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LitWatch December: The Moth Mainstage, the Icelandic ritual of book giving, a moving sale, and the practice of simplicity

December’s festive calendar includes author conversations, poet lectures, Passages Bookshop’s moving sale, and a pair of book fairs.

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I would like to decorate this silence,   
but my house grows only cleaner
and more plain. The glass chimes I hung   
over the register ring a little
when the heat goes on.
I waited too long to drink my tea.   
It was not hot. It was only warm.
Winter Love by Linda Gregg

As December draws the holiday season near, may we keep in mind the pleasantness of simplicity and reflection depicted in Gregg’s poem above. Born in 1942, Linda Gregg searched for meaning within ambiguity, offering contradictory viewpoints in uncomplicated and effortless prose. Rooted in an affair between the natural and the urban, and the devastating and jovial, her work is particularly fitting for the month of December, often considered the entryway to a simultaneously bright and desolate polarizing winter season.

Amid the busy rush of holiday shopping, celebratory gatherings, and making it to the post office in time, the practice of stillness becomes more important than ever. In this vein, our calendar experiences a little shift, offering a packed first two weeks of the month followed by a quiet second half of December. After partaking in thought-provoking author conversations, poet lectures, and a vibrant holiday book fair, I invite you to practice gratitude for the present moment as the Christmas and New Year holidays approach. Slow down to take inventory of all the beauty December has to offer, and consider sharing a quiet, meaningful moment — whether with your loved ones, your favorite book, or your cup of (only warm) tea.

Week 1: December 1-7

Neal Stephenson in Conversation with Lev Grossman
Presented by Powell’s Books
Friday, Dec. 3
5 p.m. via ZOOM
Free 

Neil Stephenson will be joined by the author of The Magicians Trilogy, Lev Grossman, to talk about his newest book, Termination Shock. A transformative novel that propels readers into a turbulent world featuring global climate disasters and devastating pandemics, it poses a question about the dangers of hasty cure-searching through a heartbreaking and suspenseful narrative. Traveling from the deserts of Texas to the Netherlands, Termination Shock brings to light the dangers present in our own reality through speculative adventure.

Passages Bookshop Moving Sale
1223 N.E. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Portland
Monday through Sunday, Dec. 6-12
Noon-6 p.m., in-person
Free 

Join Passages Bookshop for a weeklong moving sale as they prepare to relocate to a new space in Northwest Portland. All books priced at $25 or less will be 50% off, and all other books will be 30% off. Get a jump on your Christmas shopping with hundreds of used, rare, and new books to choose from. If you can’t make it in person, take a look at their website Monday for sale price adjustments to the online catalog.

Juhea Kim photo by Nola Logan
Juhea Kim

Juhea Kim in Conversation with Caroline Kim
Presented by Powell’s Books
Tuesday, Dec. 7
5 p.m. via ZOOM
Free

Caroline Kim, author of The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories, will chat with Juhea Kim about her debut novel, Beasts of a Little Land. Set in occupied Korea during 1917, the story chronicles the friendship and intertwining fates of a local hunter, the young Japanese officer whose life she saves, and an orphan boy named JungHo. As JungHo comes of age, he must fight in a war of independence, while the hunter navigates courtesan schools, high-class cafe society, and the increasing modernization of Seoul.

True Colors: Jews of Color Telling Stories
Presented by Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta and Mittleman Jewish Community Center
Tuesday, Dec. 7
5 p.m. via  ZOOM
$6

Join the Mittleman Jewish Community Center for a virtual celebration of the unique stories told by Jews of color. From the struggles the community faces to heartwarming tales of perseverance, True Colors shares the humorous, courageous, inspiring stories of Jewish individuals of color in the contemporary age. Called “a diverse array of stories about Jewish identity” by the Jewish Journal, this event arrives just after the close of the 2021 Hanukkah holiday.

Week 2: December 8-14

Lisa Jarnot via The Poetry Project
Lisa Jarnot

“Is That A Real Poem Or Did You Just Make It Up?”: Bagley Wright Lecture Series
Presented by Literary Arts
Thursday, Dec. 9
7 p.m. via ZOOM
Free

Poet and educator Lisa Jarnot will lead the last lecture in this year’s five-part Bagley Wright Lecture Series on Poetry, discussing her 1994 project Some Other Kind of Mission and 2019 book, A Princess Magic Presto Spell. Jarnot will consider what it means to be a prophet imagining a new age, drawing on American poet Robert Edward Duncan’s phrase, “I used to make up my tents, my treasuries, my powers within powers.”

