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Wenatchee-based poet Susan Blair creates venues for poetry writers and listeners

When Susan Blair moved to Wenatchee from Seattle in 2013, she soon began to miss one thing: an outlet to share and enjoy poetry. She looked high and low to find a group or a place for this genre of writing, but without luck.

Blair came to Wenatchee upon retirement and was able to fully immerse herself into her passion for poetry. As for her background, she graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont with a double major in German and Russian. She moved to Seattle in 1978, working in the realm of computer systems, sales and finally for the Government.

In order to satisfy her love for literature, Blair joined the WRITE-ON-THE-RIVER organization (www.write-on-the-river.com).  She took a board position as the facilitator of the monthly “Writers Meeting Writers” events for one year. All the while, she was hungry for a place for poetry which the writing organization did not include in its programs.

Susan Blair with group

The idea brewed in her mind for a few years and in 2018, she was ready to create a venue for poets to gather. With a friend, she came up with the name Poetry Podium, and Café Columbia (www.cafecolumbia.net) at Wenatchee’s Pybus Public Market (https://pybuspublicmarket.org) kindly offered their space for the inaugural event on February 28, 2018. It was no small showing of poetry fans, either; eighteen people attended the gathering.

Blair has since changed the venue to Radar Station (http://www.radarstationart.com/) at 115 South Wenatchee Avenue due to the quiet and art-oriented space it offers. The Podium meetings are held every last wednesday of the month at the Radar Station. Doors open at 4 pm, the event begins at 4:15 pm. They are free and open to anyone who is interested in either reading or listening.

This summer the Podium was welcomed at Joseph Downs’ Lavender Ranch (www.thelavenderboutique.net) in East Wenatchee to enjoy the outdoor setting, surrounded by an ocean of purple. Instead of the expected handful of attendees, some twenty people came to enjoy the evening and the views of the sun setting over the Wenatchee Valley.

Perri the Poetry Fairy

Blair had made previous appearances at the Lavender Ranch events as Perri the Poetry Fairy, which is her turquoise-dressed persona to introduce children to the magical world of verse. Perri visited local schools in the past years to enliven the English instruction, but currently the school curriculums leave little room for such visitors. Blair has made appearances at the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center (https://www.wenatcheevalleymuseum.org/) as well as local libraries during this summer to entertain young visitors.

The Museum has Blair’s Poetry Activity Books (a set of five) for sale.

Besides Poetry Podium, Blair also facilitates the Poetry Café, a chance to discuss poetry by others. It is an informal gathering at her house and open to all who like poetry. Please check www.shrubsteppepoetry.org for more information.

Blair believes in bringing different art forms together to make the experience even more enjoyable. In 2018, she combined forces with East Wenatchee visual artist, Martha Flores (https://visitwenatchee.org/listing/martha-flores-studio/), to organize an evening of poetry inspired by Flores’ paintings. The “Ekstatic Ekphrastics” event was held at the Two Rivers Gallery (https://www.2riversgallery.com/) at 102 North Columbia St. with a full house in attendance.

During the many meetings and events infused with poetry, Blair discovered several talented writers whose work would be worth sharing in a publication; from that came her idea for a Central Washington poetry journal. She sent out invitations to poets to submit their work for judging and worked out the practicalities of turning the entries into a book. The first Poetry Journal was launched on June 9, 2019, at Bob’s Burgers and Brew (www.bobsburgersandbrew.com) in East Wenatchee with forty people in attendance.

Blair is a published poet in her own right. Copies of her poetry chapbook “What Remains of a Life” are available directly from her. She has two other collections in progress, namely “Two Autumns” and “Donna”.

Since the first Poetry Podium event a year and half ago, Blair has not slowed down with her mission for poetry and the following is growing ever greater. The next Podium will be held on August 28, 4:15 pm at the Radar Station.

For more information, go to www.shrubsteppepoetry.org. or contact Blair via email at sfblair61@gmail.com.

Jaana Hatton