SINCE 2010, the website VIDA (vidaweb.org) has issued an annual breakdown of the number of male and female writers represented in literary publications. This year's count paints a depressing picture of a lit-pub landscape solidly dominated by male writers. (Portland's Tin House magazine was one of the few publications surveyed that achieved gender parity. A+, Tin House!)
It's a grim scene when even presumably enlightened publications like The New Yorker and The Paris Review can't get their shit together. But alternative models assert themselves at Smallpressapalooza, Powell's sixth annual celebration of small-press authors and publishers.
By definition, zines and small presses don't have the same cultural and institutional barriers to entry as large publications—representing voices that fall outside the mainstream is pretty much the answer to the question "Why small press?" (Women don't exactly constitute a non-mainstream category, of course, but you wouldn't know it from looking at bylines in Harper's.) So, because I am a woman and because I can, here are some of my picks from the well-represented female authors at Smallpressapalooza:
Carrie Anna Seitzinger, 6 pm
Nominated for an Oregon Book Award for her collection Fall Ill Medicine, Seitzinger's poetry is personal, visceral, and provocative. (She's a great reader, too.)
Chloe Caldwell, 6:30 pm
Caldwell's first essay collection Legs Get Led Astray is by turns revealing and infuriating; she continues to sharpen her personal essays writing for outlets like the Rumpus.
Nancy Rommelmann, 8:30 pm
Rommelmann is best known as a journalist—she's done a number of killer long-form pieces for outlets like the LA Weekly and the Portland Monthly—and her new story collection Transportation is a bold, lurid, brainy affair.
Janey Smith, 9:30 pm
...and here's where it all falls apart. Janey Smith is a pseudonym, and that pseudonym wrote four short stories about animals in Animals, stories marked by a mercilessly deadpan sense of humor. I think Smith is actually a dude? This uncertainty probably wouldn't fly in the New Yorker.
Smallpressapalooza's readings are staggered every 15 minutes for about four hours. While you're there, check out Aaron Dactyl reading from his train-hopping zine Railroad Semantics (8:15 pm); Scottish writer Barry Graham reading from his novel The Book of Man (8 pm); and the unsettling poetry of Donald Dunbar (9 pm). For a full schedule, see powells.com.