When the going gets tough (and we mean really, really tough) what pulls you back from the edge? For some folks, it’s revisiting a favorite poem; for others, it’s about finding something — anything — to laugh at, even when the circumstances are hardly humorous. From historic preservation to nuclear fallout, this week’s show proves there’s no one way to survive.


Mary Oliver, the American poet known for her meditations on the beauty of the natural world, passed away on January 17. 

Mary Oliver, the American poet known for her meditations on the beauty of the natural world, passed away on January 17. 

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Remembering Mary Oliver - 1:23

Mary Oliver, the American poet famed for her elegantly unadorned observations of the natural world, died on Jan. 17. A recipient of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Oliver was also a bestselling author, something few poets achieve. She was a devotee of solitary sojourns, often writing of the natural world — both its beauty and its brutality — and the lessons she gleaned from it. For its simplicity, Oliver’s poetry occasionally inspires controversy and debate. But it is precisely this accessibility that has most profoundly shaped Oliver’s legacy. This week, we revisit the lecture she delivered for Literary Arts.


Claudia Rankine's book, "Citizen: An American Lyric" combines poetry, essays, and criticism to examine the lasting impacts of racism. 

Claudia Rankine’s book, “Citizen: An American Lyric” combines poetry, essays, and criticism to examine the lasting impacts of racism. 

John Lucas 

Claudia Rankine: American Lyricist - 10:00

In her 2014 book of critical essays and poems, “Citizen: An American Lyric,” Claudia Rankine examines the enduring traumas of racism. Blurring the lines between genres and forms, Rankine’s poetry underscores the necessity of self-preservation and conceives of methods for survival. Rankine’s tactics often involve speaking up, rather than retreating inward. Last year, OPB “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller spoke with Rankine about navigating the world as a black woman, having difficult conversations about race, and demanding visibility.


Cleo Davis Jr., a local artist and designer, spearheaded the effort to relocate the historic Mayo house in Portland's Eliot neighborhood, saving the home from demolition. 

Cleo Davis Jr., a local artist and designer, spearheaded the effort to relocate the historic Mayo house in Portland’s Eliot neighborhood, saving the home from demolition. 

Amelia Templeton/OPB

Preserving a Piece of Portland’s Black History - 24:35

To some Portland residents, gentrification may seem like a new problem. But for many of the city’s black families, it’s part of a much longer legacy, in which public policy undermines their property rights. OPB’s Amelia Templeton brought us the story of the Martin Mayo house. Slated for demolition, this historic home got a reprieve this week, thanks to preservationists and one artist couple, Cleo Davis Jr. and his wife, Kayin Talton-Davis. But this isn’t the first time the Davis family has come to the city asking for help saving a home. The entwined stories of these two houses tells a vital narrative about Portland’s black history and the roadblocks that racist city policies place before generations of black families. We invited Amelia to tell us more.


Croatian actress Mia Zara stars as Zlata in 'No Candy,' Portland Playhouse's production about Bosnian women who survived the Srebrenica massacre. 

Croatian actress Mia Zara stars as Zlata in ‘No Candy,’ Portland Playhouse’s production about Bosnian women who survived the Srebrenica massacre. 

Brud Giles/Courtesy Portland Playhouse

Actress Mia Zara: Working Through Wartime Trauma Onstage - 35:00

Portland Playhouse is home to a new production about making sense of inexplicable tragedy. “No Candy” tells the story of a group of Bosnian Muslim women who, having survived the Srebrenica massacre of 1995, now work together at the memorial’s gift shop. Mia Zara — the Croatian-born actress playing Zlata, the lead — survived the Balkan War, herself. Allison Frost of OPB’s “Think Out Loud” spoke with Zara about the experiences she brings to the stage, and the role of humor in contending with trauma. “No Candy” is onstage at the Portland Playhouse until Feb. 12.


"Fallout Dogs," Julia Oldham's experimental film about the stray dogs of Chernobyl, is on view at the Portland Pataphysical Society until February 17. 

“Fallout Dogs,” Julia Oldham’s experimental film about the stray dogs of Chernobyl, is on view at the Portland Pataphysical Society until February 17. 

Courtesy Julia Oldham

Julia Oldham and the Dogs of Chernobyl Return to Portland - 41:45

Eugene-based artist Julia Oldham spent time last summer in the Ukrainian city of Pripyat, a would-be Atomic Age paradise, and the closest town to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Today, Pripyat is part of what’s called the exclusion zone — the area evacuated and ultimately abandoned after the explosion. Oldham went to photograph the dogs who, long after humans left, still make their home in the exclusion zone. Since we spoke in September, Oldham has finished an experimental film made with footage from her trip to Pripyat. You can catch “Fallout Dogs” at the Portland Pataphysical Society on Saturdays between noon and 5 p.m. The film is on view through Feb. 17. The longer version of our conversation is over here.

On her trip to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant's exclusion zone, Julia Oldham collected footage of this "self-settler," Valentina and her chihuahua, Danna. 

On her trip to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant’s exclusion zone, Julia Oldham collected footage of this “self-settler,” Valentina and her chihuahua, Danna. 

Courtesy Julia Oldham


Music Heard On 'State Of Wonder'

A Spotify playlist to share all the music we feature on our show and anything else that inspires us while we’re making it.