MFA reading series cultivates new relationships in the community

On the last Sunday of every month, Portland State MFA students will host a reading series as an opportunity to share their written work out loud to the public.

The first two readings of each term will take place at the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Southeast Portland. The third reading will be held at Literary Arts, a nationally recognized organization downtown.

Charles McLeod, Pushcart Prize winner and new fiction faculty member in the MFA creative writing program at PSU, kicked off the first reading last Sunday, Sept. 26.

In an unassuming barn-turned-warehouse-esque space with white brick and exposed beams, the small group carved out a space against deep red curtains, white twinkle lights and hanging paper lanterns to share their poetry and prose.

Jac Nelson and Stephanie Wong Ken, organizers of the series and second-year PSU MFA students, are enthusiastic about forging a new relationship with the IPRC through the readings. 

“I thought it would be a great organization for the MFA program to be connected with because this place is all about giving people the resources to publish their own things,” Nelson said.

This isn’t the only new relationship they’re forging. They’re also relaunching Portland’s popular book festival Wordstock, in November.

Wong Ken describes the IPRC as a DIY organization, different from Literary Arts.

“Literary Arts is shiny and professional,” Wong Ken said. “And brings big names to Portland.”

The event seems to have found a literary and DIY-chic combination that is especially inviting for new attendees. While many of the MFA students already know one another, some first-year students will experience this as their introduction to the program’s culture and community.

Patrick Brogan, a first-year PSU MFA fiction student, was impressed with the program.

“I’m really loving it,” Brogan said, gesturing to the row of machines sitting on a platform in the middle of the room. “My favorite part is this venue. I’ve never seen anything with the printing presses.”

The reading series is always free of charge and welcomes anyone interested in hearing PSU students’s written work.