I was lucky enough to interview Poet Barbara LaMorticella for Reading Local, where the following transcript first appeared.
Barbara LaMorticella lives in the woods outside Portland, Oregon, and tries to see both the forest and the trees. Co-host of KBOO radio’s Talking Earth, she has given over 200 poetry readings. Her poems range freely from the personal to the social and political, from the world of nature to the world of the spirit. She was a founding member, actress and writer with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and her readings are often surprising, sometimes inspiring, and always entertaining. Her second collection of poems, Rain on Waterless Mountain, published by Dan Raphael’s 26 Books press, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award, and she won the Stewart H. Holbrook Award for Outstanding Contribution to Oregon Literary Arts and was awarded the first Oregon Literary Arts fellowship for women writers. She will be reading at Joe’s Cellar in NW Portland on Tuesday, September 20th at 7:00PM.
Shawna Harch) What originally drew you to poetry? Was there a major turning point in your life that led you to where you are today?
Barbara LaMorticella) I loved poetry in high school, and had long discussions about it with friends. I was always interested in the expressive arts, and acted, directed and played music in school. The school considered me a brilliant student, but I dressed like a bohemian, didn’t like shopping, and was very much the black sheep of my family, which had great contempt for both arts and intellectual endeavors. I left home early, married at 19 and had a child at 20. My husband and I were founding members of the San Francisco Mime Troupe. We left San Francisco in the late 60s. I began writing poetry seriously after we moved to rural Marin County, as it seemed to me that that was an art that could be practiced with nothing but a tool to write with. I pretty much figured I would always be poor ― a calculation that has proven accurate! – and I felt poetry was an art that nothing could take away. I still think that, and see a boom in the writing of poetry as the economic world falls apart.
SH) Can you explain how and why you got involved with KBOO and The Talking Earth program?
BLM) Walt Curtis started Talking Earth, at first as a weekly show. He got tired of doing four shows a month and farmed half the month out to Doug Spangle and to Lois Lewis, a sweet black poet who has since died. When Doug’s job made it impossible for him to do the show any more, he asked me if I would like to.
At about this time, in 1986, I noticed a woman showing up at many of my poetry readings. I went out of my way to speak to her, as she was always alone and listening so attentively. Unbeknown to me, she was Kathleen Stephenson, a program director at KBOO. I never asked her about it, but I suspect she was auditioning me, as Doug had recommended me to take his place. When Lois couldn’t do her week any more, I took over that slot also, and from then on hosted half the Talking Earth shows. Continue reading →