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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tonight, Portland's Poetry Scene Gets Haute

Posted by Thomas Ross on Thu, Nov 7, 2013 at 1:44 PM

Is this what its going to look like?
  • Literary Arts
  • This is going to be a weird one, Portland.

People who say Literary Arts is old-fashioned, stuffy, and elitist are about to get taken down a notch. Or maybe they're about to be given more firepower. It's hard to tell, honestly, because at 7pm tonight at Literary Arts, Portland Poetry Press Week kicks off. Five local poets will present new poetry via reader "models," to an audience of industry professionals, journalists, and literary tastemakers.

If it sounds suspiciously like high fashion, that's by design (haha). Literary Arts says the event "will borrow from the fashion industry’s biannual showcase, Fashion Week." It's unprecedented, as far as I know, to present poetry like this: through a conduit other than the poet, to an audience of agents and publishers that seems to make readers and listeners secondary.

The poets are decidedly not stuffy, elitist, or old-fashioned. Matthew Dickman, Carl Adamshick, Britta Ameel, Zachary Schomburg, and Ashley Toliver are some of the top young poets in Portland. The readers who will be "modeling" their work haven't been announced, but that's part of the mysterious fun of this show. You have to start imagining a world where celebrities recite poetry on red carpets and frothing paparazzi ask, "Who are you reading?"

I asked Matthew Dickman for a preview of his new Winter '14 line of poetry. Since neither of us are really versed in discussing poetry in fashion terms, it got a little weird: "Um... my pieces are a mix of "obsessive list" poems that have come out of therapy and some 'Event Scores' which are pieces written to be performed by dancers, performers, and regular people."

Hey, that sounds fun! (And actually, providing Event Scores rather than easily publishable material seems like a great way to subvert the strangely commercial tone of the event.) Although, I think you're supposed to have like a muse or something in the fashion world. I guess Dickman's is his therapist.

As I understand it, there will be standing room for an audience of readers and listeners, but they do seem secondary to the industry. Or maybe Literary Arts is trying to make the industry a part of the show. It's unclear how well situated Literary Arts' tongue is in its cheek. I'll be there as the Mercury's representative in the press area to find out. Check back here tomorrow for a full report.

It promises to be an interesting night, so if you want to stand around and watch people read other people's poetry to people who might buy that poetry and later sell it to you, hit up Literary Arts tonight at 7 pm. It's free!

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