What-stock? Ooligan Press and the Portland Book Festival

November 9, 2019: authors, publishers, and content creators across the broad spectrum of publishing will be gathering for the Portland Book Festival (PBF), a one-day extravaganza featuring celebrity authors, raffle giveaways, panels, and writing workshops.

Ooligan Press is proud to exhibit at the festival this year and promote the recently launched Odsburg by Matt Tompkins, along with the upcoming Elephant Speak by Melissa Crandall (in stores March 3, 2020) and our current frontlist. PBF remains a great opportunity for Ooligan to inform local (and not-so-local) publishing professionals about our unique teaching press and how it provides valuable experience to its students.

The more we spread the word about Ooligan, the bigger and better we can grow as a press! As publisher’s assistants, one of our main goals—aside from all the copyright registration and metadata shenanigans—is to promote our program! Ooligan represents a unique opportunity for graduate students to gain real-world experience in the publishing industry as part of their core curriculum, rather than as an internship layered on top of demanding coursework.

Prior to 2018, Portlanders may have heard of the festival under another name—Wordstock. In a 2018 blog post, Amanda Bullock, Director of Public Programs at Literary Arts (the curators of PBF), outlined three major reasons why the festival underwent a name change:

  1. “Portland Book Festival” as a title is more inclusive of the wide array of events, panels, and workshops that the festival has to offer. It’s more immediately clear that PBF is a festival—of what?—of books and all things associated with them.
  2. Major book festivals often include the location of the festival in the title, as in the case of the Edinburgh Book Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. Including Portland in PBF’s title also increases clarity: Where is this book festival? In Portland!
  3. Literary Arts hosts a wide variety of other programs with an Oregonian or Portland-centric focus, such as Portland Arts & Lectures, the Oregon Book Awards, and Oregon Literary Fellowships. PBF aligns with Literary Arts’ programs and provides a more cohesive overall brand.

Prior to the actual festivities getting underway at PBF, Lit Crawl® Portland will take place on November 8, 2019, offering engaging games not unlike those you’d play in a brewpub—except these games are all related to words and publishing. The Telephone Game for Writers and Illustrators, How to Build Your Own Industrial-Strength Crap Detector, Poetry Karaoke, and Choose Your Own Adventure Bingo are just a few of the offerings.

Come support Ooligan at the festival on November 9, 2019!

Behind the Scenes with Ooligan Press at the Portland Book Festival

The Portland Book Festival, formerly known as Wordstock, is Oregon’s biggest literary event of the year, featuring panels, vendors, speakers, and lots and lots of books. Every November, the day-long event attracts authors and publishers from near and far, and last fall, Ooligan Press was proud to be included yet again. The festival drew its biggest crowd yet, with authors such as Elizabeth Acevedo, Lauren Groff, Tommy Orange, and Emily Suvada, and featured celebs-turned-authors Tom Hanks (who held a baby on stage at the Schnitz!) and Abbi Jacobson of Broad Cityfame.

In preparation for Ooligan’s role at the festival, the publisher’s assistants (myself and co-assistant, Stephanie Anderson) are responsible for finding and training volunteers from our press to oversee our vendor booth. We then work closely with our publisher to make sure all the books and supplies we’ll need are packed and ready. The day before the event, we set up in the Mark Building at the Portland Art Museum, where the vendors are located. Each vendor is given a specific time slot for setting up to streamline the process and keep things from getting hectic. It’s strange to see how empty the second floor ballroom is before the event. It’s a far cry from what it’ll look like the next day, when the room fills up with vendors and festival-goers. This year, we had a prime spot—a corner end cap right across from Powell’s Books massive set-up.

No other literary event in Portland draws as many readers, writers, and publishing professionals as the Portland Book Festival, which is why it’s one of the most important promotional and networking opportunities for Ooligan. It’s a chance to discuss our frontlist and backlist with potential readers while both are on display, and it’s also a great time for selling books. This year, two of our YA authors joined us at the booth to sign books—Meagan Macvie, who wrote the Kirkus-approved The Ocean in My Ears, and Connie King Leonard, whose Sleeping in My Jeans recently pubbed to great acclaim.

