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The Book Keeper

November 12, 2015

Natalie Garyet B.A. ’10

The office of preservationist press Tavern Books, where Natalie Garyet B.A. ’10 serves as managing editor, is, fittingly, an object of preservation itself: hidden on the second floor of Portland’s historic Union Station, carpeted and wood-paneled, the room feels as charmingly anachronistic as a dusty tome.

Neatly shelved against one wall are copies of the 35 volumes Tavern has published to date, all within the award-winning nonprofit press’ distinctive specialty: out-of-print and translated works of poetry. For Garyet, whose work at Tavern marries her passion for poetry with her devotion to cultural conservation, these rows of resurrected works represent a labor of love.

“Making sure these voices stay alive for future generations is incredibly important,” she says.

Even as a youth, growing up in Boulder, Colorado, Garyet was a preservationist of sorts. “I always saved everything,” she remembers. The young Garyet was also a lover of words. “I kept a lot of journals, and I read ravenously,” she says.

English, then, was the clear choice when she came to Lewis & Clark and declared a major. During her time on Palatine Hill, Garyet says, she developed greatly as a writer and a reader, thanks in large part to the intellectual rigor of Rachel Cole, associate professor of English, and the personalized attention of Mary Szybist, associate professor of English.

“Mary was an incredible force, especially in guiding me to poetry,” says Garyet. “She was good at judging where students were in the process, then working with them individually.”

Garyet also pursued her interest in preservation at Lewis & Clark, minoring in art history. She was particularly influenced by a course in curation taught by Linda Tesner, director of the Ronna and Eric Hoffman Gallery of Contemporary Art. “That was where I started thinking, ‘How could this be a job?’” she recalls. “And it made me think about how putting together an exhibition and putting together a book are similar.”

After graduation, Garyet helped catalog the Aubrey R. Watzek Library’s William Stafford Archives. During this period, she was introduced to Tavern Books by Paul Merchant, William Stafford archivist, and got to know the press’ editor, Carl Adamshick, who was then the William Stafford poet in residence. Garyet quickly became a Tavern devotee. “I fell in love with the press,” she says. “Every time they came out with a book, I would get ahold of it.”

In 2012, Garyet ran into Adamshick at a retirement party for Merchant. Having just received a sizable grant, Tavern was in the process of becoming an official nonprofit with paid staff, and Adamshick invited her to “come in at the ground floor” as a volunteer. Within a few months, her role became a staff position.

Today, Garyet is the two-person press’ versatile generalist, performing duties ranging from editorial (selecting works for publication) to administrative (shipping books to customers). She credits her liberal arts education with giving her the ability to pivot from critical reading, to grant writing, to project management.

“At Lewis & Clark, I was able to make connections between vastly different fields because I was taking all sort of classes,” she says. “My mind feels malleable.”

Helping helm what is one of only a handful of presses specializing in out-of-print and translated poetry, Garyet has few footsteps to follow. But the critical thinking skills her Lewis & Clark education instilled in her, she says, have proven to be a key navigation tool.

“At Tavern, we’re not being told what to do— we have to take the initiative and do it ourselves,” she observes. “Going to a school that let you have an independent path taught me how to invent my own way.”

—by Jonathan Frochtzwajg B.A. ’09

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