Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

Neon Frontier on KZME 107.1FM: Reading Series Get National


People often have mixed feelings about readings. Readings can be long and boring, Or they can be performances, parties, political rallies, scenes.  Portland, like a lot of other cities, has a long history of underground readings through many cultural moments, from Ken Kesey’s Poetry Happenings to today, when Portland is on the national tour circuit.  I sat down with 90′s slam host Reuben Nisenfeld, Smalldoggies‘ Matty Byloos and Carrie Seitzinger, Bad Blood’s Zachary Schomburg, Literary Mixtape’s Erik Bader, and Loggernaut’s Erin Ergenbright, Jesse Lichtenstein and Paul Toutonghi on Portland series then and now.

Listen to the KZME podcast here.

Preview from Wordstock this Sunday: From Playboy to the Bible

From Playboy to the Bible: Adapting Writing for Screen and Image

New Yorker cartoonist Shannon Wheeler, writer Mark Russell and filmmaker Andy Mingo sit down with writer Nora Robertson to discuss collaboration between writers and artists in visual mediums. Get a look at a sneak peek of Mingo’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s short story “Romance” that recently appeared in Playboy, images from Wheeler and Russell’s adaptation of the Bible, God Is Disappointed in You (Top Shelf in 2012), and Robertson’s poetry film with Jason Bahling, The Humble Egg. Wordstock, Oregon Convention Center, Sunday the 9th, 4PM, Oregon Cultural Trust Stage, presented by New Oregon Arts & Letters.

From God Is Disappointed in You:

God had but one rule: do not eat from the two magic trees which he’d planted at the center of the garden. Why he put them there to begin with is anyone’s guess. But, having received this cryptic admonition, Adam and Eve’s curiosity was piqued. And having a talking snake constantly coaxing them into eating from the trees certainly didn’t help. Eventually, they succumbed to temptation, eating the magical fruit and unlocking its secret power, which seemed to consist mostly of making them uptight about nudity.

Their blatant disregard for his one and only rule introduced God to a new sensation, one he would experience many times during his long association with human beings: God was pissed off. Furious, God evicted Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, forcing them to fend for themselves in the surrounding wilderness. To add to their misery, God also ordered them to become parents.


Sid Miller Launches Crow Arts Manor: Arts Education is a Right

I always love how the Tin House summer workshop lets you hear Steve Almond talk about sex writing, or Aimee Bender talk about the plot-driven plot, all for $15. Burnside Review editor-in-chief Sid Miller is founding a new writing/arts center, Crow Arts Manor, that will make it highly accessible to work with some of the city’s finest artists such as cartoonist Jesse Reklaw, fiction writers Monica Drake and Lidia Yuknavitch, poets Emily Kendal Frey (pictured below with Miller) and Zach Schomburg and Mercury journalist Marjorie Skinner to name a few. Similar to LA writing center Beyond Baroque, Miller would like “ongoing arts education to be a right, not a privilege.”


SHARE #8: Force


The lovely Margaret Malone and Kathleen Lane invited me to come as an artist to SHARE recently. Previously, I had attended their showcase and been quite overwhelmed by the amount of cool stuff in progress around the space. Mark Russell was nice enough to be my plus one, but when we got there, we discovered the happy accident that actually the regular SHARE is a participant-only space. For two hours, everyone in the room is creating. You get the prompt when you come in the door, which this time was FORCE, and you just go. Mark is a writer too after all, so we decided to collaborate.

Our process was that we started from the idea about force as a rule or change forcing you to do something. Mark began to write satirical airport rules so I started to think of a narrative that would play off of the airport setting, and then we juxtaposed the two pieces without looking at what each other were writing.

Italics for Mark’s piece, regular font for mine.

The night before I went home to the US, Matt and I got to the Budapest airport completely out of cash. It was a boxy white space with high ceilings and concrete pillars and looked Communist. It looked like it would have rules. We had enough cash to stay in a hostel when we got to town but had decided it would be more fun to stay up all night drinking, so now we had to sleep in the airport. It’s the kind of thing you do when you’re not really getting along. Going out had been Matt’s idea but got no argument from me. If I held a plastic cup of red wine and coke in a dark cellar bar blasting the Pink Floyd, it was easier somehow to ignore the way his brown eyes never seemed to meet mine, the way he always seemed to be looking away from me.

On behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration, welcome to the United States. Please remove any metallic objects, belts, electronic devices, toiletries, shoes or prosthetic limbs and place them in the eight ounce cup provided to your left. Please note that as part of the new American Culture Preservation Initiative, a fine of forty-eight dollars will be assessed on anyone discussing the Broadway production of Spiderman, sporting a tribal armband tattoo or reading a Harry Potter book if you are over the age of thirteen. I mean, really people.


The Body Show: The Humble Egg

A cooking show about boiling an egg leads to a surreal trajectory through Julia Childs territory.

A kitschy 60′s cooking show for housewives becomes the catalyst which hurls the host into a private world of tangential madness and repressed memories of her grandmother. The simple act of boiling an egg forces her to publicly contemplate a succession of images from the vaginal opening of a hen, to slaves working in salt mines, to the virgin-devouring snake god of Ghana. The seemingly non-sequitur imagery comes together as she remembers the horror and heartbreak of her grandmother being forced to assemble hundreds of deviled eggs for a Hollywood dinner party. Against this surreal backdrop, we are reminded that all food is ultimately an act of violence. Based on Robertson’s 2007 Pushcart Prize-nominated poem, “How to Boil an Egg.”

The Body Show trailer from Jason Bahling on Vimeo.


The Body Show Benefit, Someday Lounge, Portland, OR, Nov. 6th, 2010
Short Film Night, Someday Lounge, Portland, OR, December 15th, 2010
Arts in Bushwick Site Fest, Brooklyn, New York, March 5-6th, 2011



Q&A with Nora Robertson

Q: I’m a chicken farmer and see hens lay eggs all the time. What do the eggs symbolize?
A: I’ve known a lot of people who were wierded out by eggs. Maybe they had an unfortunate experience at a natural history museum, or working at a diner. It seems like it’s because they’re unable to ignore that an egg is a baby. I think it’s almost impossible to talk about how we go about getting and eating food without talking about violence. I’m really fascinated by the idea of the housewife who can keep her family safe through hygiene and home cooking, because I think it’s a lie.

Q: Where is this desert?
A: The desert was filmed on location in the Oregon dunes, which look amazingly like the Sahara if you just cut the Douglas fir trees out of the frame.

Q: What inspired all this?
A: A major inspiration for this piece was my grandmother, who was the wife of the president of Capitol Records during a time when they were producing the Beatles. She had George Harrison over for dinner once. She regularly had to host large dinner parties, and she had a lot of techniques for entertaining. She was a big fan of making things ahead and freezing them so that a big spread would still be homemade. The pressure to get things right must have been overwhelming.



The poem that the Body Show: The Humble Egg is based on, “How to Boil an Egg,” is taken from a larger poetry collection, Body-making Cookery, that explores the many associations food has for us: personal history, politics, mythology, body image, desire. Gender, that reification. Food is almost never just food. It’s almost never just a way to keep our physical bodies going. Food, especially particular dishes, always has many connotations, and it’s my belief that when we take food into our bodies, we take all of those associations into the bodies of our selves. This is why people get offended when you don’t like the food where they come from, who they come from. By adapting this poem into a film, we explored certain iconic images of food and eating, our shared cultural notions of what is a wholesome way to feed ourselves.



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Our benefit cabaret and premiere screening was held at Someday Lounge in Portland, Oregon on November 3rd.  Performers included Arthur Bradford, B. Frayn Masters, Nathaniel Boggess, Margaret Malone, Gigi Little, and singer/songwriter Danielle Fish. A Voodoo doughnut-eating contest was judged by Shannon Wheeler, Tres Shannon, and Tiffany Lee Brown. Contestants included Brad Fortier, Matt Bors, Danielle Fish and Karl Kling. Sponsors included Voodoo Doughnuts, Bad Monkey Productions, Blackbird Wines, New Oregon Arts & Letters, She Bop, The Meadows and Pistils Nursery.  

LIVE at the Body Show Benefit: Nathaniel Boggess from Nora Robertson on Vimeo.

LIVE at the Body Show Benefit: B. Frayn Masters from Nora Robertson on Vimeo.

LIVE at the Body Show Benefit: Danielle Fish from Nora Robertson on Vimeo.

LIVE at the Body Show Benefit: Gigi Little from Nora Robertson on Vimeo.

