‘Fighting the good fight’: Chris Olander to share from new poetry collection at Sierra Poetry Festival event | TheUnion.com

‘Fighting the good fight’: Chris Olander to share from new poetry collection at Sierra Poetry Festival event

Chris Olander
Photo by Maureen Hurley
Nevada County Poet Laureate Chris Olander’s newest collection of poetry is called “Twilight Roses.” Olander will read from his new collection Wednesday during a virtual Earth Day event hosted by the Sierra Poetry Festival.
Provided photo

Nevada County Poet Laureate Chris Olander’s newest poetry collection “Twilight Roses” began 35 years ago after he graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from California State University, Sacramento. This Wednesday Olander will read from his newest collection during a Sierra Poetry Festival pop-up event in honor of Earth Day.


WHO: Nevada County Poet Laureate Chris Olander, Sierra Poetry Festival

WHAT: Book launch and reading for new poetry collection “Twilight Roses”

WHEN: Wednesday, April 21, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Virtual

MORE INFO: http://www.sierrapoetryfestival.org

REGISTER: Registration is required for the event. Register at http://www.sierrapoetryfestival.org/popup-poetry-events

Olander first studied creative writing because he wanted to write poetry that revealed the political, social, emotional and spiritual relationships between humans and their natural environments. Olander began to notice what was happening to the ecology of the Sierra Nevada while living in Lake Tahoe from 1968 to 1976.

“While living in Lake Tahoe I soon realized that we had subdued nature to our wants and greed for self pleasure and satisfaction of our egos while extracting resources to the extent that we are literally fueling and driving climate change, extinctions of species, habitat loss, and poisoning the world with toxic chemical production and proliferation around the world and even into space,“ said Olander.

While backpacking through the Sierra Nevada in 1960-80s, Olander could see the loss and degradation humans were causing to rivers, lakes, forests and animals.

“I wanted to be of help in educating young people in public schools about their reciprocal relationship with nature and all its species. We are all in this together; what we make of it is what we get,” said Olander. “I began to teach poetry writing through Cal-Poets in Schools in Northern California counties in 1984, expanding my area to include eleven counties as well as teaching gigs in L.A., Berkeley and Bay Area, Hawaii and Washington state.”

The poems in “Twilight Roses” were written mostly between 1995 and 2015 as Olander discovered more horrors concerned with rapid population growth throughout the world and the effects from too many people extracting resources and the depletion of water and food.

“Humans do not need to be the scourge of the landscape,” said Olander.

During this time Olander also discovered beautiful examples of the resiliency of species and humans, as well as the heroic efforts of young people and especially women rising to the challenges of living in this world and trying to make life more pleasant and bearable.

Olander hopes that the poetry in “Twilight Roses” will guide people towards the realization that we can live with nature and learn to be satisfied with having enough without constantly wanting more.

“Education of men and women in all forms of ecology, sex, mathematics and history is of prime importance as well as promoting a sense of the earth as sacred space in which we live,” said Olander.

Serving as Poet Laureate

Being chosen Poet Laureate of Nevada County was a great surprise to Olander, as he was not actively pursuing the position.

“I was very happy to be appointed because it made me realize that what I am doing with my poetry has a bit of significance to this community and that I have value doing what I’m doing with teaching and writing poetry,” said Olander. “However, I also realized that it was going to mean much more work for me in performing and promoting poetry in my community.”

For Olander, the most rewarding aspect of being Poet Laureate is being respected as a poetic voice and being able to pass on his own knowledge of poetry and ecology to the younger generations.

“My generation didn’t do the job of the first Earth Day awakening,” explained Olander. “Now, seeing the teaching I have been doing for 40 years becoming scientific knowledge in mainstream awareness and taught in public schools and elsewhere and forming the mindsets of younger people, especially in women’s rise in political power and social issues, is a reinforcement to my own self esteem and knowing that I am fighting the good fight for survival of all species.”

Earth Day reading

When asked what Earth Day means to him, Olander says, “Earth Day is a chance for humans to regard the Earth and all its inhabitants as sacred and regard all life forms with reverence.“

The Sierra Poetry Festival has hosted a series of events throughout the month, both in person and online, including Olander’s reading from “Twilight Roses,” which happens virtually April 21 at 7 p.m.

“Working with the Sierra Poetry Festival has been a great blessing for me,” said Olander. “I was one of the original founders of the Sierra Poetry Festival. Before that I was artistic director of the Nevada County Poetry Series for 12 years, before that I was artistic director of the Poet’s Playhouse for ten years in Nevada City.

Eliza Tudor, director of the Nevada County Arts Council, is a rare jewel that we are blessed to have with us, creating all the incredible art events that she has directed and energized in our county.“

Anyone can order a copy of Olander’s “Twilight Roses” from local bookstores Harmony Books or The Book Seller, as well as from Amazon, or purchase copies from Olander himself at a reduced price of $10. Brown Banana Books in Grass Valley has copies on the shelf.

Joslyn Fillman is the features editor at The Union. Email her at jfillman@theunion.com.

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