Category: News

2020 Library Undergraduate Poetry Prize Winners

University of Oregon Libraries and Oregon Poetry Association are extremely pleased to announce the winners of the second Library Undergraduate Poetry Prize: Martha DeCosta and Stephany Fatheree. This biannual award is given to two undergraduate students, in coordination with the OPA conference, for excellent poems in whose composition the library has played a part. The prize consists of a $500 award to each winner and the publication of the winning poems in OPA’s Verseweavers, an annual anthology of prize-winning poems from OPA’s contests.

The poetry prize emerged two years ago from collaborative discussions between the two organizations. The UO Libraries Special Collections is the official archive for the Oregon Poetry Collection, a rich collection of volumes by Oregon poets or about Oregon going back to the 19th-century, which was founded by the OPA and is still growing, mainly through its members’ contributions of their new publications. The director of Special Collections, David de Lorenzo, said “we wanted to continue to add to the book collection by supporting young poets whose work is worthy of recognition.” Jeff Staiger, Humanities Librarian in Knight Library, who led the team of readers, noted that “we received nearly 20 applications for this round, an impressive number for a time when all university activities were suddenly challenged by a global pandemic. The review committee had to go completely virtual to assess so many accomplished poems in such a wide range of styles and approaches.”

We are very grateful to the readers and to the OPA volunteers who have enthusiastically supported the Poetry Prize since its inception. The UO Libraries is honored to have the support of the OPA to continue to make this award a reality.


Martha DeCosta Personal Statement:

I am a graduating senior at the University of Oregon with a B.A. in English and a minor in Creative Writing (poetry). During my undergraduate years, I participated in the year-long Kidd poetry program through the Creative Writing department and gained valuable experience in the craft through research and peer workshops. I have always been a storyteller. Much of my inspiration and my creativity comes from a unique multicultural upbringing. Although I was born in the U.S., I spent ten years of my childhood living in India with my family and traveling abroad in South Asia. These formative experiences shaped my worldview. After moving to Oregon, I felt drawn to the international community on my university’s campus. International relationships and experiences continue to influence my poetic interests. I explore diverse subjects in my writing, inspired by personal encounters that cause me to wrestle with some aspects of the world but simultaneously marvel at its diversity. As an aspiring poet and creative writer, I want to contribute my multicultural voice to the poetic community. After my upcoming Spring 2020 graduation, I will be actively job searching, but I also hope to share my writing through online publications and expand my platform.

Martha DeCosta Winning Poem:

I Learn to Knit

Auntie doesn’t speak a word of English except


my knuckles quiver

as I fumble with the loops,

mass like tangled hair in my lap.

Auntie’s braid falls over her shoulder

like a silk dupatta hanging


her gentle palms overlap my fingers,

another row ripples across the needles

fluent as the Ganges River,

the needles click-click at me

for a button hole in the tight pattern –


we knit, purl, knit, purl,

my blue yarn and Auntie’s yellow yarn

neela, peela

Hindi leaps back and forth between us

but I can’t follow her closely enough.


she says, and I am mesmerized by every rotation –

the skein in my lap,

the twists of my wrists,

the loops off my fingers,

Auntie nods and tells me her new word:


Stephany Fatheree Personal Statement:

I was raised in Maui, Hawai’i, and moved to Oregon at nineteen with the hopes of eventually attending a university. After careful consideration, and establishing residency in the state, I decided to attend the University of Oregon to pursue a path in music. Writing has always been a very helpful means of expression and introspection to me, so naturally a large part of my creative expression has been through the craft of words. From my love of creative writing stemmed a love of lyricism, which is how I first developed an interest in music. Since then I have taken as many creative writing classes as I could while also creating music. I have loved exploring both songwriting and poetry, learning that they are so similar yet so different and that I can inhabit different mindsets for each. I was lucky enough to have been a part of The Walter and Nancy Kidd Creative Writing Workshops this year, and through them, poetry has allowed me to focus on the balance between profundity, uniqueness, clarity, and craft. I have thought about the reader and my audience in a more intensive way than I ever have before. Receiving feedback in workshops has been so helpful and rewarding, and being surrounded by poets who share my passion, discussing the craft of poetry has strengthened my love for it. My first term of these creative writing workshops took place in the library, and twice a week for months the library gave me this enriching environment. During my time at the University of Oregon, I have spent hours upon hours every term in its libraries reading, writing, analyzing, and printing poems. I have very much missed having this space to work on my poetry, and I look forward to returning to it when it is safe to do so.

