From P-Town… Read, Reread, Reveal: Matt Kish’s Moby Dick

1. Kish interprets his imagery and recounts his mixed media selection. 2. Schneider, Literary Arts staffer and author of A Simple Machine, Like the Lever, with Terry and Barbera (who might be famous, but did not say). 3. Kish took out his pencil case and started drawing a whale. I’m guessing there might be some whale graffiti in the Literary Arts restrooms as well.

Around twenty-five past and current Delve participants and guests gathered at the new Literary Arts space in downtown Portland last Friday. They met up for a conversation with Matt Kish on his re-imagination of Moby Dick, which was led by Christopher Zinn, who is a Delve leader with a cult following.

Kish’s first book, Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page, started as a blog for family and friends before it got published by Tin House Books. On Friday, he had a reception at Powell’s immediately after this event. Kish could babysit for the octomom or drive you and your friends non-stop from any U.S. city to Vegas after creating 552 pictures, one each day, for you can guess how long, but I could barely drag myself to this 5:30pm event after work on a chilly November Friday, even though I knew they’d have free wine.

1. Literary Arts new event space designed by Portland’s Boora Architects. 2. Stella, George and Laura have taken many Delve seminars together. I’m guessing that they coordinate on future picks and are possibly open to hazing promising new Delve students with extended literary discussions over several glasses of wine.

I don’t even have a hope-to-read copy of Moby Dick lying around the house, but I loved Kish’s pictures the moment I saw them, and Zinn’s Modern Poetry Delve improved my comprehension of T.S. Elliot and Ezra Pound, so I was compelled to check-out this re-imagination of Moby Dick conversation. Zinn and Kish seemed like total opposites, but I started to question that assumption the minute after I made it.

I would say that Kish knows what he knows, and Zinn guided him to share it in a structured manner. No shit, right? That’s a conversation. But this is complicated shit. Kish did the project as a challenge to work differently (think NaNoWriMo), as well as to explore his relationship to the text of Moby Dick via art. As the project progressed, portraits of Ahab became self-portraits. Each picture became a map to his imagination, which he used to come back to himself — but fortunately the whole thing didn’t end like Apocalypse Now. Kish has two other books he’d like to do next, and he’s thrilled to meet readers in different places and spaces before starting his next project.

1. Kish and Zinn seem like complete opposites while answering questions after the talk. 2. Nanci McCloskey, Director of Publicity and Rights for Tin House Books, with Kish and his wife, Ione.

After the event, Delve participants used the time to reconnect and finish any remaining wine while Literary Arts staffers, Andrew Proctor and Evan P. Schneider, mingled with the clusters of crowd. The whole think lasted an hour, but the time was very well spent.


— Judith Ossello currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Find her at

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