Winners chosen in Old Town neighborhood poetry contest
City officials and residents gathered at the Lake Oswego Public Library last week to hear the winners of a poetry contest hosted by the Old Town Neighborhood Association.
The three winning poems were authored by Skyland resident Luke Donaldson, Evergreen resident Lisa Brisley and Westlake resident Lisa Helfer.
"This is a town that really values poetry," said Library Director Bill Baars, who served as the host for the ceremony.
Last year, the Old Town Neighborhood Association secured a Neighborhood Enhancement Grant from the City to etch short poems onto three sidewalk tiles at historically significant locations in Lake Oswego's oldest neighborhood. The neighborhood association partnered with the library to hold the contest and find three winning poems from local writers.
The contest had strict length and formatting rules for the poems in order to make sure they would all fit on the sidewalk tiles, but that didn't deter the participants; more than 80 poems were submitted, including 17 in a separate youth category.
"Who knew there were 80 people who wanted to write sidewalk poems in Lake Oswego alone," said Old Town Neighborhood Association Chair Craig Stephens at the start of the ceremony.Lake Oswego Preservation Society President MaryLou Colver gave attendees a brief overview of the history of Old Town. All three poems will be etched on tiles at intersections along Durham Street, which is named for Albert Durham, who established the original 640-acre land claim that included the town side and part of the future Oswego Lake.
The winning poems were selected by a three-judge panel consisting of Baars, Colver and Lake Oswego Planning Director Scot Siegel, who is a published poet. The poems were all evaluated anonymously, Baars said — the judges hadn't seen the names of any of the entrants when they sat down in the historic Old Town Workers Cottage to read through the poems.
"We really wanted to think about that place," Baars said. "What would it mean to see those words in that environment?"
When they saw the full list of names after the winners were selected, Baars said the judges were surprised to see a number of very well known local figures and writers among the submissions. He added that the judges were impressed with the quality of all of the submissions.
"Even among the ones we didn't pick, there were amazing entries," he said.
Brisley and Helfer's poems were the two winners from the adult category, and Donaldson's poem was selected from the youth category. Donaldson, 10, attends Westridge Elementary School.
The three sidewalk tiles have already been selected by the neighborhood association and were chosen because of their proximity to a set of existing historical display boards. The poems will be etched by local artist Fred Bass, who has previously worked on brick tiles outside the Lakewood Center for the Arts.
The engraving is expected to take place later this month or in June, although the exact date isn't certain. The key factor, according to Stephens, is that Bass will need five consecutive days to perform the engraving, and there has to be absolutely no chance of rain during that time.
As I walk along the Willamette
I love to eat the blackberries
and dip my feet in the water
and pick up rocks as I go.
— Luke Donaldson
(Will be engraved at Durham and Wilbur streets)
You are not the only one
Talking in this Old Town
Your ancestors whisper
Into your present steps
Their voices carry your future
— Lisa Brisley
(Will be engraved at Durham and Leonard streets)
ONE DAY, ALONGSIDE ALL ROADS
ALL PATHS LED HERE.
TO THIS VERY SPOT, WHERE YOU
NOW STAND. AND HEARTS SANG.
LIFE WRITES ITS CHAPTERS, AS
WE INTERSECT AND KNOW.
FEET TRAVEL TO THE BEAT, AS
WE WALK, WE DANCE, AND WE LOVE.
— Lisa Helfer
(Will be engraved at Durham and Church streets)