Community holds fundraiser for beloved Whidbey poet

Victory Lee Schouten wears a neck brace after undergoing a complex spinal surgery. - Photo courtesy of Rob Schouten Gallery
Victory Lee Schouten wears a neck brace after undergoing a complex spinal surgery.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Rob Schouten Gallery

Triumph, conquest, success, coup.

These are the words of a winner. These are the fighting words of “Victory.”

Freeland resident Victory Lee Schouten may be down presently due to a recent complex spinal surgery, but the fight is in her, and with the help of her spirited community she is on the road to recovery.

On Sunday, Nov. 13 a “Fundraiser & Celebration for Victory Schouten” will take place from 3 to 6:30 p.m. at Greenbank Farm’s big red barn.

Everyone is invited to join the afternoon of poetry, music and refreshment to help Schouten pay for her medical treatments not covered by insurance. Soon she will begin physical therapy and has many weeks of recovery ahead, with one or more surgeries still on the horizon. Harborview Medical Center has reduced some of her current costs not covered by her insurance, but a pile of bills still looms large.

Husband Rob Schouten and Victory are reaching out to their community during this challenging time.

The Schoutens, who own and manage the Rob Schouten Gallery at Greenbank Farm, have relied partly on the support of friend Faith Wilder, who has helped hold down the fort at the gallery through this tough period. Wilder has been an important catalyst for the event, along with other friends.

“Victory permits herself to be vulnerable,” Wilder said.

“She has good days and bad — moments of optimism and others of despair in this trying time and long process of healing. But she asks for help when she needs it. Gathering people to her when she is weakest seems to strengthen her and she draws energy and optimism from the love directed her way,” Wilder added.

Victory Schouten is the manager of the couple’s gallery, but her craft is poetry, and the artists who gather for her benefit to perform are giving back to a person who has fed the spirit of art in the community for many years. Schouten was instrumental in bringing the regional “Burning Word” poetry festival to Whidbey Island and served as the executive vice president of the Washington Poets Association. She was also the mastermind behind “Brave New Words,” a year-round festival of poetry on the island begun in 2009, featuring readings by international stars of the poetry scene and free workshops for youths.

“Victory is well named,” Wilder said.

She is courageous and bold, she said, but she is a lot more.

“Victory’s embrace especially reaches to children, writers and creative and assorted individuals whose friendships she nurtures. Near or far, she keeps those connections strong and is always generous for whoever needs her most,” Wilder added.

Carole Tyson is a neighbor of the Schouten’s near Honeymoon Lake. She, like many members of the community, has been pitching in to help with things around the house, while Victory tries to keep herself from doing too much and heals the spine, as the doctor ordered.

“Victory is a beautiful spirit — a bright, witty, loving, giving and most of all positive individual,” Tyson said.

“She is loved by so many. It’s no wonder she is experiencing this remarkable recovery.”

Wilder’s hope is that the benefit event will help the couple feel cherished by the circle gathered to support them. The Schoutens, she said, are community builders and now they need their community more than ever.

“They wanted music, poetry, good food and a hospitable venue so that there would be good energy and enjoyment in everyone’s time together,” Wilder said.

“That will go a long way toward sustaining them both. We all have different gifts to give. This is our invitation to be generous in sharing them.”

Here is what folks can expect to encounter at the party for Victory Schouten.

The day, hosted by the effervescent conductor of fun Jim Freeman, will include live music by Trio Nouveau and Muse & Eye; and spoken word performances by Tara Hardy, Stephen Roxborough, Band of Poets, David Ossman and Judith Walcutt.  There will also be an auction of two of Rob Schouten’s fine art limited edition prints, plus a raffle for some unique and exciting “treasure baskets.”

A no host wine and beer bar will accompany abundant finger foods, both savory and sweet.

Ticket price is $10 at the door, or $25 for families. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.


Stronger in the Broken Places

By Victory Lee Schouten


Furious joints snap out demands

to my stunned body, Surrender your strong walk.


Pain can be the path inside, but

it is still pain, and I will not love it.


Losses pile by the door — high heels and ski poles.

Sorting tattered dreams, can anything be saved?


Once a bold dancer full of fearless leaps,

my feet shuffle suspicious of the ground.


Ruined ankles can not be trusted, failing in an instant,

bone slammed to concrete without warning.


Chronic pain nags in a grinding whisper, Don’t forget me,

don’t forget me for a minute. My boot heels wear unevenly.


Cells heal, go up in flames, begin to heal again.

Is my body courageous beyond words, or just dull-witted?


So as the boot scootin’ two-step moves past me,

I turn inside. I have come to crave words,


their meanings and music. Their power.

I’ve come to prize the beat of my own quiet pulse,


learned to feel owls in the wind, whiff snow in the dark.

They do my wild dancing now, and I write it all down.

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