Summer is dwindling, the air is forest-fire smoke-hazy, the country's news cycle continues to exhaust and infuriate, and we here continue to believe in the (both) urgent and timeless need for books, art, reading, poetry, sharing, and for representation, and spaces that allow us respite - yet through continuing and thoughtful engagement - from/with the chaotic rest of the world. As I write this now, it is an August afternoon and I am sitting in the quiet of our library, appreciative of all the worlds of feeling and perception contained inside those rectangular arrangements of paper we've been steadily collecting.
The De-Canon library collection is now up to 500+ books, due to donations, and courtesy of funding we received this year from an APANO (Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon) Creative Place-Making Grant. We have been housed, courtesy of Artists' Milepost, in the Milepost 5 Cafe/Gallery space (8155 NE Oregon St) since May. We will be closing our summer programming with a Whitenoise Project reading on 8/24, Friday, and then will be looking ahead to our fall plans. (More to come on this soon.)
But first, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on our summer. Below are some photos we've yet to post from our May 12th opening event (which was so special, a warm and inviting gathering with just the right energy and people), and snapshot-portraits (taken by Vĩ Sơn Trinh) of the photographers whose works have been on display throughout the summer as part of our group exhibit, (dis)place; plus some extras.
We owe thanks to Milepost 5, especially to Carlee Smith (and Dave, and Alicia) of Artists' Milepost, for offering us this amazing space for our pop-up library installation/residency. We are thankful for the warm welcome we've received also from residents and artists who live and work at Milepost 5, and who've dropped in to visit the library from time to time. We've also been moved by the number of people who attended readings and workshops this summer, many of whom tell us they have not previously attended a poetry reading or workshop.
We also wouldn't have been able to do this project without financial support from APANO: we send special thanks to Candace Kita for her community-building superpowers, and to our Place-Making Grant cohort, which includes Whitenoise Project, who've been co-curators/partners bringing readers into the De-Canon space this summer. Thank you, all, for your ongoing work. (We have more thoughts, no doubt, about building community and what it means to be trying to do this in East Portland, and what "place-making" really is or can be or should be... and hopefully we'll have more to articulate down the road. We welcome dialogue on these topics, also, btw...)
For now, though, just some summer closing thoughts.
For myself, the work of making this library and curation of books/authors begins to make the most sense when things like this occur...
One afternoon this summer a young teenaged woman wandered in, just randomly, asking what this place is about. She was curious and also just happened to be in the neighborhood, was looking to bide some time while waiting for her mother, whose workplace was nearby. She walked around and looked at the books. Gradually, it became revealed she was going to be a junior in high school, and was herself interested in writing, had recently begun to explore poetry. She mentioned how surprised she was to find so many Vietnamese poets' books in one space (revealing that she too was Vietnamese) and that she had never encountered this before anywhere else. She seemed pleased, and encouraged.
I think back to my own northern California small-town high school years, in AP English class where my literary learning was then working itself out through Edith Wharton, some Kafka (very unsettling for all in the class), Stephen Crane, William Golding's Lord of the Flies (which was my favorite at the time), Flannery O'Connor, some Shakespeare, Dickens, etc. There was not then even a question in my mind as to why there were no Asian American, let alone Vietnamese, authors on the syllabus; I was quite indoctrinated, back then. (I do, however, remember my AP English teacher taking the time to give me personally a copy of The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, which I will admit I carried around with me for nearly a decade, and finally read for the first time when I was 26.) We can take for granted all that has been required of us (some of us, anyway), through years of learning and unlearning, years of resistances and revelations, of finding and discarding and finding again, in order to cultivate - to curate - within ourselves, as readers or writers or just as people in this convoluted society, a sense of narrative being - a sense of canvas and de-canvassing, if you will - that provides resonant enough culture, voices, stories, etc. through which we can then be able to more happily, and more powerfully, see ourselves, as well as see others.
I can only hope the young Vietnamese would-be poet who happened on our De-Canon library this summer will continue to write and feel connected, and represented by, what she finds to read. And that, for all young, diverse readers and writers out there today, that it gets only easier, more visible and available, to find.
Our thanks, of course, also to our friends and collaborators - Roland, Vi, Intisar, for photographs and installation help; Hannah Kim, for volunteering; Jyothi Natarajan and Jessica Yen, for library-sitting; Michelle Ruiz-Keil, for tarot and other advice; Jake & Ryan for the Whitenoise Project; and to all the writers, truly.
DE-CANON 2018 Opening Night Moments:
"(dis)place" Group Photography Exhibit:
"(dis)place" photographers: Intisar Abioto, Vincent Trinh (Vi Son Trinh), Dao Strom, Roland Dahwen Wu. (Photos by Vincent Trinh)