Pepper Trail


Pepper Trail

Pepper Trail’s poetry has appeared in Rattle, Spillway, Atlanta Review, Cascadia Review, Windfall and elsewhere. His recent collection, Cascade-Siskiyou: Poems, was a finalist for the 2016 Oregon Book Award in Poetry. Trail lives in Ashland, Oregon, where he works as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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What’s your favorite bookstore?

While I’m in awe of the literary cathedral that is Powell’s, my love goes to Bloomsbury, a small independent bookstore in Ashland. Bloomsbury is stocked with books that I didn’t know I needed until I found them there, and is the center of the community of readers and writers in southern Oregon. At Bloomsbury readings, I’ve been inspired by leading Oregon poets including Lawson Inada, Paulann Petersen, Peter Sears, John Witte, and Clement Stark, as well as by such great local writers as Vince and Patty Wixon, Amy Miller, and John Lehnert.

What book made the biggest impression on you as a kid?

Among many favorites, I would have to choose The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame. This very English story of the adventures and misadventures of Mole, Water Rat, and their friends is by turns touching, lyrical, suspenseful, and hilarious, and is always forgiving of even its most preposterous character, Mr. Toad. I still re-read it every year or two for its quiet wisdom and the beauty of its writing.

Tell us about your writing routine. Do you have a favorite time or place to write? 

I’m not lucky enough to have a writing routine, but I do much of my most productive writing outside, hiking in the wild country of southern Oregon. I also find time on airplanes to be surprisingly conducive to writing. My work requires a lot of travel, and most of the poems in my collection Flight were written on long airplane trips.

Besides writing, what’s your passion? 

I’m a lifelong naturalist and environmentalist. I work as an ornithologist for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and also lead natural history trips round the world in my spare time. Most recently, I took part in an expedition cruise from Tahiti to Easter Island, by way of the Marquesas and Pitcairn, and later this year will be travelling to Papua New Guinea. Closer to home, I’m active in conservation efforts in southern Oregon, especially related to the protection and expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. That remarkable landscape was the inspiration for my recent collection, Cascade-Siskiyou: Poems, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award.