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Merchant’s poetry of affinity earns Oregon Book Award nomination

November 26, 2007

(Portland, Ore.)—Amid national and international strife, at a time when cultural divisions and personal differences dominate the public consciousness, Paul Merchant’s Some Business of Affinity offers perspectives about the human experience that supersede those boundaries. Nominated for an Oregon Book Award, Merchant’s collection of poems, translations, and collaborations with visual artists explores the stories of diverse cultures and histories to find shared experiences. Read a review of Merchant’s book by The Oregonian.

“The poems in this book explore creative aspects of different cultures,” said Merchant, an adjunct faculty member in the English Department. “It’s a necessary look beyond national borders at a time of hostility between nations and ideologies.”

In addition to his teaching duties, Merchant also serves as a special collections associate at Watzek Library. His passion for historical and creative materials from a broad and deep range of cultures and stories is clearly reflected in Some Business of Affinity. His nominated book includes the ancient and modern Greek, Latin, medieval Welsh, and one of the prose journals of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The collection also includes five historical sequences, based on the lives of the Roman poet Catullus, the Elizabethan occult philosopher and mathematician John Dee, the Japanese print-maker Hokusai, the Italian Count Borromeo, who created a fantastic palace and garden on an island in Lake Maggiore, and a fictional participant in the Cherokee Trail of Tears.

A Wales native, Merchant saw his first poetry in print in 1957. He has been a member of the Lewis & Clark community since 1998. Some Business of Affinity is his fourth poetry collection and marks his first nomination for the Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry, an honor bestowed on full-time Oregon resident poets.

“As a person born elsewhere, I am especially pleased to have my collection listed among this year’s nominated texts,” Merchant said. “The activity of writing, even when it is as collaborative as mine tends to be, is a relatively solitary occupation. Being considered a part of this community is very gratifying.”

Winners will be announced at the 21st Annual Oregon Book Awards ceremony, which will take place on December 2, at 7:30 p.m., at the Portland Art Museum.

Since 1987, the Oregon Book Awards have annually identified the finest accomplishments by Oregon writers in genres of poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, drama, children’s literature, and young adult literature. Out-of-state judges choose finalists in each category, including a winner, using literary merit as the sole criterion. All finalists are promoted in libraries and bookstores across the state, and invited to take part in the Oregon Book Awards Author Tour. The Oregon Book Awards is a program of Literary Arts, a statewide, nonprofit organization.

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Emily Miller
Public Relations Coordinator
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