Stephany Fatheree Winning Poem:

Tea Kettle

You take my water

And offer to boil it for me.

You give me rolling stovetop bubbles

So that I may sit with warmed hands

In the midst of Fool’s Spring

In grass that is sunlit but refrigerated

Because winter isn’t done with us yet.


You take my water,

Soak the echinacea leaves,

Expand the chamomile blossoms,

And pour it into my favorite ceramic mug—

The lopsided one that’s so tricky to clean—

So that I may run it through my pharynx,

Shaking loose the Lane County pollen

That makes it hard for me to sing.


You take the panic

That has spread with this pandemic,

The anxiety of this quarantine,

And soothe them with little lavender baths,

So that I may escape my mind for a minute

And pretend I am nothing but tastebuds.


You take my water

And you begin to whisper

Until your whisper becomes a whistle

And starts to sound more like a screech

Amplified by the kitchen.

This chaotic tune is now my favorite song

Because I need something steady,

Something my hands can control

Other than their own hygiene.

Nagasaki: 75 Years Ago

My father, when 20 years old, served in the Navy during World War II. Like many of that generation, he rarely spoke about the war and his experiences at the Pacific front. I learned only after his death that he participated  in the assaults on Saipan, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

In High School, we were reading the new play, In the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer. I mentioned to my father we had a heated discussion at school about the use of atomic bombs on civilian Japanese populations. To my great surprise, he told me that his ship (LST 481) had been sent to Nagasaki a few weeks after the bombing.

I asked for more details and he grudgingly spoke about seeing no trees or buildings standing, nothing but a gray ash covering everything; a ghostly silence lacking even the usual mewing of gulls; and an overpowering smell of death. On entering the harbor, he said, their ship had to turn off their cool water intake due to it being clogged by bodies. At this point, tears ran down his face and he got up and went outside. I had never before seen my father cry.

August 9, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki. To commemorate that event, Special Collections preserves a broadside poem by poet laureate, William Stafford, titled, A Memorial, from his book, Every War Has Two Losers. The poem was printed as a broadside in the winter of 2004 from handset Perpetua type on dampened black Stonehenge paper. The enso, the Zen circle of enlightenment, is by brush lettering artist Marilyn Reaves, and was printed from a polymer plate. The broadside was printed by fine press printer, Sandy Tilcock, using a Vandercook press.

Written by David de Lorenzo, Director, SCUA

New Acquisition: Narrating the Black Experience: Cane

Photo of binding of Cane by Jean Toomer, illustrated by Martin Puryear. Recent acquisition of University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives.

Jean Toomer was a masterful historiographer and writer of black history and culture.  His seminal publication, Cane, embodied his devotion to narrating the black experience and to applying a critical eye to past history of oppression and prejudice in order to preserve and crystallize history as it was, before its true reality is erased by the present.  Essayist and contributor (afterword) to Cane, Prof. Leon Litwack (UC Berkeley) comments on Jean Toomer, Cane, and twentieth century racism, writing,

“In coming to grips with the present, Jean Toomer insisted on confronting the past and exploring the heritage of slavery to its very roots in ways that would avoid both condescension and romanticization.  Looking about him, he sensed an agrarian folk culture deeply rooted in the slave experience.  There was still time, he thought, to explore that culture, indeed the very soul and spirit of the black South, before urbanization and industrialization rendered it unrecognizable.”

The novel Cane received high praise and acclaim following its publishing, however such acclaim was not reflected in the number of books sold.  Jean Toomer himself laid latent for some time after its publishing and only resurfaced years later as a burgeoning interest in black history and culture in the 1960’s emerged.  Cane remains a work of unique and paramount stature and is elusive in its form, for it is many things – a novel, work of poetry, a drama, an illustrated work.  It takes place in rural Georgia, urban Washington, D.C., among other places.  The beauty of the work lies in its multifaceted nature, speaking to the reader in a variety of forms.

Photo of page from Cane by Jean Toomer, illustrated by Martin Puryear, containing photographs of author, Jean Toomer, and illustrator, Martin Puryear. Recent acquisition of University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives.

Cane is augmented by the work of Martin Puryear, a prominent American sculptor.  Martin Puryear was enamored by Cane, read during his initial years residing in the South and teaching at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.  Puryear’s contributions to Cane include woodcuts as accompanying illustrations; there are seven larger images portraying women featured within the novel, and three smaller images resembling the enigmatic arcs Jean Toomer utilized to divide sections within the work in the first edition.

