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An Oak Harbor poet’s romance with the Pacific Northwest
“Smoke & Dust” isn’t just Perry Woodfin’s new book of poetry. It’s a gathering of words and images mirroring the beauty of Puget Sound and Whidbey Island; a series of memories wrapped in adjectives and the verbs that sum up Woodfin’s life in the Pacific Northwest.
Woodfin, 70, has lived in Oak Harbor for more than 20 years and has been writing poetry since he was a teenager. One of his poems, “Swan Song,” was published in the Whidbey News-Times a few years ago in response to the building of Walmart in Oak Harbor, and another of the poems in his book, “We Gather Here Today,” was inspired by the police reports published in the News-Times.
Whidbey Islanders may recognize Woodfin’s paintings, which he sells at farmers markets in Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Greenbank. Woodfin’s paintings are “like a tour of Whidbey Island,” he said. They depict iconic scenes and many can be seen in Woodfin’s first book, “Island Time,” a day planner rich with his art.
“I have had this long love affair with the Pacific Northwest. It’s so beautiful. And if nothing else, this book mirrors that beauty,” Woodfin said of “Smoke & Dust.” “A lot of people are familiar with my watercolors. This is kind of the background to those watercolors.”
“It’s a look at Puget Sound with a specific look at Whidbey Island, but someone could pick it up in Chicago and still enjoy it,” Woodfin added.
With poems ranging from six lines to longer poetry that reads like short stories, and topics from memories to journeys of the imagination, Woodfin’s poetry is, above all, accessible. He doesn’t write poetry that fits into the general conception of pedantic verses that mean nothing in the end. His poetry doesn’t even rhyme.
Instead, Woodfin writes about seeing the Olympic Mountains from his Vashon Island childhood home, sure they were Norway, in the first piece in the book, a nostalgic poem called “Norway.”
“It’s about memories of the Olympic Mountains as a kid and as a grown man, and the two points in time,” Woodfin said.
Then there are the more humorous poems like “A Hat Trick Too Much For TV,” an imaginative roam through the possible wearers of a fallen beret Woodfin found on the street.
“I try to make it easy to read and easy to understand so that’s what people are really going to appreciate,” Woodfin said of the entire book.
Every other page has illustrations by Woodfin, from beautiful examples of his iconic Whidbey Island scenery to woodblocks and more abstract art.
Woodfin has been supporting himself with his art since 1965 but poetry has a special pull for him. While paintings are very involved and can take endless hours, Woodfin can write a poem in minutes.
“That’s the beauty of poetry. You can get in and out of a poem really fast. And that’s kind of a relief, a nice creative relief,” Woodfin said.
Woodfin published the book himself, a great perk of the “digital revolution.” If you wanted to publish a book a few years ago, “you had to put on your salesman’s hat and go off and sell yourself to a publishing house,” Woodfin said. But now, the power has shifted to the content provider.
“So basically, you have an idea, you can just produce it,” Woodfin said.
On-demand printing makes it affordable, meaning Woodfin can sell his book for $9.95 and still make money on it, or he can sell his books to bookstores and they can still make money, too, which was Woodfin’s goal.
“Smoke & Dust” is available at Wind & Tide Bookstore in Oak Harbor and Moonraker Books and Anchor Books and Coffee on South Whidbey. Soon it will be available at Bayleaf in Coupeville.
Check out the book online at perrywoodfin.com, read Woodfin’s blog at perrywoodfin.blogspot.com or friend him on Facebook.