George Venn


Cover by Jan Boles

LICHEN SONG: New and Selected Poems

Pulitzer prize 2018 nominee. Fifty-one poems reprinted from earlier books. Ten poems published and collected here for the first time, along with 18 new and unpublished poems.

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BEAVER'S FIRE: A Regional Portfolio (1970-2010)

This unique source book gathers 27 prose works first published by 24 northwest editors and newly-selected for reprinting by seven independent jurors from over 100 pieces. The portfolio is arranged in reverse chronology (1970-2010).


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KEEPING THE SWARM: New and Selected Essays

Packed with sweetness and stinging, eleven personal essays are gathered in George Venn's KEEPING THE SWARM. Two unpublished essays narrate the prize-winning poetís international sojourns in Spain and China; two others eulogize northwest people he loved. This book is a honey house chuckablock with eclectic gifts: stories, songs, adventures, meditations, eulogies, poems. There are new cells of joy, old black combs of grief, memories of loveís honey flow.


Photo by Stephani Stephenson
ABOUT THE AUTHOR :: Poet, writer, literary historian, editor, linguist, and educator George Venn (1943) is an eclectic, complex, and distinguished figure in Western American literature. As one university press editor said, "Vennís blend of creativity and scholarship is unique ..." Venn recently enhanced that description in the 2005 Contemporary Authors: "Politics: Independent. Religion: Ecumenist; mystic; no literalistic ethnocentric orthodoxy; everything universal." His distinguished and eclectic literary practice is best affirmed by MARKING THE MAGIC CIRCLE (1987), a collection of fiction, poetry, essays, translations -- and Jan Boles photographs.
In 1988 this book won a silver medal from Literary Arts; in 2005, the same book was selected by the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission as one of the 100 best Oregon books in the two centuries.

As a poet and fiction writer, George Venn studied at The College of Idaho, at City Literary Institute, London, and at the University of Montana. In the 1970s he won a Breadloaf scholarship and studied with the novelist John Williams. In 1980 his poem "Forgive Us..." from OFF THE MAIN ROAD won a Pushcart Prize. When he received the 1995 Andres Berger Award, The Oregonian described him as "one of the best-known and most respected poets in the state." His 1999 collection WEST OF PARADISE was a finalist for an Oregon Book Award. His poems and stories have been widely published in regional periodicals and anthologized in 17 different state, regional, and national collections, most recently in Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach. His work has been included in the national Poetry in Motion program, carved in stone at the New Oregon Zoo, and featured in the Ron Finne film "Tamanawis Illahee." Three different composers have set his lyrics to music for concert performances across the Pacific Northwest.

As a writer and literary historian, Venn studied with folklorist Louie Attebery at The College of Idaho and with graduate faculty at the University of Montana. His 60 articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in 32 different periodicals, and his prose has been anthologized in nine different collections, most recently in World Views and the American West. Reviewing his third book, a critic wrote that George Venn is "one of the foremost serious regionalists in the Northwest." In 1992 editor Jo Alexander wrote that Vennís essay, "Nard Jones, Weston, and Oregon Detour," inspired the Oregon State University Press to begin what became the "Northwest Reprint Series." In his 2003 study, On Sacred Ground: The Spirit of Place in Pacific Northwest Literature, Nicholas OíConnell wrote that Vennís essay, "Continuity in Northwest Literature," broke new ground by "suggesting that the landscape might serve as the focal point for a distinctive regional literature."

As an editor and critic, Venn has reviewed manuscripts for federal agencies, university presses, literary magazines, and small presses. In the 1970s he edited the Eastern Oregon Literary Supplement, a regional annual with a 60,000 circulation. In the 1980s he edited and published interviews with Ursula LeGuin, Carolyn Kizer, and Richard Hugo. In 1986 his edited Chinese folktale appeared in Folklore India. He has served on the editorial boards of the Oregon Historical Quarterly, Oregon East Magazine, and Northwest Folklore. From 1989 to 1994, he served as General Editor of the 2,300-page Oregon Literature Series. For that six-volume project, declared by NEA a national model and awarded an Exemplary Programs grant, Venn received the Stewart Holbrook Award for "outstanding contributions to Oregonís literary life." In 1995 the National Council of Teachers of English also recognized the project with a Multi-cultural Publishing Award.

As an educator and linguist, Venn first taught English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) as an undergraduate while studying Spanish at universities in Ecuador and Spain. After completing his MFA, he joined the English faculty at Eastern Oregon University where he taught courses in writing, ESL, American Literature, Literature of the West, Northwest, and Native American Literature. He also served as director of the EOU Creative Writing program; director of the ESL Program; instructor in the German-Oregon international exchange program; and advisor to Oregon East, the EOU student literary journal. On four occasions between 1970 and 1988, Venn was nationally recognized by CCLM when Oregon East placed in the top 20 collegiate literary magazines in the United States. In the 1981-82 year, while teaching at Changsha Railway University in China, he collaboratively translated poems by the exiled modernist Ai Qing. From 2001 to 2003, he served as president of the Oregon Council of Teachers of English. On retiring as professor of English and Writer-in-Residence, he received the Distinguished Teaching Award.

For more information, please see Contemporary Authors 231(2005) and Directory of American Scholars (2001)

Selected Works

Pulitzer prize 2018 nominee. Fifty-one poems reprinted from earlier books. Ten poems published and collected here for the first time, along with 18 new and unpublished poems.
"A true and compelling voice...."
--Eugene Register Guard
"One of the best poets in the Northwest"
--East Oregonian
Finalist, Oregon Book Award in Poetry, 2000
Poems by George Venn and drawings by Don Gray
With drawings by Ian Gatley
Non-fiction/Literary History
Fifty images. 400+ pages. Cover art by Stephani Stephenson. Release date 9/1/2016. $25 + S/H. Paperback. 7" x 10"
pages; 20 black/white photos; color cover by Kodua Galieti; released 10/1/12; $15.95; To purchase, go to
Limited edition festschrift portfolio by student of Ansel Adams and Minor White.
Non-fiction/Literary History
Non-fiction/Military History
Stewart Holbrook Award, Oregon Institute of Literary Arts, 1995 for "Outstanding contributions to Oregon's literary life."
Multi-genre anthology
1988 Oregon Book Award
Best 100 Oregon Books 1800-2000

Ars Poetica - Venn Reading