Suddenly our insides become outer space


Please join us January 17 at the Downtown Cafe as we collaborate with Nationale to host a reading by three rising stars of the Portland writing community. Joseph Mains, Zachary Schomburg and Drew Scott Swenhaugen will all read from recent works.

Need a push onto the free verse freeway? Heed this very sound advice from another heartening local poet and Tin House poetry editor Matthew Dickman:

One of the most moving experiences we can have as human beings is that of mystery.

We fall in love and suddenly our insides become outer space. We are in Portland and dreaming of Austin or we are in Virginia and dreaming of Tennessee. It’s the profound experience of the “other”. There’s a statement I have often overheard in galleries and museums that tie up this experience in a perfect colloquial bow: I don’t get it but I love it, or any hundreds of derivations: I don’t get it but it feels good, I don’t get it but…wow!

This reaction is a human reaction and often experienced, or vocalized, in our relationship with music, dance, film, and visual art. So it seems strange to me that we do not allow ourselves this same sort of ecstatic experience with the reading of poetry. With poetry the above declarations too often end with I don’t get it. There seems to be an expectation that poetry should be, if at first a kind of puzzle, something that is, in the end, figured out; an art form that is best experienced via autopsy. The body of the poem is placed in front of us and we are to cut it open and “figure” it out— when was it born? What was its meaning in life? How did it die?

I would like to argue for the embrace of a more mysterious, inexplicable, and unsolved experience of poetry. Let’s be in love!

January 17 at 7pm
Stumptown Downtown, 128 SW 3rd Ave, Portland, OR