While this remains Jean Toomer’s most conspicuous work, it is important to note Toomer’s other literary endeavors, including autobiographies and other fiction, drama, poetry, and essays.  He published one other work, Essentials, in 1931, a collection of aphorisms.  The breadth of black history and culture portrayed in Cane begs examination and continued study today.  The complementary pairing of Jean Toomer’s illuminative text and Martin Puryear’s woodcut illustrations creates for the reader an experience incomparable and truly distinctive.

Photo of illustration from Cane by Jean Toomer, illustrated by Martin Puryear. Recent acquisition of University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives.

The book was produced by The Arion Press, considered the nation’s leading publisher of fine-press books. Founded in San Francisco in 1974 by Andrew Hoyem, it has published 116 limited-edition books, most printed by letterpress, often illustrated with original prints by notable artists. This edition of Cane was limited to 400 numbered copies (ours is No. 343) with each copy signed by the artist, Martin Puryear. The text type is Times New Roman Bold with long descenders, composed in Monotype; the display type is Lucian Bold, composed by hand. The text paper is Biblio, mould-made in Germany; the print paper is Kitakata, handmade in Japan. The text was printed on a Miller TW cylinder press; the woodblocks were printed on a Vandercook Universal III proofing press. The book was designed by Andrew Hoyem and is the 59th publication of the Arion Press.

Written by Alexandra Mueller, Special Projects Archivist

New Acquisition: Moses Alshekh

Photo of binding of Sefer sh’elot u-teshuvot by R. Moses Alshekh, acquired by University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives

Moses Alshekh, also known as Moshe Alshich, born in the early 1500’s in the city of Adrianople, gained immense influence and respect as a rabbi and scholar.  In his service to the Jewish faith, R. Alshekh mastered the teachings of the Torah and delivered sermons incomparable and elevated (Miller, n.d.).  In addition to his mastery of the Torah, R. Alshekh immersed himself in the study of the Talmud, the book of Jewish laws, and the study of principles of halakhah, the guide of “day-to-day” living for Jews (Posner, n.d.).  As a youth, study in yeshivas under Rabbis Joseph (Yosef) Taitazik and Joseph (Yosef) Caro in the city of Salonika cultivated in R. Alshekh the wisdom and stature of a sage in the interpretation of halakhah and Jewish law (, 2020; Miller, n.d.).

As R. Alshekh entered his young adulthood, he transitioned to a life in Safed of Erez, Israel, where he began to solidify his presence in the Jewish faith as an authority of Jewish law and teachings.  In addition to gaining prominence as a rabbi, skilled deliverer of sermons, and scholar of halakhah, R. Alshekh engaged in “exegesis” of the Bible, providing critical analysis and interpretation of biblical books.  His work in exegesis of the Bible proved comprehensive and revered, becoming the subject of multiple publications, while alive and posthumously, as well as topics of numerous sermons by popular request (, 2020).  R. Alshekh received official ordainment as a rabbi by the mentor of his youth, R. Joseph (Yosef) Caro, while in Safed.  Years later, R. Alshekh had the bounty of ordaining his own fellow scholar of halakhah, Hayyim Vital, as rabbi, whom he had studied closely with for many years (, 2020).

During his time in Safed, R. Alshekh immersed himself in the affairs and vitality of the Jewish community of Safed and supported the interests of the community through means of outreach in travel and treatise.  Following a long life of service to the Jewish faith, R. Alshekh passed away in 1593.  R. Alshekh leaves a rich legacy to the understanding and interpretation of numerous biblical books, a subject of his critical attention, and also of scholarly devotion to halakhah.  While R. Alshekh lived to see the publication of some of his work, his posthumous publications were largely overseen by his son Hayyim Alshekh (, 2020).

University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) acquired Sefer sh’elot u-teshuvot by R. Moses Alshekh, published in Venice posthumously in 1605.  This form of rabbinical publication is comprised of “questions and answers,” a collection of responsa to inquiries of the Talmud, the Bible, the Mishnah, and other philosophical queries (Bacher & Lauterbach, n.d.).  The publication may be accessed for use in the Library Catalog.

