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LitWatch January: A bookish welcome to 2022

Virtual readings, author conversations, a workshop for beating writer’s block, and a Merry Prankster book release fill the new year’s calendar.

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I'm January bringing you
A year of days — all brand, brand new;
I step upon the frosty ground.
When chimes and sleighbells ring around;
You welcome me and children sing,
And joy comes into everything.
I bring you love and lots of cheer,
And work and friends for all the year.
I’m January by Annette Wynne 

American children’s poet Annette Wynne published this bright and hopeful poem in the early 20th century. Though little known for her contribution to poetry, she is often associated with prolific writers including Emily Dickinson and Hannah Flagg Gould who helped pave the way for Wynne’s writing style.

I chose to feature I’m January in the first LitWatch of 2022 because of its sweet and sanguine tone, setting forth a mantra of peace, community, and happiness for the year to come. Though 2022 meets us precariously as uncertainty about in-person events looms due to the increasing spread of the Omicron variant, Oregon’s literary community remains optimistic. Many readings and author conversations have been scheduled virtually, including Ken Babbs talking about his new release from Tsunami Books’ small publishing sector, Tsunami Press.

One of the original Merry Pranksters, Babbs rode with Ken Kesey and Neal Cassady on the infamous cross-country touring bus called Further, as the pranksters made their way from San Francisco to New York for the 1964 World’s Fair. (Cassady, who drove the bus, inspired the character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.) A psychedelic leader of the 1960s, Babbs participated in Kesey’s San Francisco Bay Area Acid Tests in the company of rock stars and American icons including the Grateful Dead (known then as The Warlocks), Big Brother and the Holding Company, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, and novelist Robert Stone. These tests, a series of parties in which participants explored the boundaries and effects of psychedelic drugs before California outlawed LSD in 1966, spawned Tom Wolfe’s nonfiction book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Babbs lives near the Kesey Farm in the Willamette Valley and spends his days writing. In 1994, he and Kesey co-wrote Last Go Round, about the Pendleton Round-Up, and in 2011 he published Who Shot the Water Buffalo?, based on his childhood and time in the army during the start of the Vietnam War.

On Jan. 14, Powell’s Books will present Ken Babbs talking virtually with Bill Walton – NBA Hall of Famer, Deadhead, and Kesey friend – about Babbs’ newest book, Cronies, A Burlesque: Adventures with Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, The Merry Pranksters and the Grateful Dead (Tsunami Press). If you’re a fan of 1960s and 1970s counterculture, you won’t want to miss this free event.

Ken Babbs (left) will discuss his new book, “Cronies, A Burlesque: Adventures with Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, The Merry Pranksters and the Grateful Dead,” with former Portland Trail Blazer Bill Walton via Zoom on Jan. 14.

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Week 1: January 1-7

How to Read a Comic
Presented by Floating World Comics
Thursday, Jan. 6
6-7:30 p.m., via ZOOM
Free

As part of Multnomah County Library’s Everybody Reads community reading project, Floating World Comics owner Jason Leivian and librarians Alicia Tate and Laural Winter will discuss how to approach graphic novels, graphic memoir, and comic books. Attendees will learn how to get the most out of them and about new and forthcoming titles. Advance registration is suggested.

Livestream Reading: Dispatches from Anarres
Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Thursday, Jan. 6
7-8 p.m., via ZOOM
Free

Sponsor

Paying tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin’s expansive career, Dispatches from Anarres features a collection of imaginative sci-fi, fantasy, and fiction by a variety of Portland-based writers including Fonda Lee (Old Souls), Rachael K. Jones (The Night Bazaar for Women Turning into Reptiles), Lidia Yuknavitch (Neuron). The authors will appear virtually, courtesy of Annie Bloom’s Books, to read from their work.

Week 2: January 8-14

Livestream Reading: Jonathan Evison
Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Monday, Jan. 10
7-8 p.m., via ZOOM
Free 

Jonathan Evison’s novel, Small World, chronicles more than 170 years of California history. Through events including the gold rush and building the transcontinental railroad, Evison creates a Dickensian tale that explores the lives and emotions of fictional pioneers and passengers. Evison will be presented virtually by Annie Bloom’s Books talking with Oregon-based writer Eileen Garvin, author of The Music of Bees.

