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9/2/2009 Runciman to read from new poetry collection

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McMINNVILLE – Inspiration from everyday life is at the core of a new collection of poetry by award-winning Northwest author Lex Runciman.

Runciman, Linfield College English professor, will read from “Starting from Anywhere” on Tuesday, Sept. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Austin Reading Room at the Jereld R. Nicholson Library at Linfield.

The event, part of the Readings at the Nick series, is free and open to the public. During the reading, Runciman will show slides to illustrate his poetry.

“Starting from Anywhere,” published by Salmon Poetry in Ireland, is based upon the belief that poetry can begin with anything. Among other topics is the notion of being born to other parents, which Runciman explores in a poem, “In My Alternate Life.” The collection’s title is particularly poignant for Runciman, who was adopted at birth and raised in an era of strict secrecy laws.

“It was a secret that was undiscussed in my household,” said Runciman. “In this book, I’ve been trying to figure out a voice or a way of talking about this. I could have been adopted by anybody. I could have grown up in any family.  But we all pretended this wasn’t the case.  We lived according to the fiction that our family was exactly like every other.”

According to Runciman, similar fictions can be seen in facets of everyday life, such as property lines and money. “The paper money itself doesn’t have any value particularly,” he said. “We just agree it’s going to be something important. We do a fair amount of our most important transactions on that basis.”

Runciman is intrigued by phrases and titles and named many of the poems in the collection after various titles from other writing. The book title itself was taken from a TS Eliot poem, “The Four Quartets.” In his writing, Runciman drew on locations he has visited, some of them with his Linfield students. He has led Creative Writing in Literary Britain during January Term since 2002.

 “It’s important for young creative writers to realize everything they’re reading was written by someone just like them,” he said. “During this class, we went to their houses and places they lived, worked and wrote. We walked their streets and looked at their skies. That helped with some of the poems in this book. I was just as inspired by doing that as anybody.”

Runciman earned an English degree from Santa Clara University, an MFA from the University of Montana and a Ph.D. from the University of Utah. His interests include environmental concerns, literature of the West, creative writing, contemporary literature in the UK and American literature in general.

Runciman has published three other poetry collections, "Out of Town," "The Admirations," winner of the Oregon Book Award, and "Luck." He has also co-authored three writing text books with Chris Anderson, professor of English at Oregon State University -- "Open Questions: Readings for Critical Thinking and Writing," "Forest of Voices: Reading and Writing the Environment" and "Asking Questions: A Rhetoric for the Intellectual Life." His reviews and comments on books appear irregularly in his blog, The Far Corner Reader. His work has appeared widely in magazines.

The reading is sponsored by the Linfield English Department and Friends of Nicholson Library. For more information, contact Susan Barnes Whyte, college librarian, at 503-883-2517, swhyte@linfield.edu.