I am so, so fortunate to be part of so many little circles of writing communities — authors, poets, editors, publishers, public readers, Portlanders…. And when two of those circles overlap in a kind if literary Venn diagram, the fun doesn’t get smaller, it gets more concentrated. So you can imagine the degree of Awesome that got unleashed this past Tuesday, when my Unshod Quills cohorts joined forces with Dog on a Chain Press to celebrate not only the publication of Dena Rash Guzman‘s phenom of a first book but also the arrival in Portland of Ryan Werner and Justin Lawrence Daugherty, who rolled into town on their rock-n-roll chapbook tour for Passenger Side Books AND were joined onstage by Future Tense Books‘s Kevin Sampsell.
Let me just put this into perspective, folks: Dena’s book, which was officially releasing at our reading, had already spent a week in the top-five bestsellers at Powell’s Books, including a sell-out day where she reached #2, and at the reading itself, St. John’s Booksellers had a near-constant line at their table of Dena’s books while Passenger Side Books sold copies of their work out of the trunk of their car like true rock-n-rollers and everyone else swapped copies of zines and chapbooks. Onstage, our not-so-little gathering in the Crush bar accounted for writers and editors from at least a half-dozen magazines and small presses and represented at least five different states from the East Coast to the West Coast. And the readings we gave ranged from the serious to the comic to the salacious, from fairly straightforward prose to wild performance poetry, including, for several epic minutes, a pole dance — Ryan Werner donned American-flag spandex pants and heavy motorcycle boots (and not much else!) and writhed and posed onstage as an interpretive accompaniment to Kevin Sampsell’s poem “Rock Criticism.”
You just don’t get any cooler than that.
Stuffed on bar food and exhausted from the fun, my wife and I headed home around 11, but I heard later from those who stayed, some at late as 2 am, and while I don’t have details, I can tell you that at one point, apparently, chicken feathers were involved.
Here: just so you believe me, I’m going to share a few photos, mostly stolen from Dena’s cell phone (thanks, Dena!). The lighting was crazy and for some reason Dena managed to only take photos in the red filter, though Mark Russell (author of the newly released God Is Disappointed in You) managed to get one shot with different shades of color (I stole his photo, too — thanks, Mark!).
And for the photos of Ryan Werner and Kevin Sampsell: You’re welcome.