PORTLAND – November 15, 2016, started off early in Portland as the massive, two day literary arts festival, Wordstock, opened to a wave of readers and writers alike. Early festival goers were already in line by eight, waiting to buy or pick up tickets.
By nine, the festival was in full swing, with the first round of pop-up readings having already enthralled and amazed listeners. Writers from all walks of life and all corners of this country came together to celebrate the legacy they and their predecessors had set in motion. Some taught workshops, while others were panelists, discussing the merits of literature and answering questions posed by the audience. Even more slipped through the crowds unnoticed or met with colleagues outside the Portland Art Museum. They were all there to promote and show their love for literature.
Wordstock is of course a play on Woodstock—the music and art festival that began in 1969—and though it may not garner the same public appeal as Woodstock, Wordstock is just as pivotal to literature as Woodstock was to music.
The Wordstock Festival consists of on-stage events (panels), pop-up readings (short, 15 minute read alouds of recently published works), and workshops. It also offers an extensive book fair (courtesy of Powell’s: City of Books), live music, and food carts for those needing a break from the literary overload that is experienced by most festival attendees. All of these events and sideshows are catered towards all audiences, though it often depends on taste in genre.
All genres are represented as equals, and in this you will find one of the lessons Wordstock works to teach you: literature is not just about what is classified as literature in the classroom. Meaningful literature can come from any of the genres but, in school at least, there is a push to accept literature as being defined by certain parameters and appearing only in certain genres; an untruth. Wordstock seeks to break those walls and show appreciation for all corners of literature, and to show them in an equal light.
There are many other lessons to be learned from the festival, but it really should be experienced it first hand. If you are an avid reader or an aspiring writer, this is the northwest festival for you. These aren’t big name writers coming to promote their works (though plenty enjoy referencing them); these are writers who want to keep the beating heart of society—literature—alive in a time when fewer and fewer people are looking to books as entertainment.