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Tim Gillespie

Tim Gillespie

Old Stories

For many decades, poems have been leaking from Tim Gillespie’s brainpan, leaving marks along the roads of his wanderings.

In fifth grade, he was moved by no assignment to write a rhyming poem on the occasion of his younger brother’s birth. He showed it to his teacher in his hometown. Without telling him, the teacher submitted it to a contest at the Los Angeles County fair. Some weeks later, his family found the poem thumb-tacked with scores of others on a display board at the back end of a vast animal husbandry hall filled with roosters, pigeons, goats, and rabbits. Few people were back there to see the blue ribbon, but amid the bleats and clucks in the heart of the L.A. megalopolis, he found some of the essentials of his poetry: serendipity, juxtaposition, the music of sound, and the glory of an art that no one performs or publishes for wide acclaim or money, only for love.

At the age of 18, the author left Southern California in an old station wagon to attend Stanford University, where he majored in English, helping pay his way with jobs as a warehouseman, parts truck driver, and merchant seaman. He married Jan Giske right out of college, then took a job as an aide at an inner-city elementary school in Oakland, California, to fulfill his two-year alternative service obligation as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. Though he originally thought he would pursue journalism, that experience hooked him on a teaching life.

Moving with his wife to Portland, Oregon, the author got his teaching credential and began an almost-forty-year public school career, mostly teaching high school English. He has been President of the Oregon Council of Teachers of English, a founding co-director of the Oregon Writing Project at Lewis & Clark College, and one of the original founders of the annual Oregon Writing Festival for student writers, a statewide extravaganza that for over 30 years has attracted almost a thousand young writers annually to participate in a day of workshops and readings. A winner of a National High School English Teacher of Excellence Award from the National Council of Teachers of English, he wrote regularly about his experiences during his years in the classroom. Nearly 100 of his essays, articles, and chalkdust poems have appeared in national educational publications and books, and he is the author of his own thick book for teachers, Doing Literary Criticism, published by Stenhouse Press.

At the same time, he and his wife raised two sons and now have two much-loved daughters-in-law and a collection of terrific grandchildren. An avid reader, walker, hiker, and traveler (often to his wife’s ancestral homeland of Norway), he played harmonica and wrote lyrics for many years for the late, slightly-lamented blues-rock band Big Blind.

Through all these adventures and activities, the author found poems adding sense, wonder, and music to life.

Old Stories Some Not True and other poems   $16.00

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Read a review of Old Stories Some Not True by the Bookmonger, Barbara Lloyd McMichael.

Poem from Old Stories Some Not True and other poems

Lit Teacher

Day after day I’m up there pitching tales
they read or don’t, ignore or embrace
like hopefuls at the eighth grade dance.
Some drop anchors, some set sails.

One girl says she finds herself on the page
of a dusty play about kings and ghosts.
One boy protests. He says, “These are just
made-up people for pretending on a stage.”

She clears her throat, has more to quietly say:
“No, I love that nunnery girl. She knows my story.
She’s real, alone. She speaks, but then she’s sorry.”
The boy just snorts. The girl is brave but looks away,

because the saying of her love is a lonely thing.
                        with apologies for poaching
                        from William Stafford’s “Lit Instructor”