Sometimes people who approach our table aren’t always looking to buy a book. Instead, they want to create one, and we’re always happy to provide them information for how to do so. But one of my favorite parts of tabling at the festival is when I get to talk to prospective students interested in the book publishing program and working for Ooligan Press, which, of course, I highly recommend. And it’s always fun to visit with fellow local indie publishers like Overcup Press and Pomegranate.

After a long day of cementing Ooligan’s place within the Portland literary scene, inventory is taken of the remaining books, the cash box is counted, and the books are packed up and loaded onto the pushcart with the help of some amazing volunteers. Unlike setting up, all of the vendors pack up to leave at the same time, so getting out of there isn’t quite as smooth as getting in, and waiting for the elevator can take awhile, but it’s all worth it to be a part of the fascinating and fun celebration of books that is the Portland Book Festival.

Submit to Read at the Oregon Writers of Color Spring Showcase

Literary Arts and Ooligan Press (part of Portland State University’s graduate program in Book Publishing) are seeking submissions from writers of color for the Oregon Writers of Color 2020 Spring Showcase.

The showcase features many of Oregon’s most talented diverse writers and is designed to connect these artists with the publishers seeking to hear their voices. This is the fourth installment of this series, which is intended to evolve beyond an annual event and promote a larger, more holistic conversation and tangible results for diversity in book publishing.

Publishers are often the link between writers and readers, and with both sides advocating for more diversity in books, publishing professionals have an enduring responsibility to sustain conversations and catalyze action toward intersectional representation and inclusion. Years of unequal representation in literature will take time to change, but Literary Arts and Ooligan Press vow to accelerate the transformation by helping to dismantle white bias and privilege in the culture of publishing by amplifying, spotlighting, and celebrating the undeniable talent of diverse voices.

Submissions from writers of color in Oregon will be accepted starting today through Thursday, March 12. The submission should be about one page (no longer than 500 words) and can be a work of poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, drama, or young readers literature. If selected, we will ask you to read your work at the showcase. With an hour of readings followed by an hour for mingling and connecting with local publishing industry professionals, this is an entertaining and enriching night for all attendees.

This event will be held on May 20, 2020, at 7:00 p.m. in the Literary Arts space in downtown Portland (925 SW Washington Street). If you are interested in participating in this event, please email your submission to Ooligan Press at alumni@ooliganpress.pdx.edu by March 12.

Submit to Read at the Oregon Writers of Color Spring Showcase

Literary Arts and the graduate program in Book Publishing at Portland State University seek submissions from writers of color for the Oregon Writers of Color Spring Showcase.
On Thursday, May 24, Literary Arts and Ooligan Press (part of Portland State’s graduate program in Book Publishing) will host the Oregon Writers of Color Spring Showcase, emceed by Reema Zaman, the 2018 winner of the Writer of Color Fellowship from Literary Arts. This event will feature many of Oregon’s most talented, diverse writers and is designed to connect these artists with the publishers seeking to hear their voices. This is the second installment of this series, which is intended to evolve beyond an annual event and promote a larger, more holistic conversation and tangible results for diversity in book publishing.
Publishers are often the link between writers and readers, and with both sides advocating for more diversity in books, publishing professionals have an enduring responsibility to sustain conversations and catalyze action toward intersectional representation and inclusion. Years of unequal representation in literature will take time to change, but Literary Arts and Ooligan Press vow to accelerate the transformation by helping to dismantle white bias and privilege in the culture of publishing by amplifying, spotlighting, and celebrating the undeniable talent of diverse voices.
Submissions from writers of color in Oregon will be accepted April 6–22. The submission should be no longer than a page and can be a work of poetry, fiction, literary nonfiction, drama, or young readers literature. If selected, we will ask you to read your work at the showcase. With an hour of readings followed by an hour for mingling, talking, and connecting with local publishing industry professionals, it is set to be an entertaining and enriching night for all attendees.
This event will be held on May 24, 2018, at 7:00 p.m. in the Literary Arts space in downtown Portland (925 SW Washington Street). If you are interested in participating in this event, please email your one-page submission to Lisa Hein at lisa.hein@ooliganpress.pdx.edu by April 22.

