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George Venn / Photo by Marie Balaban
April 25, 2014
LA GRANDE, Ore. (EOU) – Four volumes of original hand and typewritten poems, signed cards, photographs, press clippings, posters and other items comprise a significant new addition to EOU’s Pierce Library.
The materials span 27 years of literary history at the university, beginning in 1961 with the first reel-to-reel recording of the ongoing Ars Poetica reading series.
George Venn, director of the series from 1970 to 1989, is the curator of this distinct collection and has donated it to Pierce Library through the EOU Foundation.
A reception with refreshments is planned from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, April 30 at the library to unveil the Ars Poetica Archive.
Karen Clay, library director, will introduce Venn, an emeritus professor of English and writer-in-residence. He will comment on the origin and contents of the archive, answer questions and make acknowledgments.
“These materials could have so easily ended up lost and forgotten,” Clay said. “I’m very grateful to George for keeping them and putting in the time and effort to archive them. The library is getting a truly unique collection as a result.”
Alumni, faculty and students are invited to examine the archive and share memories of EOU’s literary heritage during the reception. In particular, attendees will be encouraged to contribute memorabilia they may have saved from Ars Poetica’s early years. Commemorative posters will also be available to take home.
The reading series has brought many prize-winning authors and poets to campus through the years. Venn’s collection contains items of interest related to Ursula K. Le Guin, William Stafford, Ken Kesey, Czeslaw Milosz, among others.
As a whole, the archive has been independently valued at $24,300.
“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. “Overall, it shows that sophisticated and timely literary events have been sustained by dedicated faculty, students and administrators. Best of all, Ars Poetica continues to flourish and enjoys the support of the community.”
Ron Bayes was the original director of the series from 1961 to 1968. Herb Gottfried replaced Bayes in 1968 and Venn took over responsibility for the program in the fall of 1970. David Axelrod and Jodi Varon were appointed in 1989 and have guided the series for the past 26 years. English major Will Bowman works closely with them as the current student director.
All Ars Poetica directors have administered the creative writing program, advised the student literary magazine, and taught writing and literature courses for the English department.
Click above to view event poster.
“While great care has been taken to assure the accuracy of these first historical records of the literary community associated with Eastern Oregon University, I hope that they will be expanded, corrected, verified and shared,” Venn said.
“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. 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?”
For information on accessing the Ars Poetica Archive, visit library.eou.edu/collections or call 541-962-3579. Find out about upcoming readings at www.facebook.com/EouArsPoetica.
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