Congratulations, Atheneum Fellows for 2015-2016

Meet the Atheneum Class of 2016

Fiction: Emily Gillespie, Ryan Meranger, Carolyn O'Doherty, Rich Perin
Nonfiction: Leslie Knight, Jasmine Pittenger, Candice Schutter, Emily Rose Williams
Poetry: Celia Carlson, Joanna Rose, Ann Sinclair, Wally Schaefer
Faculty: David Biespiel, Wendy Willis, Merridawn Duckler, G. Xavier Robillard, Whiteny Otto, and Vanessa Veselka.
Monday, Sep 14, 7pm, Stonehenge Studios, 3508 SW Corbett Ave, Free

Paulann Petersen appointed Senior Fellow at the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters

Paulann Petersen returns to teaching workshops this spring

We are very pleased to announce the appointment of Paulann Petersen as a Senior Fellow in Poetry at the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters and to announce that she will resume teaching in the studio this spring. A beloved, wise, and inspirational poet and teacher, Paulann is the former poet laureate of Oregon. 

Learn more about Paulann Petersen

Join Paulann's spring workshop

Whitney Otto named Associate Fellow

Congratulations to Whitney Otto for being named the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters' newest associate fellow. 

Whitney Otto is the author of five novels: How To Make an American Quilt, which was a New York Times Best Seller (as well as other bestseller lists) and NY Times Notable Book; nominated for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award, and adapted into a feature film produced by Steven Spielberg. Now You See Her was nominated for an Oregon Book Award, and optioned for film. The Passion Dream Bookwas a Los Angeles Times bestseller, optioned for a film, and an Oregonian Book Club selection. A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity was a Multnomah County Library selection. Eight Girls Taking Pictures is being published by Scribner in November 2012. Her novels have been published in fourteen languages.

Her work has also appeared in anthologies, magazines and the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Oregonian. In 2006 she had an art exhibition of her shadow boxes at the Littman & White Galleries in Portland, OR.

Check out Whitney's upcoming workshops

POETS ON BROADWAY | 2015-2016 Season

Poetry is downtown.

The Portland'5 Foundation and The Attic Institute are pleased to present: Poets on Broadway – a free poetry series hosted by Portland'5. Three monthly poetry events will be presented October 2015 – April 2016 in the Antoinette Hatfield Hall Rotunda. Nationally renowned poets will read alongside local emerging poets in the greater Portland community and the Pacific NW. Readings are free.









Attic Institute president David Biespiel says why poetry matters in the New York Times

Poems Hold the Mysteries of the Present, Dreams of the Future

David Biespiel

David Biespiel's most recent book of poems is "Charming Gardeners." His anthology "Poems of the American South" is due out next month in the Everyman's Library series.

JULY 21, 2014, 11:42 AM

I write this by campfire light in the back country of British Columbia, cut off from the digital world and miles from the nearest town.

Every society we've ever known has had poetry, and should the day come that poetry suddenly disappears in the morning, someone, somewhere, will reinvent it by evening . . . 

Read the article

How a life in poetry keeps poetry alive: An interview with David Biespiel on 'New Books in Poetry."

David Biespiel

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John Ebersole sits down with the president of the Attic Institute to discuss his upbriging, the world of contemporary poetry, and his latest book, Charming Gardeners. 

"David Biespiel‘s Charming Gardeners (University of Washington Press, 2013) is unlike any book I’ve read in a long time. Filled with epistolary poems, his book – despite being populated by the poet’s friends and family – is actually a work of great loneliness. In many ways, Biespiel’s journey is America’s, where the road is both a symbol of arrivals, but also departures, and in between is solitude. On the surface, Biespiel’s poems seem like the private meditations of one man. However, his poems encompass each of us, socially and politically, by illuminating our nation’s contradictory character: a longing for enchantment in a disenchanted world. The poems in Charming Gardeners live between the wilderness and the civilized and the poet, finding himself in this zone of uncertainty, does what any of us would do: call out to those we love. In our conversation we discuss his years in Boston and D.C., the Attic Institute in Portland, the poetry wars, and so much more. I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did." ~ John Ebersole


Atheneum alum Celeste Hamilton Dennis remembers Levittown in the Huffington Post


Celeste Hamilton Dennis (Atheneum, '12)

published in The Huffington Post


Dear Levittown,

I'll be the first to admit: Our love hasn't always been a Billy Joel song.

In our early years together, I loved to spend my days swimming at your pools and hanging out at block parties and eating as much as I could at pancake fundraisers for high school sports teams. But my favorite thing? It was easy for me to find the bathrooms at all of my friend's houses. I liked how they all looked and felt the same.

Then I got older and your sameness started to make me feel weird. I sabotaged us. I stole bras from your department stores. I toilet papered your manicured lawns. I smoked pot in the sump behind the village green. I made out with boys on baseball fields and ruined pitching mounds.

Read the rest

Jennifer Lauck named senior fellow at the Attic Institute



Congratulations to Jennifer Lauck for being named the Attic Institute's newest senior fellow. 

Jennifer Lauck is an award winning journalist and the author of four memoirs including the New York Times Bestseller, Blackbird. Featured on The Oprah Show, Winfrey told her audience, "this should have been a Book of the Month book. Read it now!"

Lauck's work has been translated into twenty-two languages, has been the bestseller lists in London, Ireland and Spain and has been featured in Newsweek, Harper's Bazaar, Talk Magazine, People, Glamour and Writer's Digest.  Her other memoirs include: Still Waters, Show Me the Way and Found.  Lauck has also published several essays in analogies, magazines and on line at Huffington Post. 

Lauck has an MFA in creative writing and a BA in journalism.  She's currently working on her first novel.


