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Newberg poet Lynn Otto's book, 'Real Daughter,' explores the often strained relationships between mothers and daughters

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lynn Otto's first book of poems, titled 'Real Daughter,' was recently released to the public by Unicorn Press.

The relationships between parents and children can be complicated and a Newberg author has explored just that in her first collection of poetry, which specifically looks at the battles between mothers and daughters.

Lynn Otto, originally from Washington, said she starting writing poetry after hearing The Writer's Almanac, a daily podcast and newsletter by Garrison Keillor on public radio. As she listened she focused on "how (poems) worked and how they were made, and I had fun. I lost track of time."

So she started writing poetry of her own.

"It was great fun and completely absorbing," Otto said. "I didn't know if they were any good, but I told myself I was just practicing. I still tell myself that. It helps me shut up the unhelpful critic in my head."Otto

Finally, a friend of hers who is also a poet invited Otto to a critique group to hear feedback on her work, which she said was a bit nerve-wracking. Then she sat in on a poetry writing class at George Fox University. "I wanted to learn everything I could about writing good poems," she said.

This eventually led Otto, who is also a freelance copy editor, to study poetry writing in a more structured way. So she enrolled in a graduate degree program in fine arts at Portland State University. However, it wasn't all smooth sailing.

Otto was put on the waitlist for PSU, although she eventually got in. However, she knew she would need financial assistance to continue in the program, since she "knew I was not going to make money."

But at the last minute she was awarded the Excellence Fellowship in Poetry and received her master's degree in fine arts in 2013. She has since given readings and workshops in several states, Canada, and France, and now serves on the board of the Oregon Poetry Association. Additionally, she was a 2015-2016 resident associate at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina.

While at PSU she started writing some of the poems that would eventually be collected in her first published book of poetry, "Real Daughter." Although she started some of the poems as individual creations, she ultimately began writing the book when her mother was diagnosed with ALS, also commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. She also said around that time she said the relationship with one of her children was going poorly.

"I guess I found that writing poems was helping me work through those things and find some relief," she said.

The collection is about relationships people have with one another, how people support one another and disappoint one another, she said. Specifically between mothers and daughters, she said the poems touch on "meeting expectations that are placed on you, versus being true to yourself and juggling them."

"Real Daughter" won the Unicorn Press First Book award in 2017, which meant the North Carolina-based Unicorn Press would publish her collection. It was originally supposed to be published in 2018, though flooding in North Carolina pushed that date back a year. The book is now available locally at Chapters bookstore and for preorder on Amazon.

Otto appeared at First Friday Art Walk at Chapters last week, signing copies of her book as well as giving free "mini critiques" to other poets who came in.

"Real Daughter" certainly won't be Otto's last publication. She said she has plenty of more material written that didn't make it into this collection, as she writes at least one poem a week. Right now, she said she's focusing on a new subject, namely "what do we do with what we know?" Living in a "post-information age," she said these poems will explore subjects like genetics and what do you do when you know you're predisposed to something.


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