The Northwest Poets’ Concord began as a small hope during a rainy coastal winter. Discovering that the statewide east-west poets’ gathering would not occur that year, our founder Dr. Sandra Ellston used Erik Muller’s contact list to see if northwest poets would like to gather in Newport in the spring, during National Poetry Month. While the gathering was open to all comers, Sandy had in mind a conference format with a democratic impetus—hence the name “concord.” While a concord can be simply an agreeable meeting, it also captured the spirit of the gathering, defined best by its antonyms of antagonism, antipathy, enmity, hatred, hostility, unfriendliness, alienation, strife, and turmoil. The Concord sent the message that poets are of one heart, that poetry is an essential activity, and that poets and poetry readers can learn from each other. That first year, 2009, thirty-five poets came to the Hallmark Inn for a day and a half of simultaneous workshops, readings, and presentations and a Book Fair. They came from northern Washington and eastern Oregon and northern California, too. Barbara Drake gave the keynote address, tracing through definitions of Oregon Poetry by examining anthologies through the decades. Everyone celebrated on Saturday evening with an open mic at the Champagne Patio, which dedicated the restaurant to poets that night.
The first Concord was sponsored by Eastern Oregon University, the City of Newport, and the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition. It included a college-level course for students through EOU; those students who came found it a life-changing experience. It also included high school poets who arrived in limousines all decked out for their prom.
The call went forth for another Concord. The second year, 2010, seventy poets gathered, along with a myriad of local community members. The time frame expanded into Friday afternoon and Sunday morning. David Hargreaves and Henry Hughes of Western Oregon University gave the keynote “dialogue” on “what poetry takes from itself.” EOU students again attended and high school students again gave energetic readings of their own work. The Lane Literary Guild became an additional sponsor, and we sponsored a “best poem” contest, won in 2010 by Barbara La Morticella, as judged by Penelope Scambly Schott. A great open mic with a no-host bar took place from 6 to 9 p.m.
In 2011, approximately 100 people gathered for the Concord, now occupying three spaces each hour from Friday afternoon through Sunday at noon. Attendees were treated to an inspiring keynote address by Oregon’s Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen. Professional photography documenting Concord activities was supplied each year by Ellen Hamill, and volunteer registration activities by Linda Doerfler. In 2011 we also sold commemorative Concord coffee mugs. In 2011 the “best poem” was by Marie Buckley, as judged by Willa Schneberg. An advisory board helped forge the program for 2011. EOU students yet again found a life-changing experience, and there were enthusiastic open mic readings on Saturday.
For 2012 the Concord adds a web site and becomes allied with the Oregon coast’s premier literary organization, Writers on the Edge. We add a permanent new advisory board as well. This year’s keynote speaker is David Biespiel, winner of the 2011 Oregon Book Award in Poetry, and we will again offer a college course for EOU students.
Each year we are more and more excited by the program submissions. This is a gathering unlike any other. The Concord gratefully acknowledges on-going grant support from the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition, the EOU Foundation, the EOU Provost’s Office, Dean’s Office, and English program, the City of Newport, and the Lane Literary Guild.