Portland’s art calender is filled with poetry readings. From Port Veritas to Rhythmic Cypher, Portlandites can get their poetry fix a few nights a week. But what about us prose guys? Those of us who write and read in lines that wrap around the far edge of the page?
You’re right, we have Word Portland. And thank God we do, but it only happens once a month at LFK. Like any corn-fed American, I want more.
It might not be weekly or even monthly, but the internationally touring show, Literary Death Match, is such a strong representation of Portland prose, you can ride out that prose high for a few weeks.
Here’s the skinny. Literary Death Match rolls into town having chosen four local writers to fight to the death using only their stories and their stage presence. (Spoiler: no one actually dies, so if you were planning on attending for morbid purposes, you’ll be let down.)
The night is hosted by the show’s creator, Adrian Todd Zuniga. He’s witty, ever-present, and willing to let the humor slide into a sort of high-minded bawdiness Shakespeare would be proud of. Zuniga encourages the crowd to laugh, gasp, and drink all through the evening.
In the first round, two writers go head to head, reading for about six minutes each. I promise you — seriously, I promise — you will not be let down by the quality of writing. So far, I’ve heard stories from some of my favorite local writers: Ron Currie, Jr., Lewis Robinson, Jessica Anthony, Crash Barry, and Bill Roorbach. The readers Zuniga procures are worth the price of admission alone.
After each round, three judges evaluate the readers based on Literary Merit, Performance, and Intangibles. The banter between the judges and Zuniga after each reading is a performance in itself. The hardest you may laugh all night will be when the judges let their wit and pith rip.
After the first round of readings and judgings, you have two finalists. If I have one complaint, I’d love to hear each finalist read another piece. Maybe even a two to three minute final death match throw down. What follows, however, is a literary game of sorts — differing both times I went. The winner of the Literary Death Match, ends up being the person who wins the game of literary pictionary or guess that novel. Though devoid of original prose, this round is entertaining.
The two Literary Death Matches I’ve attended at Space Gallery have represented Portland’s prose scene in a classy, engaging way. Next time you see this event in the Portland Phoenix calendar, surrounded by poetry slams and open mics, get yourself down to Space. Just know, this town is so hungry for prose events, it often sells out before the bell sounds for round one.