When explaining his thoughts on how to engage people who don’t think they like poetry, poet Lex Runciman uses a baseball analogy.
“If a hitter gets one hit for every three at-bats, that’s a pretty darn good record,” he says. “Even three for ten ain’t bad. Same for poems: if you find something intriguing, something to like or to think about, in one poem for every three you hear or read, or even three for ten, then you’ve found a writer you ought to investigate.”
Runciman will be the featured writer at the January First Draft Writers’ Series, taking to the microphone on Thursday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Pendleton Center for the Arts. Those not able to join Runciman and other audience members in person are invited to join via a simultaneous Zoom session. The event is free and open to the public.
Following graduate study, Runciman taught for 11 years at Oregon State University and then for 25 years at Linfield College, where he was twice named Edith Green Distinguished Professor. He was recognized with an Oregon Book Award in 1989. His sixth book, Salt Moons: Poems 1981-2016, was published by Salmon Poetry (Ireland) in 2017, and a new volume, Unlooked For, is due soon. He was recognized with an Oregon Book Award in 1989.
“Poems,” Runciman explains, “try to make sense of experience with concision and elegance – even beauty – in the language itself. Most broadly, my sense of experience is that there is too much of it, and it goes by too fast. The result is often confusion, astonishment, even gratitude, and sometimes anger, sometimes terror. My impulse as a writer is to try to make sense of it, even if only in very small increments.”
When asked if he had an anecdote that would help illustrate his artistic point of view, Runciman shared a story.
“Years ago, when we lived in an aging apartment, an old car was parked at the curb,” he recalled. “In the year we lived there, that car never moved. Over months, it became dirtier and dirtier. Eventually, the woman whose kitchen window gave her a daily view of that car decided to wash it. In fact, she washed only – and exactly – what she could see from her kitchen window. A poem grew out of my sense of wonder, even admiration, of her actions.”
After Runciman’s reading there will be a short discussion with the audience, followed by open mic, where anyone can read their own 3-5 minute original work, either in person or via Zoom. First Draft Writers’ Series is funded in part through a grant from Oregon Humanities. More information is available at PendletonArts.org.