Bits 'n' Pieces: Obama applauds teen poet

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Miles Hewitt's poetry has taken him on journeys both figurative and literal.

The 18-year-old Vancouver School of Arts and Academics senior's acclaimed poetry pursuits have earned him not one, but two trips to the White House. The latest Washington, D.C., invite in mid-December was a perk of his involvement in the inaugural National Student Poets Program, which lauded five teenage poets from across the country.

Hewitt, son of Columbian staff writer Scott Hewitt, hobnobbed with the other four young wordsmiths at the White House last month during a reception hosted by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. He said it would have been exciting enough to meet first lady Michelle Obama, who serves as the committee's honorary chair. But when President Barack Obama walked into the room unexpectedly to address the crowd and greet the poets, Hewitt said he was in awe.

"He's kind of my hero," said Hewitt, who is also president of the Clark County Young Democrats.

Because of his National Student Poet honor, Hewitt was also flown to Washington, D.C., in September for the Library of Congress' annual National Book Festival. He received a $5,000 academic award with the yearlong national poet title, which comes with a responsibility to promote the craft as an ambassador.

Hewitt said he evolved into a poet through his interest in songwriting and other forms of literacy. Poetry lets him tell stories with a freedom he craves.

"I came to poetry because it's a much freer form of expression," he said. "You throw the rules out the window."

Read Hewitt's poem "Orpheus" on the Washington State Poet Laureate Program's blog.

— Stover E. Harger III

Pianist hopes concerts become a tradition

photoJim Fischer

On the 12th day of Christmas, pianist Jim Fischer wants to share with Vancouver a magical song-filled afternoon.

To celebrate the end of the Christmas season, and honor his late brother, Vancouver resident Fischer will present an eclectic, but traditional-minded, holiday concert Sunday at First Presbyterian Church, 4300 Main St. The 75-minute acoustic show begins at 2 p.m. and features Fischer, classical soprano Inessa Crown, Tim Jensen on woodwinds, Keith Collins on acoustic bass and bass-baritone vocalist Paul Sadilek.

Fischer said the lineup represents a mix of Northwest musicians from varying backgrounds: he gravitates toward jazz-inspired pop, Crown and Sadilek are classical vocalists, Jensen has toured with national productions of Broadway shows and Collins plays in the Portland-Vancouver cover band One Brick Shy.

Fischer looks at Sunday's performance like a chef crafting a new recipe -- toss in a mix of performers, "and see what comes out."

Twelfth Night marks the end of the 12 Days of Christmas. In some Christian traditions, Jan. 6 is celebrated as Epiphany, often with a feast to commemorate the Magi visiting baby Jesus upon his birth.

Fischer said his brother John, who died from a heart attack six years ago, loved to celebrate the holiday. That inspired the musician to hold his first Twelfth Night concert in 2011.

"We're hoping to make it an annual tradition," Fischer said.

"12th Night: An Acoustical Celebration of Epiphany" is free, but donations will be accepted.

— Stover E. Harger III

Bits 'n' Pieces appears Fridays and Saturdays. If you have a story you'd like to share, email bits@columbian.com.