Oregon twin poets to read in Ashland

After Ashland High School junior Gracie Thalmayer ushers ticket-holders to their seats during the semi-annual Chautauqua Poets & Writers reading Thursday, she plans to sit down and listen.

Portland-born poets — and identical twins — Matthew and Michael Dickman have inspired Thalmayer to write poetry with a new voice, one that threads everyday images with pointed reflections, she said Monday.

"It's like trying on clothes," she said of writing in different voices. "It's good to try everything on, and that's how you learn. The way they do it — in the middle of dialogue they'll throw in one word, and that's the perfect word and that changes everything.

"And I just love that they're brothers."

Thalmayer is not alone among students who are enthralled by the Dickman brothers' poetry.

More students have bought tickets to Thursday's event than to any Chautauqua reading in the past, said Chautauqua organizer Kathi Bowen-Jones, who teaches creative writing at the high school.

"I think the students feel that the poetry is accessible to them," she said. "But at the same time, I feel there's the legacy of other Oregon poets, like William Stafford, in their poetry. There's a mix of the urban life of Portland with elements of the natural world. You're in the city, and then all of the sudden you're on the Oregon Coast or looking at Mount Hood."

The Dickman brothers began writing poetry in high school but only recently published their first books. Matthew Dickman's "All American Poem" and Michael Dickman's "The End of the West" both have won awards and praise from critics.

The New Yorker magazine profiled the brothers in April 2009, and their popularity, especially in New York, has since skyrocketed, Bowen-Jones said.

The brothers frequently give readings together, although their poetry styles are drastically different. Matthew Dickman's poetry is fluid and full of metaphors, while Michael Dickman's is sparse and pointed.

"Matthew's poems are metaphorically weird and way out there, while I think Michael's poems hold emotions very closely and try to spark something with a few words," said Robyn Lawrence, a senior in Bowen-Jones' creative writing class.

Lawrence and Thalmayer are among dozens of students who will participate in a writing workshop with the Dickmans this afternoon at Southern Oregon University. Students from Eagle Point and North Medford high schools also will attend.

Local high-school teachers and SOU professors will participate in a workshop with the poets Thursday afternoon.

Thalmayer and her colleagues in Bowen-Jones' creative writing class spent this week refining poems they had written in response to the Dickmans' poetry.

"Too much lace," Thalmayer wrote in a poem called, "Try it on?" about a memory from childhood. "Classy went to cheep (sic) as its blackness started to peak."

Reading the Dickmans' poems has shown senior Rose Marston that poetry doesn't have to be "romantic or structured," she said.

"This feels more like a free write, which is something we're encouraged to do here," she said. "You just set up a timer and write about your life."

For more information on the event, call 541-482-3632 or see www.chautauquawriters.org.

Hannah Guzik is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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