Poet's home will lure writers to Portland area
An Oregon poet's legacy may help bolster the Portland region's literary luster.
A trustee of Carolyn Moore's estate recently endowed her family farm on Walnut Street in Tigard to Portland Community College. The donated estate, valued at $5.5 million, makes it the largest donation ever given to PCC. The home will be used as a writer's retreat, dubbed the Carolyn Moore Writers House.
"My aunt Carolyn had a love of learning," Erica Klassen, Moore's niece, said, "so PCC is a great fit for her vision."
Included in the Writers House estate is a 2,500-square-foot log cabin on nine acres and a fund to support the retreat's operations for the next 20 years. Before her death in April 2019, Moore stipulated that she wanted the home to be donated and a residency program created in her honor. The gift caps off PCC's Campaign for Opportunity, which brought in $45 million in fundraising by the end of 2020.
Moore was prolific, racking up more than 90 awards and accolades for her work during her lifetime, due in-part to her constant poetry contest entries. She once dubbed herself a "contest junkie."
Eventually, Moore became so accustomed to entering poetry contests, she got wise to scams and began offering advice to other poets about how to scout out worthy competitions.
Later in her career, Moore was part of a five-woman poetry troupe in Portland called Take Five.
A bio of Moore from Annie Bloom's Books described her as "a recovering academic," following her career as a professor at Humboldt State University in northern California.
Moore also published several chapbooks, showcasing her witty, frank and at times irreverent voice alongside her masterful use of poetic devices.
The PCC Foundation was one of a handful of organizations that applied for the Writers House. The foundation credits its acquisition of the home to PCC's "long-term commitment to honoring Carolyn's legacy and for the depth of writing programs available for its students."
PCC offers more than 70 classes of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, screenwriting and editing and publishing to its 1,200 students.
Justin Rigamonte teaches composition and poetry at PCC's Cascade campus. He's also on the college's Humanities and Arts Council (HARTS) and has been tapped to serve as the project lead for the Carolyn Moore Writers House. Rigamonte said the college likely will invite a few writers to "test out" the estate before implementing an application process. Visiting writers will receive a stipend during their stay. In exchange, they'll do readings and class visits for PCC students.
"The benefit to PCC is having these fantastic writers come and be part of our community for a while and develop that relationship with (students)," Rigamonte said, noting the estate will be open to "both emerging and established writers."
Rigamonte said the college will likely look to offer residency programs to early career poets and nonfiction writers, but may also consider fiction writers.
While the house is meant for visiting authors, it will also be available to faculty, alumni and select current students to use, if they're advanced or developed enough.
"We have so many talented writers who are underprivileged for whatever reason," Rigamonte said. "For one reason or another, they just don't feel like they're ready to break into the literary world in the U.S. I think having this program and having this space and succession of great writers coming is really going to be the next step up for us in terms of what we can offer students."
Andrew Cohen, an English professor at PCC, said part of the beauty of the Carolyn Moore Writers House is being able to offer a residency program that has traditionally been relegated to ivy league or private universities.
"To have something like this, especially located at a community college, seems really important," Cohen said. "The idea that those people, not just students who are at more prestigious schools, not just people at private institutions, anybody can walk in and have access to reserves typically reserved to students with more means and access. It reflects very deeply the values at the core of community college in terms of giving everyone access to these things. Students who are interested in writing, interested in the creative possibility, they get the message in very concrete ways that this is a place that supports them in exploring those possibilities."
PCC Foundation directors say they hope the donated home will bridge cultural and economic divides among students.
"To the best of our knowledge, PCC's Carolyn Moore Writers House will be the first such program in the nation to be hosted at a community college," PCC Foundation Executive Director Ann Prater said in an announcement about the endowment. "More importantly, it will provide a bridge to student success, through literature, for students who otherwise might never have such an opportunity."
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