By chris conrad
The pretentious coffee shops of New York City have nothing on Medford when it comes to poetry.
This was the impression of a group of local poets who gathered Saturday at the Medford library to read a selection of verse dedicated to the Rogue Valley’s flagship town.
Former Oregon poet laureate Lawson Fusao Inada, a Medford resident himself, celebrated the first book of poetry dedicated to the city.
“I love this because we deserve a bit of bragging rights,” Inada said.
The book in mind is titled “Poets Write About Medford” and many of the poems inside were recited, or in some cases sung, by a group of local verse enthusiasts on Saturday.
The book was put together by Carol Brockfield, who serves on the board of the Oregon Poetry Association.
“We have poets from all over the state in this book,” she said.
Brockfield will have the book available in Bloomsbury Books in Ashland and possibly in Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Medford if enough copies are printed.
Brockfield noted Medford’s past as the heart of the railroad line in her poem “Medford, My Home” with the opening verse, “Medford was a railroad town, they say/ and I have read it’s true./ I hear the whistle blowing in the night/ when the train comes through.”
Dee Chadwell wrote about seeing the Rogue Valley open up beneath her from the window of an airplane.
“And then the descent — a hole opened in/ the blanket of cloud — rose-tinted and peach-edged/ from the rays of the setting sun/ that blessed our plane/ as it slipped down into this hallowed valley,” she read.
You’d think a roomful of poets would be a solemn, pretentious bunch, but the mood was lighthearted throughout the reading, with people cracking jokes about such things as Zen meditation on a rock close to a Taco Bell near Hawthorne Park.
Poet Tiel Aisha Ansari rocked the reading with a song reading of her poem “Pass by Slow” in which she described hurtling toward Medford south on Interstate 5.
“Myrtle Creek curve at forty-five/ That’s how to do it if you wanna survive. Take it slow/ You know you got it take it that slow/ That curve will roll you like it rolled so many before,” she read.
Inada said that the poems read on Saturday would strike listeners from around the country as adventurous. Medford, he said, is unique in its ability to inspire poems about intimidating mountains on all sides and a modern urban city, with all the problems therein, nestled in between.
“If a person from New York City would read these poems, they would find adventure in them,” he said.
Inada encouraged anyone who is new to Rogue Valley and veteran residents to check out the book.
“It really is the first of its kind,” he said.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.