When the Writers Come Out at Night
Seance Hosted by Portland Lit Mic

A 2D illustration of a table lit by candlelight.
Art by Eva Sheehan

Most think it’s the monsters that hide at night, but it’s the writers! They linger in the depths of an old cellar. They sit around a small table clothed in a white sheet and an oil lamp sits atop. I had the honor of being witness to a literary Seance hosted by writers.

When I first heard about the Portland Lit Mic Seance, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know if we were going to sit around and hold hands as a medium summoned spirits before our eyes. Rather than spirits, the host, Jordan Marzka and his reading crew summoned words of horror and terror. When I first arrived, Jordan ushered the audience to a living room with ravens adorned to the walls and the smell of apple cider in the air. Horror themed zines were spread out across a table for purchase. I ended up buying an ethical monster-hunting zine to slip into my purse. 

After some chit-chat around the living room, we were brought downstairs to the cellar of the home. Four readers sat around a small table with their eyes fixed on the lamp light at the center of the table. The rest of the chairs were laid out around the perimeter of the small room. Spider webs, saws, creepy clown dolls, and an odd shrine to horses decorated this room and I knew this was going to satisfy my craving for spooky content. Jordan came down and gave his spiel on what to expect tonight. After he told the crowd this event was to be in complete darkness, looks were shared across the room and eyes widened–my heart sank a little. The lights went out and Jordan began his story.

He would give us about ten minutes of his story and then leave us on a cliffhanger. One of the readers at the table would tell their spooky short-story and then Jordan would start back up again. This went on until the last reader. They told a gruesome story of a dog seeking vengeance against the man who killed him. Jordan stepped into the darkness once again to finish the ending of his story. Only, this ending had a twist. I won’t spoil the end of the show, but the story ends with Jordan maniacally laughing for about five minutes straight while the audience sat silently listening. 

I had the honor of interviewing one of the table readers named Anic for the Saturday showing to get their perspective on the event. 

1) What piece did you decide to read at the Seance? Why did you choose that piece?

I’m calling it “Creature”. I wrote it to invoke a spirit in myself that I believe is a shared consciousness and imposter phenomenon narrative of writers: “Am I good enough?” “Are my words authentic?” I wanted to argue with that voice, with *my demons*, and shut it the fuck down with equal sarcasm and some humor. My hope is that other writers and creatives will be inspired to take back the narrative with curiosity in place of questioning.

2) Is there a difference in reading something to an audience that is meant to be scary than something that is meant to entertain or evoke other emotions?

Oh definitely! I’ve been doing more poetry open mic nights which are come- as-you-are, bring your unfinished work, read whatever, etc. But Seance invited the performer in me to come out and hysterically laugh, cry, which I did loudly and maniacally. This makes me think about the difference between being scared vs feeling fear. I wonder if ‘being scared’ is a contract between the scare-er and the scared. Like watching a horror movie, you know what you’re in for, right? But being afraid or full of fear, I don’t think there’s a trigger warning for that. Much of my poetry acts as a container or sound board for processing trauma and while “Creature” holds those themes, Seance allows for somatic performance and the audience to consent and reckon with fear rather than just being scared shitless.    

3) What was it like reading with just the light of an oil lamp? What did you feel when the Seance was in complete darkness?

I quite liked it! I prefer to write and read with low or candle light so I felt very comfortable. HA! I thought this would stay a secret but in the pitch dark I was pulling and stretching my cheeks into all kinds of wacky faces. 

4) What did you enjoy about this reading? Would you do it again?

I love the intimacy and performance of it. Especially in the recent location which is a house full of stories and histories, it wouldn’t surprise me if a seance took place there 50-60 years ago. It actually reminded me of my grandmother’s basement in Jersey, with the small bar tucked in the back and the sturdy walls. It was my second time performing with Seance and I would definitely do it again! 

(end of interview)

Perhaps spirits were summoned as the words of the readers hung in the pitch black air. All we know is to never underestimate when the writers come out at night. If you enjoy the thrill of being scared and literary performances that bring you to the edge of your seat, then this Seance may just be the perfect Halloween outing. 


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