Ah, Wordstock—the Portland-based, literature-themed Comic-Con. Held in our city’s architectural gems and with over one hundred writers to see and hear, Wordstock provides the perfect weekend plan for the genre-curious English student, professors of all disciplines, and the bookworm looking for their next read.
Needless to say, the prospect of going to Wordstock for the first time can be overwhelming. What kinds of ideas should you mentally prepare yourself for? What if two events you want to attend overlap? Fear not! Three Contributing Editors—Coito, Stephen Kellar, and Kate Garcia—took copious notes for you so that you can get ready for next year.
Please enjoy a found poem, a series of compelling questions, and a list of exquisitely disjointed wisdoms gathered from the events we attended. We hope they show you that, no matter how you plan your Wordstock day, you are sure to walk away with your mind challenged, your heart engaged, and your love of literature reignited.
“I thought I was going to write about The Odyssey and then I ended up writing about Bladerunner.”
These ideas came from War and the Aftermath: In Words and Images, Breaking Poetry Pattern: Experimenting with Form in Poetry, and From__With Love: City as Character. The driving list, “To agitate, to question, to name, to give language, to be caretakers of language,” is a quote from Solmaz Sharif which was part of her response to the question “What is the role of writers in a world that’s in a permanent state of war?”.
Words by: Solmaz Sharif, Tyehimba Jess, Anna Moschovakis, Sun Yung Shin, & Shawn Levy
Collected and constructed by: Coito
To give language
To be caretakers of language
How can we, with literature, embody
the exile we see?
the error of blood relation?
doing and undoing at the same time?
I don’t know if I am woman here at last.
Moments when popular culture
has coalesced in a space—
it’s like when library shelves collide.
To give language
The tradition of the experimental
involves terminal and fractured lands
and though “experimental” has come to mean
we continue to make ourselves
newly foreign and native
to the terminal and the fractured
again and again.
To be caretakers of language
Bodies in the wrong places:
what form do we deserve?
That which joins the passions into a
11-5-16 [w/ Annotations]
Quotes and ideas from: Solmaz Sharif, Sarah Glidden, Tyehimba Jess, Anna Moschavakis, Sun Yung Shin
Reiterations by: Stephen Kellar
Expatriate or Exile? [notes on the panel War and the Aftermath: In Words and Images]
Solmaz: “every text should be read as a political text.” [I was subsequently lent a copy of Sharif’s book of poetry Look by a professor who was also in attendance]
Sarah: “what are my defaults?” [resources / limits / assumptions]
Breaking form —> Making form? [notes on the panel Breaking Poetry Pattern: Experimenting with Form in Poetry]
Every poem should have an experiment in it [even rookie poets should dignify their writing w/ innovation]
|—> Experimental ≠ inaccessible [not (un)intentional obfuscation, but purposeful enactment]
What can we imagine of the future? [if we imagine transcendence / can we transcend?]
|—> Racial Imaginary (i.e. the minstrel show) [look to Rankine: “an unlyrical term, but then its lack of music is fitting”]
“The Radical Politics of Hospitality” [Sun Yung Shin, but perhaps Tyehimba Jess? truer today than it was that day?]
A time of endless war —> more of us guests and migrants —> can we redefine foreign [yes, but given trends towards nationalism..?]
“Excavating the biography” [Tyehimba Jess’ beautiful phrase for his work on leadbelly]
What are the limits of human? [these notes written perpendicular to the previous page]
What is wild and domesticatable about us? [does my own neurosis agitate or engage civility?]
Is there a way to feminize “masculine epics”? [dea ex machina; also: uxorious: having excessive fondness of one’s wife (the domestic Odysseus?)]
Antigone: “bodies in the wrong places” [possibly Anna Moschavakis, on the resonance of tragedy today]
The human reiteration of crisis (social, environmental, etc.) [nothing to add]
“On the stories and characters that exist in the space between reality and non-reality, where characters live in strange worlds, some of which might not exist outside their own heads.”
Ten completely random and unorganized musings from the intensely weird minds of: Jonathan Lethem (JL), Helen Phillips (HP), and Dana Spiotta (DS)
From the panel, Stranger Things: Unreal Worlds, this discussion focused on the worlds created through writing that aren’t quite what we would think of as “reality.” The authors spoke of dreams, alternate universes, death, and secret aliases as just some of the ways through which their characters escape this world and enter the next. At the end of this panel, I felt completely inundated with new thoughts and ideas about the way in which we move through the world.
List by: Kate Garcia
This list makes sense to me and I hope it does to you too.
- First of all, strange fiction involves fudging lines through the “collective hallucination of reality.” We’re all in this reality-bend together, buckle up. (JL)
- Someone, at some point, referred to someone else’s work as “uncanny and prosaic” which left me totally enthralled with not only the authors themselves but by their relationships with one another and the relationships between all creative minds, everywhere.
- “The limits of the body are hard to argue with.” (DS)
- In this way, aging itself becomes part of the realm of the strange – because it’s strange how our bodies fail us so slowly, so deliberately, so unavoidably.
- We tell ourselves that caring about aging is superficial … but is it? Isn’t a fear of increasingly imminent death the most essential fear a person can have? (DS)
- Our bodies are nothing more than “betraying machines,” teasing us with the bountiful rewards of youth, before taking a sharp left turn at age 40. (JP)
- In her book of short stories, Some Possible Solutions, Helen creates a world of ‘de-skinned’ people. Everyone can see each other’s organs (which, when you think about it, are somehow simultaneously the most intimate and most universal parts of ourselves). She described having the inclination to write this story because of the utter “strangeness of having a body.”
- “I write from images that are really viscerally disturbing.” (HP)
- Magical Realism belongs to Latin American authors. Stop trying to take it from them. (JL)
- ‘Real’ and ‘true’ are not the same thing and deeper truth can almost always be reached through exploring that which isn’t real. (JL)
Note to self: Read Kafka’s “The Burrow” because there was a resounding consensus that this remains one of the most challenging and interesting ‘realities’ ever created and HP described it as Kafka forcing us to “listen to a sound that’s hard to listen to” and to top it all off, the story was published posthumously which seems so darkly appropriate.