(Photo copyrighted by Scottie Sterrett)
Of all the sites on the World Wide Web, you had to stumble into mine. Unless you’re here by design. Either way, I hope you’ll stick around long enough to see what I’m all about. If you like what you see, drop back. There’s plenty more where this came from.
I started my writing career as a sophomore at Oregon State College (now University) when the editor of the off-campus humor magazine, Beaver dam, flipped me the keys to the office and said, “It’s all yours.” Six months shy of a degree and a Navy commission, I dropped out and headed for New York City's Greenwich Village in hot pursuit of my Muse. The only jobs I was offered, this being the Recession of 1958, were as a printer’s devil in a stationery store in the third basement beneath Grand Central Station, and as a writer for The Wall Street Journal . . . in San Francisco.
[My fifth chapbook, A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to a Geology Degree, about my New York adventures, was published in 2011 by Finishing Line Press. Place an order if you’re so inclined. The cover features a beautiful painting of The White Horse Tavern, my main hangout in Greenwich Village, by New York artist Stephen Gardner. Noted poet X.J. Kennedy calls the book “heartening, hilarious, and hugely enjoyable. Imagine! poems that keep you fastened to your chair, expectantly turning the pages!” And now we return to our regularly scheduled introduction.]
After graduating from Portland State College (now University) in 1959, I was offered a job as a “copy boy” at The Oregonian, a stepping-stone to rewriting obituaries. Being young and restless, and thriving on adventure, I hired on as a reporter, photographer and humor columnist for the Oregon City Enterprise-Courier, a small-town daily.
Instead of running errands, I covered seven beats, shot most of the paper’s photos, and wrote a daily humor column, “One Man’s Poison,” on my own time, for no extra pay. When a reader dubbed me “The bilious boy with the poison pen,” I felt as if I’d hit the big time, right up there with H.L. Mencken.
I was fired after a year—but what a year! The publisher trotted after me down Main Street, pleading with me to stay, explaining that the managing editor had fired some of the state’s better reporters—including William Lambert, a pioneer of modern investigative journalism, who went on to win two Pulitzer Prizes.
Lacking any practical skills, I kept on writing, first in public relations, then in advertising, then in politics. I free-lanced for 11 of my 34 years as a hired gun, dropping into full-time employment whenever free-lance work was scarce or I got an offer I couldn’t refuse. At my 30th class reunion, I was awarded a coffee mug—imprinted, ironically, with “OSU Grad”—for having switched jobs the most times (16).
In my off hours, I churned out poems, short stories, novels, screenplays, essays, humor, children’s books, letters to the editor, op-ed articles, whatever tickled my fancy. That’s mostly what I’ve been doing, other than tilting at social, political and environmental windmills, since January 1, 1993, when I dropped out for the last time . . . that and rescuing the Oregon Poetry Association from oblivion, saving Canemah Bluff from development, running for state representative to stop a developer's darling (I drew 40% of the vote in the Primary, and my opponent lost in the General), campaigning to restore Celilo Falls and save wild salmon and horses from extinction, protesting the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and wrong-headed timber sales, camping annually in the Southeastern Oregon wilderness, showing (and loving!) 18 Scottish Deerhounds over 45 years, and collecting ancient to antique trade beads.
My work has appeared in Poetry, Measure, Poet Lore, Able Muse, Trinacria, The Christian Science Monitor, Light Quarterly, Light: A journal of Light Verse, Lighten Up Online (UK), et al., and, closer to home, Left Bank, Calapooya Collage, Northwest Magazine, The Sunday Oregonian, and Windfall: A Journal of Poetry of Place. Poems are anthologized in Stafford’s Road, Portland Lights, All Said & Done (UK), et al.
Books include Petty Frogs on the Potomac (1997), a political burlesque in rhymed verse, five small collections of poems: The Wild Bunch (1998), Brother Joe (2000), Steens Mountain Sunrise: Poems of the Northern Great Basin (2004), and Selected Sonnets (2006); A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to a Geology Degree (2011), Prospects of Life After Birth: Memoir in Poetry and Prose (2019), The Changer (2021), a novel; Trump Über Alles: Rhymes for Trying Times (2022), political humor, and The Zigzag Papers: An Inspector François Poulet of Interpol Attempted Murder Mystery (2023), a farce.
In Poems, try “On Stirring the Pot,” “Spencer’s Rock” and “Up and Down the Stairs He Chased Her.” In Life, try “The Art of Instability” and “Saying Good-bye.”
In the immortal words of Cincinnatus Heine Miller, better known by his nom de plume. Joaquin Miller, an American poet, author, and frontiersman dubbed the "Poet of the Sierras" after the Sierra Nevada: Sail on! And on! And on!