Fall creek

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Study Groups

Soapstone offers a program of six study groups each year. People of all genders and identities are welcome. Scholarships are available.

To register for a study group send an email to soapstonewriting@gmail.com, and once you receive a reply saying there is room in the group, we'll ask for payment through Zelle, or, if you prefer, a check made out to Soapstone, 622 SE 29th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214.


Fall 2023

Reading Ada Limón
Led by Judith Barrington
Six Sundays, from 10 am to 12 pm PST via Zoom
Sept. 10, 17, 24; Oct. 1, 8, 15
$75, scholarships available
Limited to 16 participants

This study group as an introduction to the poetry of Ada Limón. Unlike some of my favorite contemporary poets, she is not of my generation and not one whose work I have followed for many decades. I came across a few of her poems about five years ago and loved them immediately. She speaks of animals as equal to humans in importance, and writes movingly about the natural world. I told myself to watch out for more and then—as we do—got distracted until The Carrying won an award and I began to read her work seriously. Now, of course, her appointment as US Poet Laureate has brought her work to a much wider audience. I led this study group this past spring. Because it had such a long waiting list and because I enjoyed it so much, I agreed to lead it again this fall.

Ada Limón recommends reading and savoring poems one at a time, which is what we all will do together. 

Required texts: The Carrying (2018, Milkweed Editions) and The Hurting Kind (2022, Milkweed Editions) 

Judith Barrington’s poetry books are: Long Love: New and Selected Poems, 1985–2017; The Conversation; Horses and the Human Soul; History and Geography; and Trying to be an Honest Woman. Her chapbooks are: Lost Lands and Postcard from the Bottom of the Sea. Her poems have appeared in many journals and her Lifesaving: A Memoir was the winner of the Lambda Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir. She was a faculty member at the University of Alaska, Anchorage’s MFA Program and is co-founder of Soapstone Inc.  judithbarrington.com


Reading Louise Erdrich's The Round House
Led by Deborah Miranda
Six Saturdays, from 10 am to 12 pm PST via Zoom
Oct. 21, 28; Nov. 4, 11, 18; Dec. 2
$75, scholarships available
Limited to 16 participants

Louise Erdrich’s novel The Round House fascinates me with its blurred borders and liminalities, as Joe, thirteen-year-old member of a contemporary Ojibwe community, narrates the chaotic emotional and legal aftermath of the brutal sexual assault experienced by his mother.

Centering the voice of an Indigenous boy (accompanied by his posse of friends) to tell an Indian woman’s story is just one of Erdrich’s crazy-smart choices. Through this voice, the historic past dictates the present, adolescence vies with adulthood, sacred places become sites of profanity. The ‘round house’ of the title is a sacred ceremonial structure where this brutal crime takes place; not only is the round house located on Indigenous land within the United States, but the convoluted legal and cultural jurisdictions (state law? federal law? tribal law?) allow readers to feel and think about the effect of historical traumas on the present lives of Indian and settler lives alike.

I am in awe of Erdrich’s ability to write so many layers of human history and relationship into beautiful, engaging fiction and create a world of unique characters like Mooshum, a grandfather whose ribald stories and ancient dreams help Joe understand the spiritual lineage of the round house, and Cappy, the best friend whose loyalty and love lead to an impossible sacrifice. In this study group we’ll look at how Erdrich uses storytelling, humor, and tenderness to draw us into the borderlands we now call Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Amnesty International has called this “The Maze of Injustice” that is our American cultural inheritance. Together we’ll look at the threads Erdrich creates as her characters search for ways through that maze.

Required text: The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Deborah Miranda is an enrolled member of the Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation in California, with Santa Ynez Chumash ancestry. Her hybrid collection Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir, won the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award. In 2022, the 10th anniversary edition of Bad Indians was released, with 50+ additional pages of material. She is also the author of four poetry collections (Indian Cartography, The Zen of La Llorona, Raised by Humans, and Altar for Broken Things) and co-editor of the Lambda finalist Sovereign Erotics: An Anthology of Two-Spirit Literature.Emerita at Washington and Lee University, Deborah continues to guest lecture, teach poetry and memoir workshops, and explore experimental storytelling techniques on the page. She has taught workshops at The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, The Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing at Oregon State University/Cascades, The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, and private settings. Deborah and wife Margo Solod live in Eugene, Oregon not far from where they met at Flight of the Mind. deborahmiranda.com


Past study groups are listed on the Previous Study Groups page.