Lifelong writer, runner parses thousands of poems to publish books

Sales of Bertrand’s books to benefit student scholarships
By Nicholas Johnson | Mar 08, 2017
Photo by: Nicholas Johnson Steve Bertrand looks through a binder of poems Monday, March 6 while standing among boxes and crates filled with thousands more in the attic of his Mukilteo home.

Two things have been constant in Steve Bertrand’s life: distance running and the poetry it inspires.

“I’ve spent my life as a distance runner,” said Bertrand, a Mukilteo resident who has been teaching and coaching at his alma mater, Cascade High School, for more than 40 years. “I have always worked to see things through until the finish. Now, I’m working to get my decades of poetry across the finish line.”

As an author, Bertrand is best known for his books on the histories of Mukilteo and Paine Field. As a high school teacher and coach, he’s known for his dedication to helping his students succeed.

His latest venture aims bring those worlds together. Since last fall, Bertrand has been working to organize and self-publish thousands of poems he’s stowed away in crates and boxes in his attack over the last four decades.

“I’ve written my whole life,” he said. “In the past, I’ve written poems and they’ve just gone in a box. Now, I’m looking at a box full to the top with thousands and thousands of poems and trying to bundle them into books.”

Since the start of the year, he’s published three books, each with roughly a thousand poems inside. All three – “A Thousand Miles,” “Between the Tides” and “Tell Me, Moon” – are available for purchase on Amazon.

On top of that, he’s got at least three more coming in the next month – “As the Crow Flies,” “To the Mountain’s Peak” and “The Book of Fours.”

It all began last fall when his wife suggested he begin cleaning out their attic. Going through his undated sheets of both typed and hand-scrawled poems has been like looking through old photographs, he said.

“I look at some of it and go, “Oh my gosh, that’s horrible,’” he said. “And then I begin rewriting and refining them. I go about it like I do yard work. If you do a little bit each day, you will get it all done.”

In January, he connected with Amalia Pimenta, the high school’s librarian, who offered to help him organize readings and book signing events where he could sell his newly published collections, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Everett Public Schools Foundation for student scholarships.

“I want to celebrate Steve Bertrand because he has been an icon at Cascade High School,” Pimenta said, noting that the poetry readings would likely come in May or June.

Bertrand said he’s hoping to do the readings at the high school, at the Rosehill Community Center in Mukilteo and someplace in downtown Everett.

“Ever since I found a purpose for doing this, I’ve been going full bore,” he said.

In combing through his poetry, Bertrand said he’s been reminded of his influences. A big one, he said, has been the natural beauty of the Northwest, something he encounters every day while out running.

“I run every day and I write every day,” he said. “When I’m running, I’m looking for the poem. From the time I wake up in the morning until the time I go to sleep at night, I’m always looking for the poem to emerge. I get a big kick out of jogging on the beach in Mukilteo or along the trails in Japanese Gulch with my camera and coming up with photos and little poems as I go along.”

Bertrand has found many poems in his archives that reflect his observations while running along the beach or in the gulch. He said he expects to bundle those into books, as well.

‘I think when you are running and breathing hard and looking at things around you, 17 syllables and under seems to suit that quite well,” he said of his favorite style of poetry: haiku.

For Bertrand, the process of running and writing is therapeutic.

“I don’t know if I’m any good or not,” he said. “Maybe I’m not. Maybe I just spend a lot of time writing these things. Either way, the process has been fun.”

Bertrand said he was honored recently to be inducted into the Washington State Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame, though he said accolades are not what he lives for.

“The hall of fame thing was bittersweet because I still see myself as doing and now people are talking about legacies,” he said. “The reward for me has always been in the doing.”

Although he’s bundling poems by the thousand for publication, he doesn’t plan to stop writing them.

“I enjoy writing as much now as I when I first started,” Bertrand said, noting that he still runs and writes every day and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.

For fans of his books on local history, Bertrand said he’s got another one in the works, to be called “Modern Everett: 1960-Present.”

“I learned a lot about this community and its history in writing the Paine Field and Mukilteo books,” he said, noting that his forthcoming book should be out this summer. “I get a real kick out of meeting one-on-one with people and businesses in Everett and hearing people’s stories.”

All his writing, he said, is a reflection of the environment and communities he’s called home since a boy, and an effort to preserve his experiences amid both.

“This is a very inspiring area we live in,” he said. “Making sense of my experiences and trying to preserve those experiences are a major part of why I keep writing.”

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