Joaquin Miller (1837-1913)

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Joaquin Miller.jpg

Joaquin Miller (1837-1913) wrote 26 books of poetry and one play (based on one of his poetry books). In his youth, he moved from Oregon to California during the Gold Rush, and had many unique experiences there such as living in a Native American village for a year. He was also wounded in a battle with Native Americans during that time. These experiences influenced his poetry including Life Amongst the Modocs (1873). He went on to join a filibustering expedition and an expedition against the Pitt River Tribe after they killed a white man. In 1864, he moved to Canyon City, Oregon, where he was elected the third judge of Grant County. Besides being a judge and poet, Miller edited the Democratic Register and was a mining-camp cook, lawyer, Pony Express rider, and horse thief.

In 1883, Miller moved to Washington, DC in hopes of getting into politics. He built a log cabin on Meridian Hill (now Malcolm X Park) in order to seek inspiration for poetry. President Cleveland was impressed by Miller’s views on Native Americans and his desire for equal rights for them, and thus asked him to become Superintendent of Indian Affairs in 1885. Miller declined, preferring to continue focusing on writing poetry and living close to nature. He later moved to the Oakland Hills area in California, building another cabin with an amphitheater, and planting over 1,000 evergreens around it. From 1973 to 2012, The Word Works held summer poetry readings at his cabin in Washington, DC, which has been moved to Rock Creek Park, in tribute to him and his love of poetry and nature. That series continues as the Joaquin Miller Poetry Readings at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center. The Word Works published two anthologies based on the long-running series: Whose Woods These Are and Cabin Fever. The winners of The Word Works’ Jacklyn Potter’s Young Poets Competition are among the poets who read there. Miller’s birthplace in Indiana now has a historical marker, and the cabin he built in California is now known as the Joaquin Miller House, with the surrounding area named the Joaquin Miller Park. A California middle school, Miller Middle School, was also named after him.

Miller's poem “Columbus” was quite popular in America and many children memorized it in class. Some more of his books are: Specimens (1868), Pacific Poems (1871), True Bear Stories (1900), and As It Was in the Beginning (1903).

Miller Cabin LoC.jpg Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joaquin_Miller#List_of_works AND http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joaquin_Miller_Cabin AND Cabin Fever: Poets at Joaquin Miller’s Cabin, 1984-2001 AND http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller_Middle_School</nowiki> Beltway Poetry Quarterly, "The Poet's Cabin: Joaquin Miller in Washington" by Kathi Morrison-Taylor, Volume 9:3, Summer 2008: http://washingtonart.com/beltway/jmiller.html DC Writers' Homes: http://dcwriters.poetrymutual.org/pages/millerj.html

Written by Word Works intern Monica Root, December 2013.


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