Founded in 1956, the Oregon Poetry Association (OPA) OPA is Oregon’s oldest literary organization, and with over 350 members, we are Oregon’s largest literary organization. OPA was a state-wide outgrowth of Portland’s Verseweavers Poetry Society, which was founded in 1936. The OPA constitution and by-laws were created in April of 1956, and the first annual meeting was held in April of 1957.
David Hedges, who was OPA President from 1982-1983 and 1997-2002, revitalized the organization during his second term. He initiated the Student Poetry Contest, Poetry Day readings at book stores, and the Family Poetry Workshop Project. He was instrumental in the society’s success.
In 2011 our name changed from the Oregon State Poetry Assocation (OSPA) to the Oregon Poetry Assocation (OPA).
We welcome all poets, regardless of publishing history, academic background, and writing experience. Our membership includes winners of the Oregon Book Award (Ingrid Wendt, Willa Schneberg, Penelope Schott and Judith Montgomery), Pushcart Prize nominees, Academy of American Poets award winners, journal editors, and small press editors, as well as beginning poets, poets with a recent first chapbook publication, and experienced poets with no publication history. Our past board members include former Oregon Poet Laureate William Stafford, and the current Oregon Poet Laureate, Paulann Petersen, is an OPA member. Our members reflect the variety of poetry writing in Oregon.
- OPA sponsors two poetry contests each year for adults and one poetry contest for children; members receive a lower price to enter the contests
- The student contest culminates in a reading by the winners and a reception for the young poets and their guests
- The student contest has monetary prizes and is free for the students to enter
- The adult contests always include a category just for New Poets (those poets who have never before received a monetary award for their poetry)
- OPA hosts two annual conferences, held in different Oregon locations, in the fall (closest weekend to October 15, National Poetry Day) and in April (National Poetry Month)
- Recent conference locales include The Dalles, Newport, Eugene, Portland, and Roseburg
- Conferences are open to OPA members and non-members; registration is cheaper for members
- Workshop leaders at OPA conferences include visiting and local poets
- Conferences always include plenty of open mic readings as well as readings by OPA contest winners
- OPA has five units, all of which host a variety of activities
- Unit activities include critique groups, hosting visiting poets, visiting local schools, and doing readings in their areas
- Units include Eugene/Springfield, Marys Peak (Corvallis area), Umpqua Valley (Roseburg area), Rogue Valley (Ashland/Medford area), and Portland
- Salem is working on forming a unit at this time
- OPA has partnered with the Oregon State Library in establishing and maintaining the Oregon Poetry Collection held at the State Library in Salem, and now containing over 1,100 titles
- OPA has had a booth at Wordstock for the past three years
- OPA publishes Verseweavers, which contains poems from the adult contests, and Cascadia, which publishes the winning poems from the annual student contest
The National Federation of State Poetry Societies:
- OPA is part of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS); all OPA members are automatically members of NFSPS
- NFSPS sponsors an annual contest, with 49 categories; these contests are very inexpensive to enter if one is a member
- With over 350 members, OPA is the largest society in NFSPS
- NFSPS has an annual convention, held every June in a state with a state society; recent conventions were held in Memphis, San Antonio, Duluth, and Oklahoma City.
- Recent keynote speakers at NFSPS conventions include Lola Haskins, Mark Doty, David Lee, and Naomi Shihab Nye
- OPA members are often winners in the national NFSPS contests
- Our student poetry winners are often winners in the national student contests sponsored by NFSPS
- NFSPS sponsors the Stevens Manuscript Award, an annual contest for a poetry book manuscript; the submission fee is less for members of NFSPS
- OPA has had 2 Stevens winners: Karen Braucher (Aqua Curves) and Jane Bailey (The Art of Postponement)