Books

Freshening up the Literary Scene

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Tom Spanbauer has lived in Portland since 1990. In that time he's written two books set in Idaho (including The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon), and one set in New York City. He's generous with interviews and readings around town, but I'm hard-pressed to think of much he's written about Portland—that is, until the first issue of the fledgling literary journal Poor Claudia, which features a story by Spanbauer that takes place in the very city in which the respected author has lived for nearly 20 years.

Not bad, for the first issue.

Poor Claudia, which has its official release party this Sunday, April 12, is the work of Marshall Walker Lee and Drew Swenhaugen, two friends who met at Powell's, where they both work. The two recent transplants had worked on literary journals in other states, and were surprised that Portland seemed to lack a consistent local outlet for new and established writers. So they decided to start one. "We both wanted to see some sort of venue where people we know who are creating good work, but who are relatively unknown, could print their work alongside big names," Lee explains.

If it seems starry-eyed to bank on publishing big names in an unknown journal, consider that the collection also includes work by Monica Drake, Walt Curtis, and local poet Michael Dickman (who was profiled, along with his twin brother Matthew, in a recent issue of The New Yorker). Poor Claudia is genuinely impressive: the design is polished, the content varied and absorbing, and the editing concise.

The journal is projected to come out twice a year, and the first issue is dedicated to Joel Weinstein, publisher of the now-defunct local journal Mississippi Mud, which introduced writers like Katherine Dunn and Walt Curtis. A dedication like that is tantamount to a statement of purpose—one that is tactfully, gracefully rooted in local history. Plus, it's named after that sports bar on SE Hawthorne. If that doesn't sell you, I just don't know what else to say.

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