Looking Beyond Oregon for Poetic Inspiration

By Sue Fagalde Lick, OPA president

Oregon boasts hundreds of wonderful poets, but our state is just one tiny part of the poetry world. In June, I traveled to Columbus, Ohio for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ annual convention and witnessed a much larger chunk of that world. The convention was a hybrid, with about 150 people meeting in person and many others joining via Zoom.

Did you know that if you are member of Oregon Poetry Association, you are automatically a member of NFSPS, too? You are eligible to enter its contests, receive its publications, and network with poets all over the USA.

Did you know we are not the only OPA? We share initials with the Ohio chapter.

I was proud to represent our state organization, which has more members than any other state poetry association affiliated with NFSPS. We are doing some wonderful things here, including workshops, readings, contests, publications, and our upcoming conference, but I got some ideas for more things we could do. Poetry festival? Zoom rooms any member can use? A podcast featuring Oregon poets? More experienced poets mentoring newer poets? A slam chapter?

The convention, with the theme “Renewal through Poetry,” offered four days of poetry events, including a poetry hike, announcement and readings of the prizewinning individual poems and books in its 54 (!) contest categories, workshops on various facets of poetry-writing, and a keynote address by Hanif Abdurraqib. State chapter presidents met to exchange ideas and talk about common issues, and the entire assembly met to hear reports from each state and vote on new national officers. For me, the best parts were the casual conversations and the nightly open mics in the courtyard as fireflies flitted around us. I came home with many new friendships. I also got to hang out with the wonderful Eleanor Berry, a past president of both Oregon Poetry Association and NFSPS.

The Nationwide Convention Center in Columbus where we met offered elegant accommodations for our gathering—and effective air conditioning to counter the hot, muggy weather. Every year in June, a different state hosts the NFSPS convention. We do not yet have a location for 2023. There was a lot of buzz about Oregon doing it again sometime soon. The previous convention in Coos Bay, which happened before my time in OPA, was a big hit. All it takes is an energetic group of volunteers to put it on. It would be a great chance to show off, and we wouldn’t have to travel across the country to do it.

Take a look at the NFSPS.org website. Join in where you can. If nothing else, plan to enter some of the contests. With so many categories, you’re bound to win something, and the winning poems are published in a beautiful anthology titled Encore. Stretch beyond the Pacific Northwest to meet poets online or in person from other states, other cultures, and other accents. It may inspire a few new poems. Remember, if you are a member of OPA, you are also a member of NFSPS. Don’t miss the good stuff available there.

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