New for Fall 2017: A LONG LATE PLEDGE from Bear Star Press!

Wendy Willis

poetessayistpublic speaker

About Wendy

Wendy Willis is a poet and essayist living in Portland, Oregon. Her second book of poems, A Long Late Pledge, won the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize and was released by Bear Star Press in September 2017. Her first book of poems, Blood Sisters of the Republic, was published by Press 53 in 2012. Wendy has also published poems and essays in a wide variety of journals, including New England Review, Oregon Humanities, Poetry Northwest, The Rumpus, Zócalo Public Square, and ZYZZYVA. Wendy is a faculty member in poetry at the Attic Institute in Portland, Oregon.

Wendy is the Executive Director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and the founder and director of Oregon’s Kitchen Table. She also serves on the Boards of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation and Tavern Books. Wendy has served as a federal public defender and as the law clerk to Chief Justice Wallace P. Carson, Jr. of the Oregon Supreme Court. She graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown Law Center and holds a B.A. from Willamette University and an M.F.A. in poetry from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.

Wendy is available to give readings or talks on issues related to poetry, public life, and other various and sundry topics. To schedule a reading or talk, please contact Wendy at

A Long Late Pledge

The Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize, 2017

A Long Late Pledge, Wendy Willis’s second book of poems and the first from Bear Star Press, arrives at the perfect moment in our national conversation about democracy, what it is and where it has failed. Willis’s book suggests what remedies there might be for resurrecting its original premise, this time including a pledge to honor what was left out of its charters and laws the first time around. Grounded primarily in the landscape of Willis’s home state of Oregon, the book contains a number of poems that find their footing farther east as well, as far as Monticello and beyond, and contains an afterward of sorts, “notes & commonplaces” that readers will want to consult from time to time as they read the poems.



"An invitation to the thousandth generation, a song of ourselves, is Wendy Willis's glorious second poetry collection. The integrative force of her “full moon mind” is heroic, huge, and intricate as lace handmade of tatted platinum. How we need this brave book now! Her elegantly wild poems subtly ask us to rededicate ourselves to what matters most in life and art. Willis carries the “dark cinder for the nation,” then she breathes it into a bonfire. Puissance and pulchritude, mirth and mettle--I love this book." - Kathleen Halme, author of My Multiverse

“In poems that remake our notions of republic, history, and citizenship, Wendy Willis is writing poetry that is deep in the woundedness of our moment.  A Long Late Pledge is about the bitter palimpsest that comprises the American polity, and the fetor always just beneath the glossy stories that have been told to us, that we continue to tell ourselves.  Resisting what is received, Willis’s poems clamor with haunted voices and with histories brought into new notice.  What’s here is discordant beauty.  As we’re all urgently aware, what we have is broken, but in lyricism that’s as radiant as it is acerbic, the poems in A Long Late Pledge carry forward, tally, stitch back, recover, and mend.” - Rick Barot, author of Chord

“Just when you want to forget that juncture, that hinge and point where the body, the actual physical body meets the social, law-making world, just when you could do without a reminder of how citizens need to abide, Wendy Wills steps up to the podium with a seriously beautiful and sustained argument to remain aware and concerned with your responsibility as a human—A Long Late Pledge is a pleasure to read. It is a storehouse of knowledge you will continually return to for sustenance.” - Carl Adamshick, author of Saint Friend


Blood Sisters of the Republic

A Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection

"What is this creature Wendy Willis calls Blood Sisters of the Republic? Let me offer a few excited observations: a compendium, an almanac, a miscellany. A genealogy both personal and broadly American. An investigation of loss. A lush, lyrical hymn to maddening and beloved communities that define us. Willis deftly inhabits a tremendous number of drives-the lyrically sensual, the intimately epistolary, the historiographic-but most central to the spirit of this stunning first collection is the drive to pay unceasing attention to the ruined and tender world. Blood Sisters of the Republic explodes all well-behaved notions of what a collection of poetry might contain, insisting on a vaster and more civic notion of the art form." -Lia Purpura, author of King Baby, the 2008 Beatrice Hawley Award winner.



“Wendy Willis is a poet of serious heart, a fact of enormous importance to the political and personal terms of her first book. While her politics lie in a generosity of spirit, her affections border on the extravagant. There is something wonderfully wild at the center of her poems, a freedom earned by craft. Blood Sisters of the Republic is as much about its local life as it is about national conscience. Plentitude and complexity are the hallmarks of its voice. And love is its signature.” — Stanley Plumly, author of Old Heart

“With a voice as uptown as it is down-home, Wendy Willis' splendid poems make one astonishing yet satisfying leap after another. Each line is chock-a-block with a jazzy, jostling sound all her own. This poet '...stands and keens / her tunneled silence, a burr in the mouth, smooth as oil...' The width and depth of her embrace is remarkable, her vision as fearless as her full-tilt music. '” — Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate and author of The Voluptuary


Upcoming Events

Autumn 2017

Publication Day! A Long Late Pledge - September 1, 2017

Book Launch - Friday, September 8, 2017
Mouther Foucault's Bookshop - Portland, OR

Reading C.D. Wright (class) - Sept. 16 & 30, Oct. 21 & 28
Taborspace - Portland, OR

Atheneum Faculty Reading - Monday, September 11, 2017
Stonehenge Studios - Portland, OR

Reading with David Biespiel - Thursday, October 12, 2017
Powell's Books - Portland, OR

Reading with David Biespiel - Monday, October 16, 2017
57th Street Books - Chicago, IL

Reading with David Biespiel - Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Broadway Books - Portland, OR

Reading with David Biespiel - Sunday, October 29, 2017
Open Books - Seattle, WA

Community Conversation - Thursday, November 02, 2017
"Democracy from the Inside Out: Listening to Our Consciences and Our Neighbors."
Dallas Public Library - Dallas, Oregon

Hometown Book Launch - Sunday, November 05, 2017
Along Came Trudy - Springfield, Oregon

Panel & Pop-up Reading - Saturday, November 11, 2017
Wordstock - Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon

Promoting Civil Discourse - Tuesday, November 14, 2017
League of Women Voters - Multnomah County Board Room, Portland Oregon

Writing Workshop, Digging the Well
Sat & Sun, Nov. 18 & 19, 2017
The Attic Institute - Portland, Oregon

Oregon Historical Society Holiday Cheer Book Sale
Sunday, December 3, 2017
Oregon Historical Society - Portland Oregon