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About Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 14, 2018)
4A ❚ WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2018 ❚ APPEAL TRIBUNE
Life in the Valley
Catch Lex Runciman at
Silverton Poetry Festival
Special to Salem Statesman Journal
USA TODAY NETWORK
Lex Runciman is one of six poets fea-
tured in “Durable Goods: Appreciations
of Oregon Poets” (Mountains & Rivers
Press, 2017) by fellow poet Erik Muller.
Last month, Runciman joined Muller
and three of the other featured poets at
the Salem Book Bin. Runciman, Paulann
Petersen, Barbara Drake and Clem
Starck shared and discussed their work
in a rich exchange with the audience
and each other.
The group has done several programs
together, and Runciman will participate
in another such conversation on Feb. 24
as part of the Silverton Poetry Festival.
During the Salem program, I asked
them to comment on the value of their
experience on the road. Runciman’s
one-word response: “Gratitude.”
Gratitude strikes me as a central val-
ue in Runciman’s life. It’s certainly a
strong presence in his volume of select-
ed and new poems, “Salt Moon: Poems
1981-2016” (Salmon Poetry, 2017). This
book has given me a wonderful intro-
duction to his work spanning four dec-
In it are poems of great range, depth
and beauty. They make a tapestry inter-
woven with memories, dreams, obser-
vations and meditations from an inquir-
ing life. Each poem echoes the theme of
intrinsic beauty and wonder in all
things — the exquisite, the tragic and
the mundane, the light and the dark.
The scope is broad.
A young boy releases a mud-covered
salamander back into a lake: “It fell back
/ and once in the water / how it fell —
clear, / slow, in its own heaven.”
Waking from a nightmare of his
child’s death, a father looks in on his
sleeping daughters and finds them as
they are — their regular hushed respira-
tions. Overhead, rain falls like pebbles.
Face and face, name and another name.
The poet contemplates beach agates:
“They are the origin and dream of glass.
/ Whatever they say is impersonal: /
Whatever it is is beautiful.”
A bystander has dived into a lake and
rescued a baby in a runaway stroller that
had plunged from a wharf: “This is the
purest thing / you can remember doing,
and anyone / would have — this bright
gift // a privilege you’d wish on no one.”
The poet, who was
an adopted child, re-
flects on all he does
not know of his bio-
logical father and
mother: “you have not
known his shoes or
watches or ties / his
gait or religion or lack
of it / nor his sisters
nor his brothers / and
of your mother you
SPECIAL TO THE
lack all the same.”
Often in life, the
darkness seems im-
penetrable. Yet we trudge, as we must,
toward some light of understanding. In
a poem titled with a quotation from
Psalm 30, “Joy Cometh in the Morning,”
Runciman expresses the difficulty of
persisting toward light: “No touch en-
dures. The doctor is unsure. / Memory
says love is unreturned. / The words you
have rehearsed / vanish from your
mouth. Sleep teases. Gesture is not
enough. /I don’t know how we can go
“The artist’s function,” said the great
modern American poet Wallace Ste-
vens, “is to make his imagination . . . be-
If you go
What: Silverton Poetry Festival Pre-
sents “Talking Poets/Durable Goods: An
Evening of Poetry and Conversation”
with Erik Muller, Lex Runciman, Barbara
Drake and Paulann Petersen.
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24
Where: White Steeple Gallery, 314 Jer-
sey St., Silverton
come the light in the minds of others.
His role, in short, is to help people to live
In the light of Runciman’s poems, we
are shown the way: through the open
embrace of experience; in the convic-
tion of joy in the morning; in the beauty
and solace to be found in love, in nature,
in each other. For that, Runciman has
This article by Steve Slemenda is one
of a monthly series by members of the
Mid-Valley Poetry Society on books by
Oregon poets. Contact him at
Bill could help alleviate packed classrooms
Salem Statesman Journal
USA TODAY NETWORK
A bill coming before the Oregon Leg-
islature, which convenes Monday, could
finally assuage teachers of crammed
House Bill 4113 changes only five
words to existing collective bargaining
laws, but would make class size a man-
This means districts would be re-
quired to discuss class size along with
things like salaries and benefits when
making budget decisions.
"(Class size) tends to exacerbate any
other issue we have in the education
system," said John Larson, president of
the Oregon Education Association.
"The way things work right now, ei-
ther side could say, 'No, we don’t want to
talk about that,'" he said. "The more
times we don’t have that conversation,
the worst (the) problem becomes."
Oregon has some of the largest class-
es nationwide, with an average of 25
students per class.
In 2014-15, there were more than 450
math classes in the state with more than
36 students per class, plus more than 70
science classes with more than 46 stu-
dents, according to Oregon Department
of Education's 2016 Class Size Report.
