May 21, 2017, Portland, Ore. -- Taking the stage in front of a tightly packed crowd at the world’s largest independent bookstore, Powell’s City of Books in downtown Portland, students read their poems aloud and presented their artwork published in the 2017 Honoring Our Rivers: A Student Anthology. They told us a story about their favorite river, its beauty, its life, and its threats. Some traveled from as far as Grants Pass and Talent to participate.
“The purpose of Honoring Our Rivers is to encourage kids to get outside, to connect to their environment, to reflect on that connection, and to express it creatively because, after all, our rivers can’t speak up for themselves,” said the event’s emcee, Tess Malijenovsky, the project’s coordinator for Willamette Partnership.
“We want to engage the creative capacity of students as a means of cultivating the next generation of conservation leaders because we need creativity to solve our most complex environmental problems and because creativity can’t be replaced by computers,” she says.
Chris White, Director of Community Affairs for the Port, shared opening remarks at the Powell's event. The Port of Portland, a major sponsor of the project for the last two years, helped select the theme in celebration of its recent 125th anniversary. This year’s printed anthology included a selection of works for its “working rivers” theme, relating to how communities build around rivers and use them for transportation, recreation, and livelihoods.
Along with the students, Aranya Dong and Marilyn Stablein, two of the poets published in this year's anthology, also read their poems. Every year regional authors and artists were also published in the anthology, giving students a unique opportunity to be published alongside them and raising awareness about the importance of environmental arts and writing in education. This year’s edition included Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita Paulann Petersen, printmaker Roger Peet, storyteller Susan Strauss, poet and artist Marilyn Stablein, gyotaku artist Heather Fortner, fused-glass artist Charlie Tellessen, and poet Aranya Dong.