Newly opened Tahoe poetry center aims to grow literary community
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — The Lake Tahoe region has an established place for residents and visitors to read and learn about poetry and other forms of literature.
The Sierra Nevada College Poetry Center, which opened last week in the school’s Prim Library, aims to further develop the literary community in Incline Village, Lake Tahoe and Northern Nevada by hosting events, readings and making literature available to the public.
“We are hoping to create a common resource that allows people to read, talk and think about contemporary poetry,” said SNC Vice President and Provost Shannon Beets, who’s also a Poetry Center Advisory Board member.
The center is funded by a grant from the Nevada State Library and Archives and the Institute for Museum and Library Studies.
SNC Library Director Betts Markle applied for the grant in December 2012; the school received $48,750 to establish the center.
Markle looks forward to sharing the collection and watching it grow.
“It’s not just a storage place for poetry books, but a place where we can reach out to the community,” said Markle.
Five hundred volumes were acquired through grant funding, and an additional 3,000 were donated from Clint Colby and Rodney Phillips, previous librarians at the University of Arizona Poetry Center.
“Everything has to start somewhere,” Markle said. “The poetry center is small but I think it’s going to have an exciting growth.”
In addition to the books, Prim Library is also displaying poetry from local and award-winning poets.
“Words + Images: Broadsides from the Black Rock Press” is an installment of poems from local writers like Robert Laxalt and Gailmarie Pahmeier, printed using an iron hand press. The broadsides will be displayed throughout the library until May 20.
For the center’s grand opening, SNC hosted Poet Laureate of California Juan Felipe Herrera and award-winning poet Jane Hirshfield to read their poetry.
Writers from around the lake came to attend the workshops and support the center’s opening.
“I know the writing program is really strong here already, but I think the poetry center will be enriching to the community as a whole and bring more culture,” said Jennifer Morrison, a teacher and ski coach from Truckee.
Herrera is the son of migrant farm workers who earned degrees from UCLA, Stanford University and the Iowa’s Writers Workshop.
The poet visited Incline High School last week, and he encouraged students to express themselves through poetry.
Markle said some students were inspired to start their own poetry club.
“To have a poet who really related to students was really special to them,” Markle. “If we can do things like that, that really engage students and expose them to something broader than our small community, then that’s great.”
In 2006, a study titled “Poetry in America” by the Poetry Foundation released information about Americans’ positive attitudes toward the art form.
After interviewing more than 1,000 people nationwide, researchers found that 90 percent of Americans value poetry and believe it enriches readers’ lives.
Markle said she isn’t sure why Northern Nevada is becoming a literary destination, but believes Incline has educated citizens who are interested in poetry.
“One of the things I’ve really been thrilled with is the passion and enthusiasm the community has expressed for this,” Markle said. “It’s fun to watch it.”
Markle doesn’t consider herself a poet, but she does believe that poetry has something for everyone.
“What it brings is meaning,” she said. “It brings personal meaning because each poem means something different to each individual. Some poetry is going to strike the heart of a person differently than another kind of poetry.”
Sierra Nevada College offers an MFA in Creative Writing as well as a Bachelor of Arts in the field.
Through its Literary Speaker Series, Writer in the Woods, the yearly Writers in Residence and the school’s award winning faculty, SNC provides a literary community for Incline Village and Northern Nevada.