Now in its fifth year, the APRIL (Authors, Publishers, and Readers of Independent Literature) Festival celebrates the work of independent publishers by organizing innovative, substantive, and boozy book events that you actually want to attend. It's easy to gloss over the word "independent." Like "free range," "organic," or any other specious buzzword used mostly for advertising purposes, it's an adjective that often sounds nice but means nothing. It's inexpensive.
The "independent" in "independent publishing" means that these publishers—whether they've got 2 or 200 people working for them—aren't associated with media conglomerates. They're more nimble organizations that can take chances on weirder stuff, and they're owned by people with more interest in books than in huge profits.
APRIL Festival is a cool thing because it fosters a sense of community—both locally and nationally—among readers, writers, and publishers that share that spirit. This year, as it has every year, APRIL has gotten a little bigger. They've got more local partners and more publishers tabling at the book expo, and the events are being held in larger-capacity venues.
As always, the full list of the events can be found on The Stranger's calendar page, but here's the premium guide for maximum APRIL Festival 2016 enjoyment.
Pine Box, 8 pm
This opener gives audiences a sense of the range of writers APRIL welcomes every year. Alejandro de Acosta can read any of his translations and I'll be happy. Last time I saw him, he read a hilarious and touching translation of a poem about a recently rejected and spurned radical poet. Sara Jaffe will be joining us from Portland with her newly released novel from Tin House, Dryland. And if her blog is any indication, comic and Short Run Festival codirector Kelly Froh will read from her Senior Time series.
This will also be your first opportunity to meet 2016 APRIL writer-in-residence Jenny Zhang, author of Dear Jenny, We Are All Find from Octopus Books. Unfamiliar with this NYC-based poet/essayist/Rookie contributor? (A) You're missing out. (B) Here's a crash course: Read her poem "I Would Have No Pubes If I Were Truly in Love" on The Hairpin. It's about suffering and the self (and pubes). Go to Rookie's website and read "Far Away from Me," an essay about "Across the Sea," by Weezer, which she calls a "big, whiny, humblebraggy, creepy men's rights activist's anthem." And then read her essay about the Best American Poetry 2015/Michael Derrick Hudson yellowface scandal and her experiences as a Chinese American in the literary world in "They Pretend to Be Us While Pretending We Don't Exist," which can be found on BuzzFeed. You're gonna want to read a whole lot more after that, but that's fine. You'll make time.
Sorrento Hotel, 8 pm
I once wrote of Sigo:
"He reads with a calm, quiet confidence that encourages you to close your eyes for a second and let language get weird on you. The words operate like painted sound, coloring narratives that read like dreams."
I stand by that. This cozy chat and Q&A, copresented with the Bagley Wright Lecture Series on Poetry, will be more about formal innovation in poetry, and less about painted dream sounds, which will be useful for anyone who's interested in how a poet thinks about building poems, and interesting for those who think that poems aren't built.
Hugo House, 8 pm
Tickets for this very popular and very good event went on sale March 1. If you haven't bought them yet, do it now because it always sells out. This year's quadripartite face-off features the poet EJ Koh, the playwright Sara Porkalob, the novelist Brian McGuigan, and the drag queen Mal DeFleur. Stiff competition, but my money's on Porkalob. If you saw her hilarious and surprising show Dragon Lady: I'm Going to Kill You at Seattle Fringe Festival, then you'll know why. She's funny, dynamic, and can convincingly play 15 characters from several generations within a short period.
Fred Wildlife Refuge, 8 pm
This one's for the loyalists who've been in it since the days of sneaking into the parking garages and listening to Stranger Genius Award finalist Ed Skoog read poems beside a giant red gas tank late into the night. Five great readers from APRILs of yore read with five new bloods. Ten readers sounds like a lot, but they're all headliners and everybody will read a piece that's only 500 words or less. I'm particularly interested in hearing new poems from Skoog and Stranger Genius Award winner Maged Zaher; the fiction of Jessica Mooney; more poems by Hannah Sanghee Park, Robert Lashley, and Leena Joshi; and whatever Sarah Galvin wants to read.
Frye Art Museum, 1 pm
David Schmader draws a belly laugh out of me every single time I read him or see him perform. I have no doubt this live video essay about the way films portray writers will satisfy. Fingers crossed for a supercut of writers furiously writing with a quill pen.
Indian Summer, 8:30 pm
For this event, Vignettes picks a handful of local artists to transform Jenny Zhang's book of poems into a room full of art. Warning: This is going to be VERY HIP. Maybe even TRAGICALLY so. But it's often my favorite event of the festival. Seeing a poem interpreted through the lens of another artist enriches both the object and the poem. It's sort of like when you read a book and then see the movie and spend hours thinking about why you feel one way or another about the fact that the characters do or don't look the way you'd imagined them. If you're weird like that, then you'll like this.
Richard Hugo House, 11 am—5 pm
There's going to be more than 50 independent presses from around the country tabling at this thing. Check out these local faves: Wave Books, ZAPP, Spartan, and newcomer Cold Cube Press. These Portland faves: Future Tense Books and Tavern Books. And these farther-flung faves: Melville House, Hobart, and Poetry magazine. Plan to bring/spend $50 cash. First 20 entrants get a free piece of APRIL swag. Can't recommend the totes highly enough. Get there early before all the goodies are gone.