On Wednesday night, Wordstock unofficially kicks off with LitHop PDX, Portland's first-ever literary bar crawl. (I think. Right?)
Beginning at 7 pm, six venues on the east end of Hawthorne—from Thorne Lounge to the Eagles Lodge—will each play host to a lineup of readers. Each bar will feature three 15-minute readings per hour, plus a 15-minute break for drinks/venue hopping. Each venue is curated by a different reading series or publisher, from local publisher Tin House to poetry reading series If Not for Kidnap to Michelle Tea's Bay-area performance collective Sister Spit. It all culminates at the Eagles Lodge, as the best nights do, with a DJ and afterparty. The whole thing is free, and LitHop volunteers will be on site handing out maps and answering questions.
I haven't begun to make a plan for the evening, but at a glance at the schedule, I'd like to see Portland poets Eirean Bradley, Zachary Schomburg, Matthew Dickman, and Anis Mojgani; Mercury contributor Aaron Gilbreath and Perfect Day Publishing's Michael Heald; novelists Vanessa Veselka, Lidia Yuknavitch, and Emily Chenoweth... Of course, the best parts of an event like this are always the writers you haven't heard of, so it might be best to approach the whole thing with an open mind and a relaxed attitude toward your itinerary.
Despite what the Oregonian's headline writers might have us believe, this event isn't the first of its kind: They put their own spin on the concept with LitHop PDX. I emailed a few questions to Kevin Sampsell, who's also serving as a guest curator for the Wordstock festival itself.
How long have you been thinking about putting together LitHop?
I think in the past three years especially, Portland has become a supportive place full of reading series of all kinds. I always thought the San Francisco LitCrawl event sounded really fun and I knew that Portland could easily hold one—even if it was just local writers. This town is lousy with writers! You can't swing a cat without hitting one and knocking their glasses off.
Can you talk a bit about what the process of organizing it was like?
Organizing this thing was a big job for sure but (co-organizer) Jeff Alessandrelli and I have really hustled. Back in June, we walked all over that part of Hawthorne and went in and talked to business owners and bartenders and felt out the interest in those places. It can be hard to convince business owners that doing a reading can bring people in. I don't think some of them understood how big and active our literary scene is. I mean, even I'm kind of surprised how many people go to readings in this town. For a writer, it's inspiring.
Why is it a good idea to combine booze and bars (rowdy) and book readings (usually quiet, contemplative)?
Yeah, sometimes that can be a recipe for disaster, but I think folks in Portland are pretty respectful of anyone spilling their guts from a stage. Plus, a lot of the readers in this first LitHop are fully able to handle a boozy crowd.
You mentioned LitHop is going to be an ongoing thing - how often will you do 'em?
We're planning on doing it twice a year. The next one will probably be in the spring, like probably May.
Can you pinpoint a few things you're particularly excited about?
I think Matthew Dickman will kill it at the Eagles lodge. Michael Heald has something up his sleeve for his slot. I think the whole Sister Spit venue will be full of surprises. Robert Duncan Gray at the end of the night at Sewick's could be kind of crazy. James Gendron is at the same time though, and he's my #1 favorite local poet right now. I'm just really excited to see all the people on the streets, going from place to place, criss-crossing and getting more buzzed and excited as the night goes on. Also—Eagle Lodge dance party at 10 pm!
LitHop PDX is this Wednesday, Oct 2, 7 pm-late, on the east end of Hawthorne. Details here.