The Social Media Footprint of Wordstock 2017

In a city with dozens of prominent publishing houses—where on any given day you can find a public reading, book release, or an author within ten feet of you at any given time—Wordstock is still Portland’s premier literary event. A massive event organized by Portland’s own Literary Arts organization, Wordstock is just over a decade old, and so the entire timeline of Wordstock events overlaps with the advent and rise of social media. Social media monitoring and outreach is an important part of the marketing machine here at Ooligan Press, and since we and a number of our authors were involved in Wordstock 2017, we did a quick analysis of Wordstock’s social media “footprint” via two platforms: Twitter and Instagram. This isn’t an exhaustive analysis, but having a cursory understanding of the conversation surrounding events like Wordstock can provide information for where the festival is at and how Ooligan Press fits into its narrative as a premier literary event.

  • Twitter: Literary Arts is typically quite active on Twitter, ranging five to seven tweets a day. On November 11, the day of the event, that number was expectedly higher, cresting at over fifty tweets and retweets. Interestingly, the lead-up to Wordstock was business as usual. Content-wise, Literary Arts gave little fanfare to their usual pre-Wordstock literary pub-crawl event this year, and put most of their effort into retweeting positive media coverage of the event as well as promoting their big-ticket authors. This year’s headliner, Ta-Nehisi Coates, followed the Colson Whitehead appearance from last year and allowed for a few posts about the running theme of diversity at Wordstock. However, no matter what themes are trending, the associated hashtag is always the same: #PDXbookfest. This is actually a departure from Wordstock’s usual branding. Last year, it was either #Wordstock or #Wordstock2016, and—predictably—it was #Wordstock2015 before that. This signifies an attempt on Literary Art’s behalf to rebrand Wordstock and bestow it a wider reach and discoverability. PDX is an acronym often used in social media to reference the city of Portland (it’s also the name of our airport), so using it here makes it more searchable and connotes that Wordstock is THE literary event in Portland, Oregon. Going beyond just Literary Art’s official Twitter account, we saw the #Wordstock tag sneak back into a lot of posts. We also saw a wider variety of topics being posted. Naturally, the posts that rated the highest were from authors who presented at the festival, but thanks to Twitter’s lack of organizational structure when displaying hashtag search results, posts by Ooligan students Kristen Lugwigsen and Sadie Moses were also featured at the top.

  • Instagram: A lot of what has been covered for Twitter applies to Instagram, but there is a definite shift in content between the two platforms. While the posts on Twitter from both attendees and Literary Arts were overwhelmingly focused on highlighting the events and authors, many Instagram posts with the #PDXBookfest and #Wordstock tags are also customer and publisher focused. Perhaps due to the more intimate and personal nature of Instagram, tagged posts on the platform were more focused on the personal stories of Wordstock and the interactions people enjoyed while there. This translated to more images of the publisher booths found on the third floor of the art museum, where numerous publishers vied for customer attention while displaying their frontlist titles. This was the best chance for most attendees to interact with the professionals behind the literature.

Wordstock is always a fairly successful event for Ooligan Press and provides us the personalized exposure we need to reach our readers. Knowing the “how” and “why” of social media trends can help us and other small publishers focus our digital marketing efforts and enter the Wordstock narrative in new and exciting ways.

The Taste of Victory

The award season has ended, everybody! We’ve got the Oscars and the Grammys, and let’s not forget our local award celebration, the Literary Arts Oregon Book Awards. As we all know, what’s a good trophy season without some juicy scandal or an incitement for institutionalized social change? The recent Oscars itself received a barrage of social criticism across all media platforms for its monoethnic selection of nominees.

Bullet point: All nominees were white.

Many people were outraged, claiming this was an example of our elitist social bias rearing its multifaceted head. Others believed the results were just a coincidental outcome of honest, well­-earned expressions of respect. Oh Hollywood, whatever shall we do with you?