Leanne Grabel

Two Poets Live
Presented by Sherri Levine and Leanne Grabel
Friday, Dec. 10
7 p.m., in-person
Rose City Book Pub
1329 N.E. Fremont St., Portland
Free

Sponsor
Bag & Baggage Danny and the Deep Blue Sea The Vault Theatre Hillsboro Oregon

Sherri Levine, winner of the Lois Cranston Memorial Prize, and mixed-media poet Leanne Grabel will be reading live at Rose City Book Pub. Accompanied by backup vocals by her husband, Steve Sander, Grabel will read from her graphic anthology memoir, The Funny Parts, and Levine will read from her newest book, Stealing Flowers From the Neighbors.

Rose City Book & Paper Fair
Presented by Cascade Booksellers Association
Friday, Dec. 10, in-person (VIP preview)
6-9 p.m., $25
Saturday, Dec. 11, in-person (general admission)
10 a.m.-5 p.m., $5
100 S.E. Alder St., Portland

Spend the weekend shopping for the booklovers in your life. The book fair features books, maps, photographs, prints, and ephemera from exhibitors including Crooked House Books & Paper, Arundel Books, Melville Books, McBride Rare Books, Belmont Books, and Revolutions Bookshop. You’re bound to find something for yourself, too.

Fourth Annual Jolabokaflod PDX Book Fair
Presented by Jolabokaflod PDX, Urbanite PDX, and Portland Flea’s Holiday Makers’ Market
Sunday, Dec. 12
11 a.m.-4 p.m., in-person
Urbanite PDX
1005 S.E. Grand Ave., Portland
Free 

Jolabokaflod, an Icelandic word meaning “yule book flood,” describes the annual tradition of an Icelandic book festival in honor of the Christmas holiday. Most books in Iceland are sold between September and November in preparation for the holiday season; Jolabokaflod brings the tradition to Portland in hopes of encouraging reading and literacy. On Dec. 12, Jolabokaflod at the Portland Flea’s Holiday Makers’ Market becomes a cozy stop for book-related gifts. There will be food, drinks, authors, and gifts for sale from local makers.

The Moth Mainstage in Portland
Presented by Literary Arts
Tuesday, Dec. 14
7:30 p.m., in-person
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
1037 S.W. Broadway, Portland
$18 to $85

The Moth Mainstage honors the tradition of live storytelling and supports the diversity of the human experience. Featuring local, newly emerging, and established writers, The Moth encourages risk-taking and vulnerability, presenting individuals from all walks of life sharing humorous, solemn, and introspective true stories. Due to COVID-19 mask mandates and restrictions, audience capacity will be limited by the venue.

Week 3: December 14-21

Poetry Open Mic at Big Legrowlski
Presented by Little Lioness Productions
Wednesday, Dec. 15
7 p.m. to close, in-person
Big Legrowlski
812 N.W. Couch St., Portland
Free 

Live open-mic poetry returns to Big Legrowlski. The event is open to all regardless of writing experience, with each performer allotted a time slot to share poems and sell poetry books. Group prompts, activities, and suggestions will be available and optional for all participants. To register or ask questions about the event, contact littlelionessproductions@gmail.com.

Week 4: December 22-31

Hello Storytime!
Presented by Roundabout Books
Wednesday, Dec. 22
10:30-11 a.m., in-person
Roundabout Books
900 N.W. Mount Washington Drive, Suite #110, Bend
Free

If you’re in Bend over the holidays, check out the Roundabout Books children’s storytime featuring books, games, and activities for kids up to age 5. The Dec. 22 storytime will be hedgehog-themed and led by Kathleen, a lover of all woodland creatures great and small. Up to two parents and/or caregivers are welcome per child.

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Submit your literary events, workshops, readings, and book releases to the Oregon ArtsWatch LitWatch Monthly calendar. Send your event information, press materials, interview requests, and book review inquiries to Amy Leona Havin at amyleonahavin@gmail.com.

Amy Leona Havin is a writer, choreographer, and filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington, and is the Artistic Director of Portland-based multi-media dance company The Holding Project. Her works can be read in Humana Obscura, San Diego Poetry Annual, The Dust Magazine, The Chronicle, Mountain Bluebird Magazine, and others, and she has been shortlisted for the Bridport International Writing Competition Prize in Poetry. Havin’s artistic process is rooted in classical and somatic movement practices, non-fiction writing, and honoring the landscape of the natural world.

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