If we are to believe the movies and all the stories—and we do, we can't help it—writers are a bunch of drunks. Hemingway, like the manly men of his age, was a girl-drink drunk, thick with cloying, fruity rum. Sam Beckett was a sodden backslapper. Melville sniftered brandy. "I've had 18 whiskies," said Dylan Thomas proudly before dying of alcohol poisoning. "I think that's the record."
For all this, the venues in which you see writers read their work have traditionally been a little...dry. Oh sure, in Portland both the Loggernaut and Phase One reading series are held in liquorish environs. But for the most part, readings are held in fluorescent-lit bookstores and cafes. The poor writers, nervously sober, hypoglycemic before dinner, knock their knees behind the lecterns.
It was welcome news when the Press Club (2621 SE Clinton St.), an urban-casual wine bar with alt-glossies and lit-journals lining its east wall, recently declared its intentions to hold literary events. The bar, which opened this past spring, is currently home to the long-running Mountain Writers Series, and will also be hosting the Tangent series. It's been actively soliciting for other literary events as well.
Reading tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 17, is local poet Kathleen Halme, as part of the Mountain Writers series. Halme's accomplished poetry eschews the willful obscurity of much contemporary poetry—all that jumbled syntax and toybox surrealism—in favor of lyric, conceptually dense sentences that are made to break down into their unlikely constituents on the page, remade into new associations and divorced from their easy moorings to reveal their surprises.
So it was perhaps no surprise at all when her most recent book, Drift and Pulse , was selected as a finalist for an Oregon Book Award. No surprise of course, except that her husband, Alan Cordle, had until recently devoted his time to a prominent website called Foetry.com, devoted to exposing the cronyism and corruption behind the world of poetry contests, including presumably the prize for which Halme was just recently shortlisted. But then, they get it right every now and then, I suppose.
NOTE: This online story corrects an error in the print version, which claimed the Press Club lacked power outlets for laptop-toting writers. The establishment does, in fact, provide power outlets, albeit tucked away under the benches. Matthew Korfhage regrets his cataracts, and WW regrets the error.
Kathleen Halme reads from her poetry Wednesday, Oct. 17, at the Press Club, 2621 SE Clinton St. 7:30 pm. $5 suggested donation.