Peotica’s past

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Reception celebrates Ars Poetica archive

By Aimee Kidrick

News & Features Editor


Many poets and writers have visited Eastern Oregon University over the years. One of these individuals, George Venn, hasn’t let their contributions to the college be forgotten.

Literary enthusiasts, including Venn, gathered in Pierce Library April 30 to talk about Venn’s donation of Ars Poetica materials to the library. Refreshments were provided in addition to free commemorative posters that featured information posters of past Ars Poetica events. Although the crowd at the event was small in number, people were fascinated by the notes documented in the volumes

Venn’s donations to Pierce Library include large volumes of poetry, both hand and typewritten, press clippings, posters and photographs. Totaling over $24,000 in value, the materials showcase 27 years of EOU’s literary history, beginning with the first Ars Poetica event in 1961.

“This gift documents Ars Poetica as a quality, 50-year literary program that distinguishes EOU from the majority of comparable schools anywhere in the northwest,” Venn said.

Many of the items in the collection, including correspondence with Ars Poetica readers, were gathered from Venn’s time as Ars Poetica adviser. The collection also includes items related to notable authors such as Ursula K. LeGuin, Ken Kesey, William Stafford and many others. However, the records do not include the reel-to-reel and cassette audio recordings housed in Pierce Library; some tapes have been lost or misfiled, while the rest may not even be playable due to being so fragile.

“I’m very grateful to George for keeping (the posters, press clippings and other texts) and putting in the time and effort to archive them,” said library director Karen Clay. “The library is getting a truly unique collection as a result.”

Ron Bayes watched over the Ars Poetica series from 1961 to 1968 before Venn took over in 1970. He directed Ars Poetica for nearly two decades before current directors David Axelrod and Jodi Varon were appointed in 1989. Venn’s love for literature and poetry, however, remains strong.

“I encourage the creation of additional volumes and I encourage researchers to discover corroborative records—in the local and campus press, in the memories of individuals and in other archives,” said Venn. “There is a story worth telling here: how does a sophisticated literary community endure for over half a century in the smallest and most remote university in Oregon?”

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