Check out Jennifer's classes


Natalie Serber joins the Attic Institute as a teaching fellow in 2014

Welcome, Natalie!

Natalie Serber is a fiction writer, essayist, and educator. She is the author of the story collection Shout Her Lovely Name, a New York Times 100 “Notable Books” of 2012, a summer reading pick from O, the Oprah Magazine and an Oregonian Top 10 Book of the Pacific Northwest for 2012. Her fiction has appeared in The Bellingham Review, Gulf Coast, and elsewhere. Essays and reviews have appeared at The Rumpus, The New York Times, and Salon. Her awards include The John Steinbeck Award, Tobias Wolff Award, HE Francis Award, all for fiction, and an honorable mention for the Annie Dillard Award for Non Fiction. Natalie received her MFA from Warren Wilson College, and she is currently working on a novel set in Boring, Oregon.

Brian Benson joins the Attic Institute as an Associate Fellow

Welcome, Brian!

Brian Benson is a proud alum of the 2011-12 Attic Atheneum. A former Spanish instructor and nonprofit organizer, he has taught extensively in classroom and experiential settings. His first book, Going Somewhere, a memoir about a cross-country bike trip and the search for personal direction, will be published in early 2014.

Register for Brian's upcoming workshop

Emily Whitman joins the Attic Institute as Associate Fellow

Welcome, Emily!

Emily Whitman writes books for children and teens. Her YA Wildwing won the 2012 Oregon Book Award for Young Adult Literature and was a Bankstreet College Best Children’s Book. Radiant Darkness was #1 on the IndieBound Kid’s Next List, selected by independent booksellers, and was an Oregon Book Award finalist. Emily has taught at writing conferences including the Pacific Northwest Children’s Book Conference and the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Oregon Conference, and she writes poetry, prose and nonfiction for educational publishers. She’s currently at work on a Middle Grade novel.

Register for Emily's next workshop

Congratulations to Attic student, Kari Luna, upon the publication of her book, "The Theory of Everything"

Kari Luna's novel is due out next month, July 2013

"One part Libba Bray's GOING BOVINE, two parts String Theory, and three parts love story equals a whimsical novel that will change the way you think about the world."

A student in Merridawn Duckler's workshops, Kari Luna writes stories, teaches yoga and eats apricots. She also covets cashmere sweaters, collects toys from the sixties and thinks soul music is the cure for everything. She lives in Portland, Oregon.  You can visit the fictional Sophie Sophia, read her blog, and download mixtapes at

The Wall Street Journal praises Associate Fellow Elizabeth Rusch's book ERUPTION

"Ms. Rusch's gripping account is full of details that will snag the interest of children ages 9 and older: that volcanic gases act like bubbles in a soda bottle; that a humming earthquake known as a "harmonic tremor" means magma is rising and boiling away groundwater; that a leading U.S. geologist wears Harry Potter glasses. Photographs throughout by Tom Uhlman illustrate the work that scientists are doing, but the most dramatic image—of a little blue truck beetling along a dirt road just ahead of boiling volcanic clouds—comes from Alberto Garcia, who took it when Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991."  ~ Wall Street Journal

Read the whole story | Meet Elizabeth Rusch

Associate Fellow Wendy Willis's major essay on place has been reprinted in the July/August issue of the Utne Reader.

Where Are You From?

Reconnecting to the places we live by Wendy Willis, from Oregon Humanities 

"Recently, driving home from a soccer game in the pouring rain, I looked into the rearview mirror and asked my two young and very wet daughters, “If someone from another country asked you where you were from, what would you say?”

Without a heartbeat’s hesitation, they responded in unison, “Portland, Oregon.” I drew a sharp breath. For them, it’s not even a question to ponder. When I am asked, I always say, “I live in Portland, but I’m from Springfield, Oregon—from East Lane County.” When my husband is asked, he always answers, “Harris County, Texas,” though he was born in Tulsa, has lived in a dozen states, and has bounced around the same two zip codes in Southeast Portland for more than fifteen years."

Congratulations to Associate Fellow Cheryl Strayed -- her memoir, Wild, selected for Oprah's Book Club 2.0


Wild by Attic Institute Associate Fellow Cheryl Strayed Selected for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0™

WildOBC header

Oprah’s Book Club 2.0™ is an interactive, multi-platform reading club that harnesses the power of social media, bringing passionate readers together to discuss inspiring stories. The best-selling memoir Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, is Oprah’s Book Club 2.0™’s first selection.





Associate Fellow Paulann Petersen reappointed Oregon's poet laureate

Congratulations to Attic Institute Associate Fellow Paulann Petersen

Reappointed by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber to a second term, Paulann is Oregon's sixth poet laureate since 1921 and the second woman to have the title.

"Not only is she widely respected in the literary world, her commitment to bringing poetry to the people of Oregon makes her an ideal laureate for reappointment," Kitzhaber said in a statement on April 12, 2012.

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Notes from David Biespiel, President of the Attic Institute


Letter announcing the new Attic Institute

"Eleven years have gone by in a blink. But today begins a new era as we renew our dedication both to the word and to the world."


Interview about the founding of the Attic Institute

"All sorts of excellent pieces of writing get started and finished here. That's what it means to be a literary studio."


Farewell commentary as editor of Poetry Northwest: " A Sense of Form and A Sense of Life"

"I realize now that the divide between Modernist American poetry and, let's call it, Rilkean American poetry is largely unnecessary. Poetry can be both a repository of wisdom and contain revolutionary feeling -- even in the same poem."


Essay on poets and democracy in Poetry magazine: "This Land Is Our Land"

"America's poets have a minimal presene in American civic discourse and a miniscule public role in the life of American democracy. I find this condition perplexing and troubling -- both for poetry and for democracy."