Longtime laborer shares poetry at writers’ series


Clemens Starck considers Pendleton one of his old stomping grounds.

He worked on the railroad between Pendleton and La Grande 60 years ago, riding the pusher locomotives down the grade on the weekends to drink at bars in Pendleton. Starck will return to town this time to present his award-winning poetry during the First Draft Writers’ Series.

The free event is Thursday, April 19 at 7 p.m. at Pendleton Center for the Arts, 214 N. Main St. After the reading, Starck will field questions from the audience. In addition, there will be an open mic for local writers to read from their work.

Born in 1937 in Rochester, New York, Starck dropped out of Princeton. He continued his education on the road, riding freight trains and working at a variety of jobs across the country. He’s been a ranch hand in Eastern Oregon, a newspaper reporter on Wall Street, a door-to-door salesman and a merchant seaman. He also worked construction up and down the West Coast for more than 20 years.

As a poet, Starck received a scholarship from the Breadloaf Writers Conference as well as a grant and year-long residency at the Helene V. Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. In 1998, he was the Witter Bynner Fellow and poet-in-residence at Willamette University, where he has taught on several occasions. In February 2004, he was visiting poet at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Starck’s first book of poems, “Journeyman’s Wages,” received the 1996 Oregon Book Award as well as the William Stafford Memorial Poetry Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. His next two books — “Studying Russian on Company Time” (1999) and “China Basin” (2002) — were also finalists for the Oregon Book Award. “Traveling Incognito,” a letterpress chapbook from Wood Works in Seattle, appeared in 2004. “Rembrandt, Chainsaw,” another letterpress chapbook, was published in the fall of 2011.

The late Jim Harrison, poet and author of “Legends of the Fall,” said of Starck’s work, “(There are) some truly extraordinary poems here. Easily, gracefully, right up there with the best work being done today.”

His most recent book of poems, “Old Dogs, New Tricks,” was published by Oblio Press in the spring of 2016. He lives on 40-some acres in the country outside of Dallas, Oregon.

Showcasing notable Pacific Northwest authors, First Draft Writers’ Series meets the third Thursday of each month. It celebrates writing and provides an opportunity for people in Eastern Oregon to engage in discussions about a variety of topics.

For more information about the writers’ series, call 541-278-9201 or visit For more about Starck, go to


Contact Community Editor Tammy Malgesini at or 541-564-4539

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.