First Friday Post

Ah, summer. A time to slow down, and a time to catch up on some of the reading I’ve been planning to do all year. I have a big stack of books waiting for me, and I’m eager to get at them! This is the first of what I hope will be a summer long series of book and/or movie reviews, posted on Fridays.

I finished four books this week, all excellent:

The Pale of Settlement, by Margot Singer
This is a collection of linked short stories, that all have as their central character Susan, the American born daughter of Israeli immigrants. The stories span in time  from the 1982 war in Lebanon, through the suicide bombings of 2003, deftly weaving in current events with the personal history of Susan’s family, and exploring the connection between identity, family, and memory. Beautifully written, this is an excellent read.

Bone Worship, by Elizabeth Eslami
This fiction work centers around Jasmine Fahroodhi, the daughter of an Iranian father and an American mother. When Jasmine returns home after failing to graduate from college, her father launches a plan to arrange a marriage for her.   This is a coming of age story about one young woman’s search to discover who she is in this world, and her attempt to understand her enigmatic immigrant father.  The ending seemed a bit glossy to me, but I still found the book to be an easy and interesting read.

Like the Heart, the World, by Sage Cohen
I met Sage recently at a bridge and poetry walk, and was moved by hearing Sage read the title story from this poetry collection. These poems are divided into three  sections: New York, San Francisco, and Portland, corresponding to places Sage has lived. All the poems are rich in imagery, and intertwine self-reflection with accurate observations of the outside world. This is a poetry collection that can be read again and again.

Deer Drink the Moon, edited by Liz Nakazawa
Ooligan Press published this collection of Oregon poetry. The sections are divided by geographical regions: Coastal Range, Willamette Valley, Cascades, Eastern Cascade Slopes and Foothills, Blue Mountains, Klamath Mountains, and Northern    Basin and Range. There are many well known poets included in this collection,   such as William and Kim Stafford, Judith Barrington, Floyd Skloot, and newly named Oregon Poet Laureate Paulann Peterson, but these are by no means the only poets that are engaging. I found the collection well rounded, and discovered new local poets to keep my eye on. I also enjoyed getting a sense of other regions in Oregon, as I have rarely ventured outside Willamette Valley, Mt. Hood, and the coastal beaches.

Bridge and Poetry Walk

This recap is cross posted on Reading Local: Portland. Check out the great aerial photo of Portland’s bridges on RLP.

Event Recap: Bridge and Poetry Walk

It would be impossible to ask for nice weather than yesterday, for the first bridge walk of the 2010 season, led by Sharon Wood Wortman, author of The Portland Bridge Book, and leader of waterfront bridge walks for Portland Parks & Outdoor Recreation since 1991.

Assembling on the steps of the Northwest Natural Building (NW Second & Everett), we started our day by touring the Oregon Dept. of Transportation’s Traffic Management Operation Center. Webcams provide live feed from highways around the region, and on a good day (from the traffic standpoint), nothing out of the ordinary happens. But in case of an emergency, there is a control room equipped with a table where a bank of telephones pops up at the touch of a button, like something out of a James Bond film!

Then in the museum, Sharon gave us an abbreviated version of Bridges 101. We learned that there are three main types of bridges: suspension bridges (like the St. John’s Bridge), arch bridges (like the Fremont Bridge), and beam or truss bridges (the prevalent kind).And of the movable bridges, those also come in three flavors: vertical lift bridges, swing, and bascule.

Poet Sage Cohen then presented the first of our poetry moments, reading to us the title poem from her poetry book Like the Heart, the World. This dovetailed quite nicely with Judith Barrington’s Walking North, from the Oregon poetry anthology Deer Drink the Moon, edited by Liz Nakazawa. With that, we were ready to go out and face bridges. A short ride on MAX took us to our first bridge, the Morrison. Just as we arrived, we were able to witness the bridge being raised from above, and then a second time, as we toured the bascule pit. I will say that it was impressive (and not a little bit scary) to stand just feet away, and see the 940-ton counterweights lift the bridge!

We had another poetry moment, crowded there in the control tower of the Morrison, and then went out on the deck to see how many other bridges we could spy in the distance. Visible were the top of the Fremont, the Broadway, the Steel Bridge, the Burnside, the Morrison, the Hawthorne, and the OHSU sky bridge. There’s also the St. Johns, the BNSF Railway 5.1, and the Ross Island, but I’m not sure we could see them from where we were standing. Another ride on MAX took us to the Eastbank Esplanade, where we crossed back over the lower deck of the Steel Bridge, but not until after we got to see it lift as well.

More walking along the waterfront, more poetry, and a little demonstration of harmonic oscillation, as we all jumped in the air simultaneously on the pedestrian bridge leading to Union Station, eliciting a few strange looks from passerbys. To enhance the effect, Amtrak passed below us just at this juncture. Sitting on the steps on the other side, Sharon read us her poem, Supporting the Divine, while two volunteers demonstrated the principle of the cantilevered kiss.

This sadly is the last year Sharon will be offering the bridge walks, but you can still catch one of the three bridge walks (scroll down to “2010 Bridge Walks”) left this season. And there will be a PDX Bridge Festival running from July 24 – August 7 this summer, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Hawthorne Bridge. Finally, for all of you poets out there, Sage will present a free poetry workshop this Monday, June 7th from 11-12:30 at the Portland Chinese Gardens.

Salamander & Co. joined us to shoot a video of the walk, which hopefully will be available within the year.