From P-Town: Nouns of Assemblage Release

1. Rob Gray, Housefire photography editor, and Lindsay Allison Ruoff, Housefire book designer, going gangster in Belmont. 2. Marika with her army of animals.

Last night, Housefire Publishing celebrated the release of its first book, the conceptual anthology Nouns of Assemblage, in the dimly lit basement of Portland jazz club The Blue Monk. Seven of the anthology’s sixty-three contributors read their stories, which bear titles like “A Float of Crocodile” and “A Lamentation of Swan.”

Before the reading, I had a drink across the street at the Aalto Lounge with my wife, along with Electric Literature blogger Judy Ossello. We were pleasantly accosted by a representative from a local brewery, who was giving out tiny cups of a rather unpleasant beer.*

1. Seth and Samantha, young guns too old to fuck. 2. Reader Kevin Sampsell and B Frayn Masters. They’re the drink specials we forgot.

Downstairs in the basement, illuminated by Christmas lights and hanging blue orbs, the release party had the feeling of a clandestine club meeting. Considering Housefire’s origins, this was the perfect vibe. The brainchild of Riley Michael Parker, Housefire began as a reading series and invite-only web journal that was grounded in a simple equation: Sexy people writing sexy stories based on prompts issued by Housefire, which then culls the best and hosts a monthly reading colored by dance music and gangster rap, curated art (the last theme was Stephen King), and whiskey gingers.

1. Carrie Seitzinger, poet and co-curator of Smalldoggies Reading Series, is a destroyer of moths. 2. Reader Matthew Simmons writes his own caption after seeing a picture of himself writing his own caption, and then he explodes. 3. Colleen, right, wishes her cat would drag in something interesting.

The night’s readings were at turns surreal, humorous, sad, and raunchy. Matty Byloos, author of Don’t Smell the Floss and a staple of Portland literary events, opened the night with a more subdued performance than usual, though by Byloos’ standards, a subdued story involves motorcycle gangs and monocle-clad owls with speech impediments.

Matthew Simmons (author of Jello Horse) and Kevin Sampsell (author of A Common Pornography and Future Tense publisher) capped off the night. Sampsell’s “An Ambush of Tigers” is one of many highlights of Nouns of Assemblage and also the anthology’s sole story about a sex club.

*This experience has instilled in me a moral imperative to share one very important suggestion with Portland travelers. If you’re looking for good beer (and we make the best), avoid Pyramid, Deschutes, Widmer, and Bridgeport. While all fine breweries, they’re but a pale shadow of the hoppy perfection brewed up by Portland’s smaller outfits, particularly Hair of the Dog, Amnesia, Lucky Labrador, and Captured by Porches.


— Cameron Pierce is the author of Lost in Cat Brain Land, The Pickled Apocalypse of Pancake Island, and other books. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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