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Honoring ‘The Prairie Troubador’

Sat., Nov. 8, 2008

Literary enthusiasts to remember works of Vachel Lindsay

Nicholas Vachel Lindsay may have been born in Springfield, Ill., but for nearly five years the man many people called “The Prairie Troubador” lived in Spokane.

Lindsay, who died in Springfield in 1931 at the age of 52, will be honored in a special event Sunday at the Davenport Hotel. “An Evening with Vachel Lindsay,” which will feature a lineup of area writers, will begin at 4 p.m.

“He lived in Spokane during one of hits most fruitful periods,” says Dennis Held, a Spokane poet (“Betting on the Night”) and one of the event’s organizers.

While in Spokane, Lindsay lived for four years at the Davenport. According to a hotel press release, Lindsay “composed much of his work while residing in Room 1129 … where he lived with his family.”

Many of Lindsay’s performances were held in the Marie Antoinette Ballroom

Lindsay, who moved to Spokane in 1924, believed in the power of what he called a “New Localism,” Held says. And, Held adds, he believed that Spokane had the potential to be a poetic gathering spot.

“It wasn’t a fully realized vision, needless to say,” Held says. Yet, he adds, “He left a legacy of life lived to these principles. I admire him.”

Held will keynote the event, reading several of Lindsay’s poem in character.

Preceding Held’s reading, Tod Marshall, a Gonzaga University professor of English, will talk about Lindsay’s poetry. Shaun O’L. Higgins, author of the Lindsay memoir “Troubador in ‘The Wild Flower City,’ ” will provide a historical perspective of the poet (Higgins is also the marketing director for The Spokesman-Review).

And Spokane author Jess Walter will talk about, in Held’s words, “the Lindsay of myth that he learned about as a kid growing up in Spokane.”

Though this is the inaugural Lindsay celebration, Held hopes to make it an annual event.

“Absolutely,” he says.

“An Evening with Vachel Lindsay” is free and open to the public. For further information, call Held at (509) 327-0427. Or call Tom McArthur at the Davenport at (509) 789-6813.

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