But as the rain continues to fall here in the Northwest, we Oregonians tend to turn off the tube from time to time and grab a book. You know, that dusty one on the end table that you will be meaning to read. For most of this coming year. With the 2016 Oregon Literary Fellowship sticker on the cover. You will open the book, and on the inside, you will notice it was published by Ooligan Press.

That’s right everyone, Portland State University’s own Ooligan Press was just awarded the 2016 Oregon Literary Fellowship from the Literary Arts Oregon Book Awards program! The prestigious award is offered annually to honor Oregon­-based independent publishers and to support their dedication to literature with some good, old fashioned cash. Ooligan Press’s staff of students pursuing master’s degrees in the Department of English at Portland State University are highlighted by this award. Ooligan Press is the only publishing­-focused graduate program on the West Coast.

This student-­run company of writers, designers, planners, and editors leads the independent press community by teaching publishing here in the Pacific Northwest. Cherishing their seven book awards since its founding in 2001, this student­-based press has worked hard to showcase the voices of the Northwest. Presently working on the publication of six novels from local authors, Ooligan Press recently announced that they will also be initiating a research and development team for expanding publication diversity and literary inclusion. Take that, Oscars!

So with gratitude, I’d like to thank the Oregon Literary Fellowship for letting Ooligan Press know how awesome they are. And to the authors, designers, editors, printers, distributors, and everyone else who help bring everything together at Ooligan Press, I thank you. And to the most valuable treasure, the readers, whose passions support us all, I thank you. Now go spend some of that award money, Ooligan. Looks like we’re going to be needing a lot more bookmarks.

Wordstock 2015: Talking About Books

On an early November morning, I awoke eager to divide my day working for Literary Arts in the morning and Ooligan Press in the afternoon. After a quiet MAX ride, I made my way to the lobby of the Portland Art Museum’s historic Mark Building, where I found two other Wordstock volunteers awaiting instructions. Wordstock began as a small nonprofit in 2005, but it has been on hiatus for the last two years. Later that day the Portland Art Museum would open its doors to Literary Arts’s relaunch of one of the Northwest’s largest festivals of readers, writers, and publishers. At 8 a.m., people were already hiking up to the third floor to unpack their tables, books, banners, and bookmarks for the book fair. I had been to the Portland Art Museum a few weeks prior for the bonsai exhibit, where gnarled bark and carefully guided limbs elicited a kind of quiet awe in the crowd.

But on this rainy Saturday, the Mark Building was already vibrant, filled with a steady hum of words, coffee, and excited book lovers and industry professionals. Nicole and Julie, my fellow volunteers, and I were given the task of “wristband distribution and line management,” which meant we did our best to answer questions and welcome readers, while putting wristbands on a steady stream of rain-drenched patrons. While I had originally hoped for a position near one of the writer events or workshops, I ended up truly enjoying greeting many of the eight-thousand-plus people who attended this year’s Wordstock.

After my shift ended, Julie and I climbed the stairs to the third floor, where we paired our most serious reading faces with wigs, fedoras, and plastic pirate accessories for the photo booth. Picture bookmarks in hand, we headed into the book fair where, after a quick goodbye to my new friend, I joined fellow colleagues and students, commonly referred to as “Oolies,” in representing Ooligan Press. I began working at Ooligan in late September, and the experience has already changed how I think about books. I still have a lot to learn, but where I once only thought about books in terms of reading and writing, I now think about books in terms of reading and writing and the book publishing process: acquisitions, editing, design, sales and marketing, and social media.

Over the course of the next two hours I had the opportunity to share my enthusiasm about what I’ve learned so far in Portland State University’s student-run publishing program with prospective students, “talk shop” with other industry professionals (including an editor at Tin House), discuss craft with A Series of Small Maneuvers author Eliot Treichel, and, best of all, recommend my favorite Ooligan titles to fellow readers. In my opinion, one of the best aspects of working at a publishing house is the required reading. Reading Michael Munk’s The Portland Red Guide, Ruth Tenzer Feldman’s Blue Thread, and Allison Green’s The Ghosts Who Travel With Me and getting to call it “work” makes me giddy.

