7 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month in Portland

From public-art verse to new collections and bookstore readings, here's how to fill April with poetry aplenty.

By Jackson Main and Shayla Norris-York March 29, 2019

Morgan Parker hits Powell's on Tuesday, April 2, with her new collection, Magical Negro.

April is National Poetry Month, which seems as good an excuse as any to take advantage of Portland’s wide-ranging poetry offerings. Unsure where to begin? Read on for seven ways to inject more poetry into your life, from public-art verse to teenage slam poets to new collections and bookstore readings.

Read between the Orange Line

When TriMet opened the Orange Line in 2015, not only did it bestow 21 art installations upon the public, the public transit agency also scattered 102 poems along the 7.3-mile stretch of light rail. Portlanders were called to submit 50 words or less, judged by a blind jury. Peg Butler and Buster Simpson, both artists and art consultants, engraved the winning words into the concrete for commuters to ponder. Work from former Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Petersen and Cleveland High School grad Monica Arnone (16) can also be found incorporated into Anne Storrs’s steel-and-concrete Along These Lines on the Rhine-Lafayette Pedestrian Overpass.

Browse a new collection from one of Portland’s top poets

Zachary Schomburg, winner of a 2013 Oregon Book Award, returns from a brief poetry hiatus (he was completing his first novel, Mammotherwith a fresh collection of perplexingly eloquent work. Having explored such topics as unborn daughters, robbers disguised as sacks of potatoes, and falling in love with swans in past poems, we can expect more uncomfortably relatable absurdism in Pulver Maar, the fifth compilation from perhaps Portland’s most celebrated teacher/copywriter/illustrator/filmmaker/publisher/poet.  

Go see one of America's most electrifying young poets at Powell's

Los Angeles-based dynamo Morgan Parker has said her poems are born of consumption: a steady drip of Real Housewives and Top Chef and Law & Order, along with Foucault, YA literature, and novels set in the '70s. Her 2017 collection, the nervily titled There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, mined pop culture, sex, politics, and mental health for an electric, engrossing exploration of black womanhood. Her latest, Magical Negro, which was released by local publisher Tin House earlier this year, is a scorching look at the experience of being black in America. 7:30 p.m. Thu, April 2, Powell’s City of Books, FREE

Hunker down at Mouther Foucault’s for a joint poetry reading

Portland State University professor and author Rob Schlegel reads from his latest work, In the Tree Where the Double Sex Sleeps, which tackles preconceived ideas about masculinity and fatherhood. Schlegel will be joined by Katie Peterson, a professor at University of California, Davis, who'll be read from her new collection, A Piece of Good News7 p.m. Sat., Apr 20, Mother Foucault’s Bookshop, FREE

Watch high-school slam poets duke it out

Get your finger snaps ready: in this eighth annual citywide slam, spoken-word poets from a dozen local high schools perform original work in a bid for top lyrical laurels. 7 p.m. Thu, Apr 25, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, $10–70

Pick up a new book

Powell's marks National Poetry Month with 15 percent off all poetry, and Multnomah Village shop Annie Bloom’s will also have a special poetry display. Looking for a jumping-off point? The Multnomah County Library has compiled some recommendations.

Grab a pen and find your nook

Bars and coffee shops have long helped spark the writing process. Pack your favorite collection and your Moleskine, order a cup of joe or a stiff drink, and let your creative juices flow. Portland-raised poet twins Matthew and Michael Dickman have been known to go over edits at Cassidy’s, while Stumptown at the Ace Hotel lobby provides a perfect setting to sink into a Gunlocke chair and jot down some thoughts while people-watching.

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