Additionally, more than 20 percent of
kindergarten classes had more than 26
Studies show large class sizes can
negatively affect absenteeism, stan-
dardized test scores, graduation rates
and teacher retention.
Large class sizes are particularly
damaging in lower grades, where teach-
ers are building students' understand-
ing of core subjects, such as reading,
Continued from Page 2A
Help on the way
Even with the small decline, Oregon's
state parks have still continued to see
rapid growth. That's not expected to
change in coming years.
The good news, Havel said, is that the
state park budget included money for 21
additional park rangers who will start in
Parks officials also got permission to
offer discounted rates at some less-vis-
ited parks, while in the future slightly
increasing rates at more crowded parks.
The goal is to entice more people to
camp at such places as Humbug Moun-
tain State Park (42,000 camper nights),
as opposed to Fort Stevens (257,000
"Maybe somebody who’s having
problems getting a night at Fort Stevens
would consider Humbug if they got a
writing and math. This is in addition to
developing social and emotional skills,
including how to follow instructions,
how to share and how to sit still.
"At some point, you are so overloaded
you just hope everyone has a place to
sit," Larson said, referring the chal-
lenges teachers face. "And students just
don’t learn when there are so many stu-
dents in a room."
The bill was presented to lawmakers
last session, but died after its public
hearing in front of the House Education
Sponsors are trying it again in the
short session, this time with the House
Committee on Business and Labor.
"We get that there’s a finite amount
of dollars for every school," Larson said.
"But we believe educators should have
some say in how they use those dollars."
Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, a chief
sponsor on the bill, told the Statesman
Journal class size is his top priority this
session. But he doesn't have a strong
idea yet whether the bill will pass.
"It is unacceptable when there are
more students than desks," he said. "I
want (families and educators) in there
complaining about class size.
"It should be the highest priority of
the district. Everything else should
come second," he said. "And then, if they
say, great, now we don’t have enough
money, I’m happy to fight for more mon-
Clem said this is one option the state
can take, but it isn't the only one.
"It doesn’t get them more money, but
it does put them in the middle of the
conversation," he said.
Opponents of the bill, including the
Oregon School Boards Association, ar-
gue ramifications from the bill could
cost districts millions of dollars they
would otherwise use to hire new staff,
train existing employees and create and
expand programs that benefit students.
"Is it important to talk about? Yes,"
said Jim Green, executive director of the
school boards association. "At the bar-
gaining table, though? No."
Green who also serves as a member
of the Salem-Keizer School Board, is wa-
ry of any bill that makes something
mandatory. "Class size is important, but
forcing (it) could cause a strike," he said.
But Green doesn't deny Oregon has a
class size problem. The more kids, the
more expectations, the more issues, he
said. "Classroom management is an is-
Green presented an outcome in
which a certain number would be set for
the maximum number of students that
could be in one class. Any additional
students would require the district to
pay the teacher additional money.
Districts, he said, would have to cut
support staff, programs and the number
of instructional days in an already short
In addition to budget constraints,
night of camping for free," OPRD parks
director Lisa Sumption said in an April
interview with the Statesman Journal.
"We’re trying to move some of our
crowds across the system, and this is
one way of doing that. We have a lot of
parks with capacity that few people vis-
Oregon Coast state parks visitation
Oregon state parks camping nights
Crater Lake National Park visits
Lewis and Clark National Historic
Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, speaks at
the Capitol in Salem in 2015. He said
his top priority in the 2018 short
session is a bill meant to reduce class
DANIELLE PETERSON/STATESMAN JOURNAL
Green said districts often don't have the
facilities or bodies to accommodate the
changes either, which is a much larger
Green is worried the complex issue,
which would impact Oregon's 197 dis-
tricts, won't have the time it needs to be
discussed in a short session.
"If it's required to bargain, (the dis-
trict) is not able to offer programs we of-
fer to all other schools," he said. "(There
is) population growth in certain parts of
the city — you need that flexibility."
This would lead, he suspects, to ex-
tensive mediation processes and
strikes. "It doesn't actually do better for
teachers," he said.
Larson countered, saying that's very
extreme. "I don’t think we have any lo-
cals who go into bargain thinking they
want to go on strike.
"Strikes are really awful things," he
said. "(They're) a last-ditch effort."
Larson said the bill allows each dis-
trict to address class size as they see fit.
He emphasized smaller districts may
not have an issue with class size, com-
paring the idea to Measure 98 funds for
career technical education or dropout
prevention efforts where individual dis-
tricts can allocate money for their spe-
"The bill doesn’t set a threshold," Lar-
son said. "It lets each district have a
meaningful conversation about what a
good class size would be.
"We may not come to any solution,"
he said. "But at least we have the con-
versation and at least it’s out there."
399-6745, or follow her on Twitter
@Nataliempate or on Facebook at
John Day Fossil Beds National
Oregon Caves National Monument
and Preserve visits