As Wordstock 2015 came to a close, I realized that I never did make it to hear any of the talks. Instead, I spent the day in a room crowded with people talking animatedly about literature, which, for a bookworm like me, was second only to curling up on Wordstock’s iconic red wingback with a good book, a cup of tea, and the soft drum of the rain.

Ooligan Grads in the Community: Olivia Croom

Olivia Croom is one of the many talented Ooligan graduates putting her skills to use in the Portland community. Currently, Olivia is serves as the marketing coordinator at architecture firm SRG Partnership, Inc. Olivia provides graphic design, editing, and production support for the Business Development department. She also pitched, developed, curates, and manages the company blog, in addition to managing all of SRG Partnership’s social media accounts. On top of her day job, Olivia does workshops and guest lectures—including a guest lecture about using tables in InDesign for PSU’s Publishing Software class—that focus on elements of graphic design, book design, marketing, and the book publishing industry. On Wednesday, October 8th, Olivia partnered with Literary Arts and used her extensive knowledge and skill concerning book design to give back to the community with an exclusive class.

As a current Ooligan student, I attended Olivia’s class not knowing what to expect. Although I have brushed sleeves with some design work here and there, I have yet to go through any of the actual courses that cover the subject, so I was excited to see what Olivia would teach me, and to discover what I already knew.

Because many of the people who attended Olivia’s class were authors or hardcore book enthusiasts, she had very little trouble engaging the class. She spent some time talking about her background, explaining how she became interested in book design in college while she was the editor in chief of the undergraduate literary journal Northwest Boulevard. Part of her job was the design of the journal, and that’s when she taught herself how to use InDesign and realized how much she liked experimenting with typography. Her passion for not only the cover of a book, but the inside and layout of the typography, easily kept her class engaged. And if her passion wasn’t enough, the books she brought as examples of interesting and experimental book design were enough to keep one’s rapt interest.

Some of Olivia’s examples included Dry by Augusten Burroughs, Building Stories by Chris Ware, and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. It’s a little difficult to appreciate the artistry of these books without holding them in your hands—especially Building Stories, which is a book that comes in pieces and can be read in any order. It is a little easier with Dry and 1Q84, because much of the awe has to do with the cover (although without being able to remove the dust jacket of 1Q84, some of the magic is lost). See the video Olivia used in her class to see why:

While Olivia did cover the importance of a book’s cover, she also went in depth about the insides of a book and how, if a book designer has done their job well, no one will even notice unless they are deliberately focusing on the design.

Olivia had us bring in two books that we had a design-based reaction to. One of the types of books that eventually cropped up in our examples was “the unpleasant book.” The attendee that brought it expressed that they found the book difficult to read even though the text was one they had read before in other books, and enjoyed. Olivia smiled and took the book, holding it up for everyone to see. After spending two hours with Olivia, it was easy for everyone to see the flaws in the book: the text was too crowded, the margins too thin to allow for comfortable holding between the thumb and forefinger, and the page unweighted towards the folio text (text that includes things like the page number, book title, author name, and chapter title).

Only a few hours with Olivia, and I learned all that. Ooligan alumni are such powerhouses.

Modern Surrealism at Literary Arts

Following on the heels of Poetry Press Week, a new-format reading series that takes its cues from Portland’s Fashion Week, Literary Arts continued its hot streak with yet another outstanding poetry reading. On Sunday, November 10th, poets Joshua Beckman, John Beer, and Zachary Schomburg read at Literary Arts in downtown Portland, and their knockout performances gave fans of poetry and literature all the more reason to continue cramming into Literary Arts’ tiny venue.

