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Soapbox poetry sessions require no concessions

Michele Dishong-McCormack, a communications instructor, reads of “Poetry that Saved her Life” at the final Soapbox Poetry reading of the term in the Chemeketa Art Gallery on Dec. 1.

Michele Dishong-McCormack, a communications instructor, reads of “Poetry that Saved her Life” at the final Soapbox Poetry reading of the term in the Chemeketa Art Gallery on Dec. 1.

BY JENNIFER SPRING PHOTO BY BRAD BAKKE

The Soapbox Series of poetry readings started with an inspired conversation in Marilee Moore’s office one day.

“I thought it would be great to have poetry readings on campus,” Moore, the secretary for Bldg. 37, said.

That was in 2005, and the Soapbox Poetry Series is a now an established part of Chemeketa culture.

Moore quickly went to the college’s Theater Department and borrowed a wooden soapbox for speakers to stand on. She found a no-reservations-necessary venue in the busy sky bridge between Bldg. 1 and Bldg. 9. She lined up faculty members, staff, and students for impromptu 5-minute poetry readings at noon every Monday.

“I thoroughly enjoyed all the unique readings of diverse poets from around the world,“ Moore said. “There were even readings in Chinese, French, Arabic, Bulgarian and more.”

She also noticed that some students who casually stopped in passing to listen to the speakers began making a point to show up for future readings.

After five years, the college administration decided to move furniture into the sky bridge, and Soapbox was asked to find a new home.

Moore went on to other projects, and the Humanities Department began hosting the series in the Gretchen Schuette Art Gallery in Bldg. 3.

Tammy Jabin, an English instructor, is the current organizer of the Soapbox Series and also serves as a coordinator of the College Writing Center.

Jabin said that by attending the readings, students can see what their English instructors are passionate about doing outside of teaching.

“It’s also a great service for the faculty. Poetry is one of those things that is sustaining … that can make it worth coming to work on a rainy day. You get to go and look at pretty pictures and hear somebody read poetry to you. It’s a good thing,” she said.

The Soapbox series runs during the regular academic year, with themes changing quarterly.

“Poetry That Saved My Life” began Oct. 6 and concluded Dec. 1. Readers were Jill Rupert, Stephanie Lenox, LeAnna Crawford, David Hallett, and Michele Dishong McCormack.

The Soapbox series theme for the Winter Term is “Nature/Nurture.” It will feature Josie Wood on Jan. 12, Jon Boisvert on Jan. 26, Don Brase on Feb. 9, Brian Mosher on Feb. 23, and Kevin Dye on March 9.

Readings start at noon and run until 12:20 p.m. Chairs are set up in the gallery to accommodate the audience. The atmosphere is casual.

A podium now takes the place of a soapbox, but the passion for sharing poetry with the community continues.

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