Photo of title page of Sefer sh’elot u-teshuvot by R. Moses Alshekh, acquired by University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives


Alshekh, Moses. (2020). Retrieved July 21, 2020, from

Bacher, W., & Lauterbach, J. Z. (n.d.). She’elot u-teshubot (“questions and answers,” or interpellations and decisions”). JewishEncylopedia.

Miller, M. (n.d.). Rabbi Moshe Alshich. Kabbalah Online.

Posner, M. (n.d.). What is halakhah (halachah)? Jewish law.

Written by Alexandra Mueller, Special Projects Archivist

New Acquisition: Ashendene Press Publications

Photo of The Song of Songs which is Solomon’s of the Ashendene Press, illuminated by Florence Kate Kingsford, 1902,

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, burgeoning revolutionaries in book production, including William Morris, Sir Emery Walker, Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, and C. H. St. John Hornby, perceived a degradation and lack of painstaking care and integrity in printing (Oxenbridge Press, n.d.).  The sour taste of commercialistic practices led early visionary William Morris to implement bygone principles of veracity in the selection of materials and the application of quality techniques to produce beautiful books.  William Morris set stone for a revitalization of book printing as one of the first prominent figures to emerge in the private press movement at the turn of the twentieth century.  The private press allowed for detail and design to flourish, with an emphasis on typography, illumination, and binding practices, and several private presses responsible for producing distinguished historical typographies (Roylance, 1991).

William Morris’s Kelmscott Press of 1891 proved revolutionary; it served as a catalyst for the development of the prestigious related private presses of the Doves Press and the Ashendene Press (William Doyle Galleries, 2020).  Morris and the Kelmscott Press prized the art of book printing, from procuring the finest materials, to creating intricate, decorative illuminations, to binding volumes precisely by hand (Roylance, 1991).  The Kelmscott Press utilized the uniquely created Golden, Troy, and Chaucer typefaces in their publications.  The Golden typeface was a Roman iteration, while Troy and Chaucer had roots in Gothic form (Peddie, 1915).  Morris worked closely in partnership with Sir Emery Walker, a masterful typographer, in his creation of Golden.  As the private press movement evolved, and Morris passed away, Walker joined forces with Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson to form the Doves Press.  Cobden-Sanderson and Walker paired complementarily – Walker produced typefaces and other stylistic elements, and Cobden-Sanderson spearheaded the task of binding volumes.  The Doves typeface appears with great notoriety in the printing of the Doves Bible, and whose form spawned from the Roman leanings of Nicolas Jenson, a shared influence to the Kelmscott Golden (Potter, 1938).

The Ashendene Press surfaced on the eve of the twentieth century, developed in 1894 by C. H. St. John Hornby who was a close follower and admirer of Morris (Roylance, 1991).  Walker, once again a seemingly omnipresent and influential force in the purview of the private press, developed for Hornby a typeface so characteristic and inherent to the image of Ashendene that forever defined their publications.  The Subiaco typeface stemmed from the Roman influences of Sweynheym and Pannartz, and is considered the shining element of the Ashendene Press’ folio printing of Dante.  The Dante also claims elaborate illustrations collaboratively created by renowned artist C. M. Gere and woodcutter W. H. Hooper (Potter, 1938).  Other remarkable folios produced by the Ashendene Press include Boccacio, Malory, Thucydides, and Spenser (William Doyle Galleries, 2020).

C. H. St. John Hornby operated the Ashendene Press for forty years, spanning from 1894 to 1935, with its home in Chelsea, England. Hornby and the Ashendene Press produced approximately sixty volumes during its tenure prior to the disbandment of the press after World War I (Roylance, 1991).

University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) holds several volumes published by the Ashendene Press, and has recently acquired two more titles.  The two recent acquisitions are The Faire Queene by Edmund Spenser and Spenser’s Minor Poems by Edmund Spenser.  Other holdings include Dante and Thucydides publications, among others, and may be accessed in the Library catalog under Ashendene Press.


Oxenbridge Press. (n.d.). A brief history of the Private Press Movement. Oxenbridge Press.

Peddie, R. A. (1915). The history and practice of the art of printing. Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 63(3242), 142-147.

Potter, G. L. (1938). An appreciation of Sir Emery Walker. The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy, 8(3), 400-414.

Roylance, D. (1991). The art of the English book from William Morris to Eric Gill. The Princeton University Library Chronicle, 52(3), 367-383.

William Doyle Galleries. (2020). Art of the printed book. Doyle.

-Written by Alexandra Mueller, Special Projects Archivist