After an introduction from Literary Arts’ director of programs and events, Susan Denning, Zachary Schomburg kicked off the night with mischievous charm, pointing to the authors’ photos and indicating how their beards had changed, for better or worse. Launching into his unique weave of humor, surrealism, and horror, Schomburg read older poems and excerpts from a new manuscript tentatively titled Agnes the Elephant. In between joking spurts of audience interaction (“You guys like incest poems?” Schomburg asked at one point) and gently mesmerizing pauses, Schomburg’s reading delivered narrators haunted by pursuers, murders and murderers, while elaborating a kind of domestic surrealism nestled in a network of distant anxiety; one of Schomburg’s closing poems, a piece about being kidnapped, underscored his themes nicely:

When I was a baby / I was kidnapped / from my bassinet / while my mother was soaking / in the bathtub. / She couldn’t hear / the intruder / walk slowly and heavily / down our hallway / or open the door / into my bedroom / because the hot water / from the faucet / was splashing into the tub. / The hot water / turned to cold water / and back into hot water. / The suds / were so high around her. / The tub / looked like / the mountainous arctic.

Following Schomburg, John Beer took the stage next and continued along in a similar vein of surrealism and humor. These veins, however, belonged to a creature of a different breed: where Schomburg’s poems echoed the surrealism of fairy tales, Beer’s poems echoed the surrealism of theatre. Offering selections from his book The Waste Land and Other Poems, along with an extended sample from a new manuscript, Beer read at a stately speed that gradually accelerated, churning out pieces dense with puns and reference in a tone and pace that seemed as though he was holding a cocktail in his free hand (and drinking from it more rapidly as the reading progressed). Often riffing on intellectual figures in an absurdist style, one of the pieces Beer read involved “a [businessman] named Eliot, who had a secretary named Pound, who had a secretary named Mussolini” and a narrative revolving around gifts that kept (erroneously) changing colors.

Halfway through his performance, Beer abruptly shifted gears and started speaking at a brisk clip as he launched into a hilarious, fourth wall-breaking, new and untitled work. Pushing for maximum absurdity, Beer’s new poem entangles the narration of many different speakers, often intercutting or cutting them off for punning or jarring effect. “Lucinda said, ‘The day I was born, I cried like a baby,’” says one voice; “the trapeze artist who caught his wife in the act,” says another. In another moment, one speaker comes across a man who’s sitting on the ground in parking lot and asks what he’s doing. “I found a parking space,” the seated man answers, “and sent my wife to buy a car.” One standout sequence extends amusing comparisons of differences between women and men: “When a woman orders a steak, she’s really saying ‘I want you to cook steak in a particular woman way—with salad and tomatoes and shit. The man is all about the table: ‘Put the steak on the table and move away from it—before I eat your arm!’”

After a brief intermission, Joshua Beckman brought the reading into its second half. Picking up on Beer’s threads of warped humanity, Beckman carried the theme forward with poems full of pathos and grit, fresh from his new book The Inside of An Apple. Absent of surrealism and with a rough, strong voice like steel burlap, Beckman’s poems articulate speakers observant of nature but both jaded and apprehensive in tone. “Stupid world, made of fossils and moons,” says one poem’s speaker, later uttering in a moment of calloused lament that “‘God’s Wicker Basket Furnace’ is like a name we gave our state, stupid drunk.” At times cynical and approaching the sardonic, the speakers in Beckman’s poems seldom dip into humorous remarks and feel keenly aware of the mortal experience, adding a strong counterpoint to the night’s previous performances by Schomburg and Beer (and attesting to Denning’s solid program-planning abilities.) Mortality grounds and carries many of Beckman’s poems, never wavering into ethereal flights but sticking to hard, obdurate realities. “They want to call it dead,” says one speaker, “but dead is too alive.” Yet between litanies of cynical observation, rivulets of optimism trickle through and undergird Beckman’s poems as ultimately optimistic. “This poem which was to be called ‘Waste and Use,’” said one speaker toward the end of the evening, “will be called ‘Image of Solace Attempted in Your Name.’”

