Walt Curtis showed me her name, Hazel Hall, under the table at Satyricon, a literary dope deal, he shrugged and sniffed and riffed off about “Oregon’s Emily Dickinson,” waving his arms mad street professor style.

That was a strong scene of lively active mad poets, churning out real stuff and bringing it downtown. The folks would come out too. College students and slumming intellectuals drinking beers and taking notes. Doug Spangle would MC if Walt couldn’t find his way, making a list and welcoming all with smiles and a hardy hi ho. Bad George and Elizabeth Bolton and Don Chambers – all now passed on, Dan Raphael, Liz Woody, Chris Chester, Philip Minthorn, Leanne Grabel, Sandra Williams, Ed Edmo, Bill Johnson, David Elsey, Harold Johnson, all these Portland Poets.

Light Sleep by Hazel Hall

Women who sing themselves to sleep
Lie with their hands at rest,
Locked over them night-long as though to keep
Music against their breast.

They who have feared the night and lain
Mumbling themselves to peace
Sleep a light sleep lest they forget the strain
That brings them their release.

They dream, who hold beneath the hand
A crumpled shape of song,
Of trembling sound they do not understand,
Yet love the whole night long.

Women who sing themselves to sleep
Must lie in fear till day,
Clasping an amulet of words to keep
The leaning dark away.

Hazel was definitely one of the Outsiders – though not by choice. Born in 1864, an young invalid, she spent her days on the second floor of her family’s home in NW Portland, writing letters to friends real and imagined and gazing out her window.

See Catherine Daly’s Blog for reviews of several Hall texts.

Susan Mach, in 1990 wrote Monograms, a short play based on Hall and her sister Ruth.

The Oregon Book Awards, a clubby backslapping black tie affair, has recently renamed their prime poetry award from the “Hazel Hall Award” to the “Williams Stafford and Hazel Hall Award” merging Hall with a inferior poet. Yuch. They have some event coming up next week but I forget where and when. No amount of direct mail will improve my memory.


Devotes cadged the state to recognize her with the small and tidy Hazel Hall Garden, adjacent to her home, on NW 22nd between Burnside and Everett. Visit and look up. You’ll see the trees Hazel watched through her window.

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