The Tip of the Iceberg: Portland's Literary Sites

Amanda Lonsdorf

Amanda M. Lonsdorf
Alumni Epsilon
University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire

Portland, Oregon, is a city bursting with creative people, eclectic sites, and rain showers. Poetry slams, film festivals, reading groups, community art installations, writing circles, music fusions, and performing artists abound in this creatively infused city. One couldn't ask for a more lively environment for the 2013 Sigma Tau Delta International Convention. In addition to participating in panels, attending meetings, engaging in workshops, reading bad poetry, or meeting peers from all over the world, remember to take some time to enjoy the literary side of the city of Portland.

Voodoo Doughnuts Sign

Many books, films, and graphic novels have been set or created in Portland, including films like Coraline, the Twilight series, Free Willy, and the graphic novel Stumptown, to name a few. One of the most recent tongue and cheek portrayals of Portland comes from a series called Portlandia. It involves various comedic skits about the unique mix of people, events, and places in Portland, Oregon. Here are a few of those unique sites that have been featured in the show:

  • PORTLANDIA STATUE: The opening sequence of each episode shows the Portlandia statue of a classical woman holding a triton. Located at 1120 SW 5th Ave., it is the second largest hammered-copper statue in the United States.
  • VOODOO DOUGHNUTS: At 22 SW 3rd Ave. is a unique pastry shop featured in one Portlandia skit about a citywide scavenger hunt. It's a great place for a fear-filled, yet tasty, treat. Voodoo Doughnuts is famous for its wacky décor and its Maple Bacon Bars, yeast-risen doughnuts with maple frosting and whole bacon strips.
  • IN OTHER WORDS: Portlandia features Women and Woman First, a feminist-leaning bookstore, in several comedic skits. In Other Words, on 14 NE Killingsworth St., is the real life volunteer-run, non-profit, feminist bookstore. Pop by for some literature, conversation, or a community workshop.

Literature of all forms is well loved in Portland. There are many places themed after favorite authors or authors' works. If you're of age, I might suggest two local bars featuring literary themes in the décor, beverage and food.

  • THE JACK LONDON BAR: For a walk on the wild side, venture to The Jack London Bar on 529 SW 4th Ave., which takes much of its décor and menu from Jack London's famous book Call of the Wild. The bar hosts weekly literary and historical events. The Comics Underground is the most infamous regular event. It can include anything from comic book readings to live performances of comic artists.
  • LOVECRAFT BAR: If you want something a little stranger, slink down to 421 SE Grand Ave. and enter the Lovecraft Bar. This night spot is themed after the horrors born from H.P. Lovecraft's mind. More odd than frightening, the Lovecraft Bar offers a macabre décor and menu featuring the many Lovecraft monsters. To entertain the brave of heart, there are '80s metal, industrial, and Goth bands, burlesque shows, tarot readings, art classes, and readings by local authors.
Powell's Books

Bookstores have a special place in the hearts of the people of Portland. Here are a couple of bookstores to lose yourself in:

  • READING FRENZY: If you want more of an "indie" feel, head down to Reading Frenzy on 921 SW Oak St. and soak in atmosphere at the independent press emporium. This specialty bookshop/gallery/event space is committed to supporting independent and alternative press literature.
  • POWELL'S BOOKS: A trip to Portland isn't complete without an extended visit to Powell's Books at 1005 W Burnside. This isn't any ordinary bookstore. Powell's is the self-proclaimed largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. Spanning one city block and standing three stories tall, Powell's boasts seem to be realistic. The smell of old paper and binding glue will intoxicate you when you enter, keeping you from leaving until you have an armful of books. Grab your friends or even random people on the street and run down to Powell's Books.

Remember to take a break from convention events and enjoy the beauty and wonder that is Portland. Be safe and have fun.