As if to extend themes of humanity to their logical conclusion, the night ended on a peculiar meditative note as Beer joined Beckman on stage to take turns reading poems by “self-exiled” American poet Robert Lax. Beer worked as Lax’s apprentice on Patmos, a small Greek island where Lax lived for the last 35 years of his life; a collection of poems edited by Beer, Poems (1962–1997), was recently published by Wave Books, providing a new look at Lax’s ultra-minimalist forms. If Schomburg’s opening reading served the audience its most accessible work, Lax’s poems provided the opposite bookend, weaving a hypnotic drone of mostly single-syllable words fixated on the minute. An exemplary poem came right at the start of Lax’s segment when Beer read “one stone one stone one stone.” Immersed in repetition, the poem consists of three phrases repeated as many as 21 times, drawing toward a singular focus that might taunt the less-than-serious reader or listener with the threat of sleep. Beer and Beckman did a masterful job performing Lax’s poems, however, and their mesmeric tone and pace—like the steady movement of a clock—left the entire Literary Arts audience enrapt.

Have a look at our other posts about Poetry Press week: Portland’s Poetry Press Week is Full of Surprises & Poetry’s Alive in Portland.

Portland’s Poetry Press Week Is Full of Surprises

What happens when you mix a poetry reading with Fashion Week?

You get Poetry Press Week, a unique event dreamed up by Liz Mehl and Justin Rigamonti, in which the works of five Portland poets are read and performed by models in front of an audience comprised of publishers, press, and the public. Inspired by New York’s Fashion Week, the event is a fresh way to bring together local poets, their work, and their audience.

November 7th saw the launch of the first biannual Poetry Press Week at Literary Arts at 7:00 p.m. Models performed new, unpublished poems by Matthew Dickman, Ashley Toliver, Britta Ameel, Carl Adamshick, and Zachary Schomburg while the audience enjoyed a variety of snacks, beer, and wine. The poems were projected onto a screen behind the models so the audience could read along. At the end of each poet’s set, the models and performers walked ­­­­the runway together to a round of applause, as is traditional of a fashion show.

The evening started off with a series of list poems by Matthew Dickman, which were read by six models and incorporated three other performers to bring a visual aspect to the poems. Photographs and newspapers were some of the props used, and one performer draped in scarves ventured, hissing, into the audience as she tossed the scarves on the listeners.

Ashley Toliver's IDEAL MACHINE

A reading of Ashley Toliver’s “IDEAL MACHINE”

The work of Ashley Toliver was second, in a ten-minute series called “IDEAL MACHINE,” which was read in unison by two models dressed in white. Each woman spoke slowly and deliberately, without emphasis on any particular word, as they stared straight ahead. Combined with the pulsing, ambient music in the background, as well as black-and-white scientific diagrams projected behind the models, it made for a hair-raising, unnerving performance——in the best kind of way.

Britta Ameel was next, read by Laura Gibson, who sang soulfully and strummed her guitar. At times she encouraged the audience to hum specific melodies as she read. The audience participation created a warm atmosphere, and Gibson occasionally offered insight on her relationship with Toliver.

Carl Adamshick’s poem “Black Snow” was read by four models who all wore black clothing and rotated through sections of the poem. In a way, this set was most like a fashion show, with each model walking up the runway to the microphone, speaking their part, and then falling to the back of the line for the next model’s turn.

The last set was arguably the best of the night. The hypnotic buzzing of a bass filled the room, and a childlike voice steadily recited the story of a missing boy while the words played across the screen. As the tension in the audience built—everyone thoroughly creeped out—the model stepped through a curtain separating himself from the audience. Tiny seven-year-old Hamza Akalin, dressed in the classic ghost costume (a white sheet with two holes cut out for eyes), made his way to the middle of the room and launched into the next excerpt from Zach Schomburg’s upcoming book Agnes the Elephant. He read seriously, if with some difficulty seeing the book he clutched, and was helped by a kind audience member who held the microphone for him. It was a perfect and unexpected way to end the evening.

Founders of Portland's Poetry Press Week

The founders of Portland’s Poetry Press Week

The date of the next Poetry Press Week has not yet been decided, so make sure to keep an eye on the Poetry Press Week Facebook page and Literary Arts’ website for the future announcement!