LIVE at the Body Show Benefit: The Voodoo Doughnut Contest from Nora Robertson on Vimeo.


Since moving to New York in 2010, Jason Bahling has premiered his latest experimental short video The Body Show with Nora Robertson, created a video installation for the 21st Biannual Electroacoustic Festival, worked as a gaffer and camera operator for two new screendances: one with Douglas Rosenberg and prolific choreographer Sally Gross; the other, an adaptation of Li Chiao-Ping’s “Pagoda,” set amongst the Wisconsin seasons. Jason recently performed in the piece “Spoken For” at the Raandesk Gallery and is currently exploring dimensions of color correction for film and video as a professional pursuit.
Nora Robertson writes fiction, poetry, reviews, and essays, which have appeared in such publications as Plazm, Redactions, Alimentum, Monkeybicycle, Citadel of the Spirit: Oregon’s Sesquicentennial Anthology, 2GQ, and Portland Monthly. Her recipe poem, “How to Boil an Egg,” was nominated by Redactions for the 2007 Pushcart Prize. Her performance work has been showcased in Portland in the Enteractive Language Festival, the Public Works series curated by 2 Gyrlz Performative Arts, Phase One: Words + Music, and Performance Works Northwest’s Alembic Series in Housebound; most recently, she produced and hosted the New Oregon Interview Series, which explores Portland’s evolving creative culture through interviewing the artists and culture makers themselves both live and for print. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
Mark Russell is a writer and cartoonist living in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in publications such as Bear Deluxe and the McSweeney’s website. He is the author of The Superman Stories, God Is Disappointed in You and also runs a small press called The Penny Dreadful.



John Jodzio, Becca Yenser, Jason Maurer and Myself at Reading Frenzy, Sept. 4th

You may think you’ve read enough stories about penniless gay clowns who can’t get over the loss of a dog, but — I assure you — you have not. John Jodzio is the best kind of modern fiction writer: a thematic traditionalist who feels totally new.  — Chuck Klosterman, author of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

A middle-aged masochist in love with a comatose man. A gay birthday clown lamenting the loss of his beloved dog. An amateur veterinarian keeping watch over his suicidal daughter. And a bikini model with a barnacle stuck to her butt cheek. These are just a few of the characters who populate the quirky, offbeat world of If You Lived Here You’d Already Be Home (Replacement Press, 2010) — a world that feels at once alien and strangely familiar. In these 21 brief, funny stories, John Jodzio documents his characters’ disappointment, frustration, and longing for a home that seems forever out of reach. By turns bleak and hopeful, cruel and tender, this is an exciting literary debut by a writer to watch, a writer with a unique and compelling voice.

Catch John on tour reading and signing at Reading Frenzy along with Becca Yenser, Jason Maurer and myself.  I’m excited to be reading a few numbers from my poetry collection Body Making Cookery, including “How to Boil an Egg” which the short film I’m making with Jason Bahling, The Body Show, is based on. Next Saturday the 4th, 921 SW Oak, 7-9PM, FREE.

I’ve Been Here All Along and I’m Getting Tired

I spent the 4th through 6th grades with Mrs Schmidt at the Sacramento Waldorf school, which probably saved me from a life of delinquency.  She was German, and maybe that had nothing to do with it, but she was both very kind and very strict.  I was kind of a mess in the fourth grade.  I couldn’t pay attention and read under the desk constantly.  I never turned in homework and my handwriting was almost illegible.  My parents had just got divorced and my dad was back in Eugene, Oregon.  I missed him and everything else.  Mrs. Schmidt was somehow able to keep me on a tight leash.  Dear Mrs. Schmidt, you probably didn’t guess that when you let me into your classroom with the rounded wooden door handles that you’d be breaking up a fight between two girls in organic sweaters and me with the copper rod from eurythmics class.  But I’m all good now, I promise.  If I am, it’s probably due to you.  Here’s one of those times I tried your patience.


Mike Daily and Myself Perform Alarm LIVE at Ash St. Saloon

Mike Daily and his band developed a spoken word performance with backing music, very Beat style, of his novel Alarm about a couple whose relationship is falling apart against the backdrop of the 9-11 aftermath. This is one show we did at the Ash St. in 2007.

Even If You Think No One Else Will See