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Northwest Passages: Shaindel Beers

Pete Springer/OPB

One of poet Shaindel Beers‘ early memories involves a 1972 Chevy Nova with no air conditioning and a blind family friend with a Pomeranian dog. She met both the summer her mother “kidnapped” her, long before her mom served time in jail. Beers’ first collection of poetry, A Brief History of Time, is largely autobiographical. She told me

“There are people who say they don’t want to visit Europe until they’ve seen all 50 states. I feel like that about myself. I wanted to explore me before other people’s psyches.”

She also told me she started writing poetry because “it’s faster than fiction.”

Here are the opening lines from her book’s title poem:

“Now that we each have someone who knows how
we take our coffee, that smallest but most telling of intimacies —
you, black, three sweeteners; me, cream, no sugar —
we’re each eating breakfast with other people who don’t
drink coffee at all. There seems to be a message here, but
I don’t know what it is. I’m no good at this love thing”

The Powell’s Books blog highlighted Beers’ slim volume as one of three “great Oregon books for the summer.” Garrison Keillor put one of her poems on his website. She’s also been hitting the blog interview circuit, experiencing first-hand the limits and opportunities in the changing publishing world.

Beers is now working on a collection of poems reflecting on artwork done by children who have lived in war zones. We’ll talk with her about what moves her to write, her “pretty tumultuous” childhood, students who inspire her, and falling in love with Eastern Oregon. You can read lots of her poetry online and post questions for her here.

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