Here On The Edge: World War II, Conscientious Objectors on the Oregon Coast, and Seeds of the Sixties
Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 7:00 P.M., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco

On the occasion of LITQUAKE 2014

City Lights in conjunction with LITQUAKE present a panel discussion with

Steve McQuiddy, Vladimir Dupre, and Steve Dickison (of The Poetry Center at SFSU)

celebrating the recently release book

Here on the Edge

by Steve McQuiddy

published by Oregon State University Press

Here on the Edge is the story of how a World War II conscientious objectors camp on the Oregon Coast plowed the ground for the social and cultural revolutions of the 1960s. This evening explores a long-neglected element of World War II history: the role of pacifism and conscientious objection in what is often called "The Good War." It focuses on one camp situated on the rain-soaked Oregon coast, Civilian Public Service (CPS) Camp #56. As home to the Fine Arts Group at Waldport, the camp became a center of activity for artists and writers from across the country who chose to take a condition of penance (compulsive labor for refusing to serve in the military) and put it to constructive ends. After the war, camp members went on to participate in the San Francisco "Poetry Renaissance" of the 1950s, which heavily influenced the Beat Generation of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg—who in turn inspired the likes of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, leading the way to the 1960s radical upheavals epitomized by San Francisco's "Summer of Love."

Perhaps most remarkable is the amount of sheer talent gathered in this tiny group, a number of whom went on to significant achievement in their fields: poet William Everson, who became Brother Antoninus the "Beat Friar"; Broadus Erle, violinist and founder of the New Music Quartet; Adrian Wilson, fine arts printer and recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant"; Kermit Sheets, founder of Centaur Press and San Francisco's Interplayers theater group; architect Kemper Nomland, Jr.; William Eshelman, president of the Scarecrow Press, and internationally renowned sculptor Clayton James. Other notables published by or involved with the Fine Arts Group include artist Morris Graves, poet William Stafford, fiery antiwar poet Kenneth Patchen, and iconoclastic author Henry Miller.

Here on the Edge places Camp #56 and the Fine Arts Group in the context of conscientious objection in America, the World War II era, and the influence camp members had on the decades that followed. It serves as an introduction, an exploration, a narrative, a history, and, ultimately, a human story. It brings together, finally under one cover, the record of the fascinating members of Camp #56 and the Fine Arts Group, and how their legacy of art and peace resonated far beyond the borders of an isolated work camp in the far corner of the country.

Steve McQuiddy writes and lectures on Pacific Northwest history and culture, particularly the eccentric quarter. His monograph, The Fantastic Tale of Opal Whiteley, has been widely cited and reprinted, with an expanded version published in 2012. He has written for Salon, Mother Jones, Seattle Times, and Best Essays Northwest, and has been awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists. He is an honorary director of the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission and currently teaches writing at Lane Community College in Eugene.

Vlad Dupre, 93 years old, was the executive secretary of the Fine Arts at Waldport. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, and was a psychology professor at Grinnell College and the University of Kansas. He served as president of the National Training Laboratories in Washington, D.C., and ran a private psychotherapy practice. He divides his time between the east and west coasts.

Steve Dickison is director of The Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University since 1999, and curates the Poetry Center's extensive public reading series and directs the American Poetry Archives collection of circa 4,000 hours of original recordings of poets and writers (1954–present). He teaches in the Creative Writing Department at San Francisco State University, and in the Writing and Literature Program at California College of the Arts. A poet and writer, he is editor and publisher of the poetry press Listening Chamber, and with David Meltzer, co-edits Shuffle Boil, an occasional music magazine with poet, artist, and musician contributors.


San Francisco's annual Litquake literary festival was founded by Bay Area writers as a week-long literary spectacle for book lovers, complete with cutting-edge panels, unique cross-media events, and hundreds of readings. Since its founding in 1999, the festival has presented close to 1400 author appearances for an audience of over 32,000 in its lively and inclusive celebration of San Francisco's thriving contemporary literary scene. Litquake seeks to foster interest in literature, perpetuate a sense of literary community, and provide a vibrant forum for Bay Area writing as a complement to the city's music, film, and cultural festivals.