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,

About Splabman

Poet & interviewer Paul E Nelson founded SPLAB (Seattle Poetics LAB) & the Cascadia Poetry Festival. Since 1993, SPLAB has produced hundreds of poetry events & 600 hours of interview programming with legendary poets & whole systems activists including Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Joanne Kyger, Robin Blaser, Diane di Prima, Daphne Marlatt, Nate Mackey, George Bowering, Barry McKinnon, José Kozer, Brenda Hillman & many others. Paul’s books include American Prophets (interviews 1994-2012) (2018) American Sentences (2015) A Time Before Slaughter (2009) and Organic in Cascadia: A Sequence of Energies (2013). Co-Editor of Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia (2015), 56 Days of August: Poetry Postcards (2017) and Samthology: A Tribute to Sam Hamill (2019) Make it True meets Medusario (2019), he’s presented poetry/poetics in London, Brussels, Nanaimo, Qinghai & Beijing, China, has had work translated into Spanish, Chinese & Portuguese & writes an American Sentence every day. Awarded a residency at The Lake, from the Morris Graves Foundation in Loleta, CA, he’s published work in Golden Handcuffs Review, Zen Monster, Hambone, and elsewhere. Winner of the 2014 Robin Blaser Award from The Capilano Review, he is engaged in a 20 year bioregional cultural investigation of Cascadia and lives in Rainier Beach, in the Cascadia bioregion’s Cedar River watershed.
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