Livestream Reading: Christopher Luna, Angelo Luna, and Laura LeHew
Presented by Annie Bloom’s Books
Tuesday, Jan. 11
7-8 p.m., via ZOOM
Free 

Christopher Luna, Angelo Luna, and Laura LeHew will read virtually from their new poetry collections, Exchanging Wisdom and Dear John. Christopher Luna and 21-year-old son, Angelo, have collaborated to chronicle Angelo’s life and development. LeHew’s collection uses diverse points of view to explore the multi-faceted aspects of love. Both collections will be available from Portland press The Poetry Box.

Ken Babbs in Conversation With Bill Walton
Presented by Powell’s Books
Friday, Jan. 14
5 p.m., via ZOOM
Free 

Powell’s Books presents Ken Babbs talking virtually with basketball great Bill Walton about Babbs’ newest book, Cronies, A Burlesque: Adventures with Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady, The Merry Pranksters and the Grateful Dead. In 70 stories, Babbs tells about his time spent on Kesey’s bus, Further; his experience with the infamous Acid Tests of the ‘60s, and his view of the counterculture of the hippie era.

Week 3: January 15-21

Overcoming Writer’s Block: Getting Unstuck
Presented by Literary Arts
Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 15-16
10 a.m. to 1 p.m., via ZOOM
$145

Sandra Hunter will teach a Zoom class on overcoming writer’s block.

If the new year has you feeling stuck and unmotivated when it comes to writing, this may be the class for you. Hosted by 2018 Hawthornden Castle Fellow and writing coach Sandra Hunter, participants will learn how to view “being stuck” from another perspective by completing writing exercises, sharing work with others, and producing story outlines. This is a two-day workshop. Reduced “access” rates are available, contact Susan Moore at susan@literary-arts.org to learn more.

An Evening with Paul Pastor and Joe Wilkins
Presented by Literary Arts
Tuesday, Jan. 18
7-8 p.m., via ZOOM
Free

Writer and Penguin Random House editor Paul Pastor will meet with author Joe Wilkins to talk about Pastor’s newest book, Bower Lodge, a story about grief, landscape, and time. Wilkins will also discuss his most recent finalist for the Oregon Book Award, Thieve, and Oregon Book Award winner When We Were Birds. Advance registration is highly suggested for this virtual event.

Emily Levesque in Conversation With Jonathan McDowell
Presented by Powell’s Books
Wednesday, Jan. 19
5 p.m., via ZOOM
Free 

University of Washington professor, award-winning astronomer, and author Emily Levesque will meet with Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., to discuss Levesque’s new book, The Last Stargazers. Powell’s describes the book as “showing how astronomers in this scrappy and evolving field are going beyond the machines to infuse creativity and passion into the stars and space — and inspire us all to peer skyward in pursuit of the universe’s secrets.” 

Week 4: January 22-31

January BIPOC Reading Series
Presented by Literary Arts
Thursday, Jan. 27
7-9 p.m.
925 S.W. Washington St., Portland
Free

Literary Arts describes the series as created “to prioritize the safety, creativity, and stories of Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Color.” Local readers and featured performers will share their poetry, prose, and other’s writings, followed by an open mic. A  short community discussion will take place between the readers and facilitators after the reading. While the event is open to everyone, only those individuals who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color will be invited to read their work. January’s theme is “Twin/Duality/Pair.” Advance registration is strongly suggested, and questions can be directed to the event host, Jessica, at jessica@literary-arts.org. This is an indoor event and masks will be mandatory.

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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.

About the author

Amy Leona Havin is a poet, choreographer, filmmaker, and writer from Rehovot, Israel, currently based in Portland, Oregon, by way of San Diego, California. She has trained in Tel Aviv under Ohad Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company studying Gaga Movement Language and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Washington. Havin is the founder and artistic director of the Portland-based dance company The Holding Project with which she received a Disjecta Contemporary Art Center 2016 Artistic Residency. Her films have been showcased internationally in Israel, Greece, Mexico, Austria, and France, receiving awards from Mexico City Videodance International, Portland Dance Film Fest, Thessaloniki Cinedance, and more. Havin is the founder and host of the occasional reading series It’s Rhubarb, and her literary works can be read in publications such as The Dust Magazine, Unchaste Anthology, When She Rises, and Gravity According to Birds. With a process rooted in the duality of her upbringing, Havin weaves together a collectively introspective body of work, honoring both heritage and the natural world.

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