From Molly Cook

Dear Writing and Reading Friends…
On Sunday, May 2, a devastating fire consumed the wonderful Great Northwest Book Store in Portland.  Great Northwest Books was one of the quintessential used/rare book stores on the west coast and news of the fire spread far and wide.

General readers, historians, book mavens, and researchers have seen GNB as a wonderful resource for nearly 40 years for whatever their reading needs might be.  I know many of you have either traveled to Portland or are in Portland and have likely set foot in the store, either in the church or in its former location downtown on Stark St. around the corner from Jake’s.
Tragically, the fire and ensuing water damage not only devastated the books but also the building, a beautiful historic church in southwest Portland being re-used as the book store’s home.  Phil Wikelund, the owner of the store is an old friend, whose heart and soul were metaphorically engulfed in the flames as well.  He’s now left with the very hard and expensive task of salvaging and storing what books could be saved and then, sadly, demolishing what’s left of the building.  Thirty years ago, my personal library was lost to thieves and the lingering effect of that much smaller loss gives me a gut feeling for what Phil’s going through now.

Unfortunately, there was no insurance on the building or its contents.  Economic pressures had hit the business as it’s hit so many.  So friends in Portland have set up a trust fund to raise money for the cost of demolishing the building and storing the remaining contents toward what we all hope will be a Phoenix-like rise, literally, from the ashes and a new rare book business for Phil.

The cost of demolition will run into tens of thousands of dollars to be paid out over the next few weeks.  Phil’s income, of course, is gone for now.  In a message to me, Phil said:  “ I do not expect people to donate past their personal means. in fact, if Connie had not started this fund it would not exist. I have never had to ask for help nor do I feel entirely comfortable or capable of such solictation.”

I know this to be true, but Phil not only ran the store, he also encouraged writers – including me – over the years.  In addition, he stocked my books and helped me with marketing, as he did many local writers.   And just to ease your minds, this is a personal from Molly one-time request on behalf of Phil and northwest writers and readers.  Please don’t think your names have been added to anybody else’s lists.  Never happen.

Various sources are coming to Phil’s aid, and I wanted to let my writing and reading friends know the situation in case you would like to join in the cause.  Many things demand our time and money these days – for those of us who write and read, losing a wonderful and legendary bookstore is more than sad.

If you would like to donate to help with demolition and, we all hope, a new GNB, you can do so by sending your contribution to Phil’s Fire Fund, On Point Community Credit Union, P.O. Box 3750, Portland, OR 97208.
If you want to be in touch with Phil, let me know and I’ll get contact information to you. And if you know someone else who might be interested in this message, please feel free to forward it.

Con amore, con brio,
Molly

About Splabman

Poet/interviewer Paul Nelson:

Founded: SPLAB (Seattle Poetics LAB) & the Cascadia Poetry Festival

Wrote: American Sentences (2015), A Time Before Slaughter (2010) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (Lumme Editions, Brazil, 2013). His 2015 interview with José Kozer was published in 2016 (Ranchos Press) as Tiovivo Tres Amigos.

Interviewed: Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Joanne Kyger, Robin Blaser, Anne Waldman, Ed Sanders, Diane di Prima, Nate Mackey, George Bowering, Brenda Hillman, among others
and is engaged in a 20 year bioregional cultural investigation of Cascadia, including the festival, a MOOC (Innovative Cascadia Poetry), interviews with Cascadia poets indigenous elders and activists, and the anthology Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia. Paul is co-editor of that anthology as well as 56 Days of August the poetry postcard anthology and writes an American Sentence daily.

*MOOC = Massive Open Online Course

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