for the Booksense Book of the Year. He’s the recipient of an artist fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission and a Yaddo residency. His third novel, set partly in the Pacific Northwest, is forthcoming.