Silver Lake Poetry Festival Showcased the Lyrics of Washington Loggers

For our 40th Anniversary, we’re looking back at 40 Years of Washington Stories. This installment features the 1993 Silver Lake Logger Poetry Festival, which celebrated poetry from an unlikely place: logging camps.

The logger poets outside of the Silver Lake Grange Hall. From left to right, standing: Sam Gardner, Peter Trower, Thelma Evelyn Jones, Lon Minkler, Bill Foss, Otto Oja. Sitting, left to right: Hank Nelson, Vigil Wallace, Bill Iund, Vi Iund | Photo by Jens Lund

The logger poets outside of the Silver Lake Grange Hall. From left to right, standing: Sam Gardner, Peter Trower, Thelma Evelyn Jones, Lon Minkler, Bill Foss, Otto Oja. Sitting, left to right: Hank Nelson, Vigil Wallace, Bill Iund, Vi Iund | Photo by Jens Lund

Humanities Washington is celebrating our 40th anniversary with 40 Years of Washington Stories. Each week on Spark, we’ll offer a snapshot from our past, sharing forty years of stories that have helped shape the humanities in Washington state.

When Washington’s loggers weren’t felling trees, many of them were writing poetry and singing songs to pass the time. Their art was largely confined to logging camps, however, until the 1993 Silver Lake Logger Poetry Festival took place. Partly funded by Humanities Washington, the festival drew over 200 people to the Silver Lake Grange Hall to see eight logger poets perform over the course of a single evening.

Washington logger Lon Minkler, who performed at the festival, recalled how he got his start in the craft of poetry for the Cowlitz County Advocate in 1993. “I would write a little verse, generally not very nice, about one of the rigging crew,” he said. “If they liked a certain verse I sent to them, they’d take it home.”

The poetry shared by the loggers showcased their unique point of view on environmental and working-class issues. Washington’s logger poets developed their craft in the relative isolation of logging camps, and the Silver Lake Logger Poetry Festival was an overdue opportunity for these artists to share their story with a much broader public.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Humanities Washington

Get the latest news and event information from Humanities Washington, including updates on Think & Drink and Speakers Bureau events.