Stories often emerge from scribblings in notebooks. But we also find them tumbling out of pantries, rolled amid rumpled shirts in suitcases and spewing forth from text messages with friends. This week we feast on offerings from brilliant writers and one man who’s spent 50 years honing his songwriting craft.


Mohsid Hamid

Mohsid Hamid

Ed Kashi/Courtesy Mohsin Hamid

Mohsin Hamid’s Mystical Exits —1:35

We knew author Mohsin Hamid’s novel, “Exit West,” was going to be a good read. His prior best-sellers create emotionally rich worlds that create pathways between global events and personal revelation. But when we realized “Exit West” has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and chosen as this year’s Multnomah County Library Everybody Reads selection, we went running for the bookstore. A graceful love story about two refugees traveling the world through magical portals, it unpacks some crushing realities of the global refugee crisis, without losing sight of the personal losses of his characters. We’re listening this week to an excerpt of an interview with Hamid on “Think Out Loud,” recorded live at Literary Arts.


Chris Smither performs with Billy Conway at soundcheck at the Alberta Rose Theater, 2018

Chris Smither performs with Billy Conway at soundcheck at the Alberta Rose Theater, 2018

Jarratt Taylor/opbmusic

Call Him Lucky: Songwriter Chris Smither’s Lessons From the Road —12:52

For 50 years, singer-songwriter Chris Smither has been honing his craft. Smither grew up in New Orleans, then moved between Paris, Mexico and the American South, before eventually settling in New England. That wide map seems to give his songs a fluidity, but it’s the Southern influence that really gives his songs their depth and color. Smithers was in Portland for a recent date at the Alberta Rose Theater. opbmusic caught up with him for a pre-show soundcheck and conversation with singer-songwriter Robin Bacior. Smither’s new record is “Call Me Lucky.”


"I like to think about what I’m writing as hybrid," says poet Stacey Tran. "At the end of the day, I want to keep writing and respond with whatever breath I need to respond."

“I like to think about what I’m writing as hybrid,” says poet Stacey Tran. “At the end of the day, I want to keep writing and respond with whatever breath I need to respond.”

April Baer/OPB

Process, Past and Presents with Stacey Tran — 20:22

Poet Stacey Tran has a vibrant writing process. In addition to getting verse down on paper, she also collages words, phrases, and fragments in ways that may or may not end when her poems go to publication. For her new poetry collection, “Soap for the Dogs” (Gramma Press), Tran committed to paper prose poems, fake haiku as well as experimental forms. A student of language, fluent in English and Vietnamese, she delights in how we use words and how we change them. Tran tells us about some of the touchstones for her work.


Mercedes Orozco's quesadillas, Leslie Stevenson's greens, and Stacey Tran's Muoi Me.

Mercedes Orozco’s quesadillas, Leslie Stevenson’s greens, and Stacey Tran’s Muoi Me.

April Baer/OPB

Sitting Around A Tender Table — 33:26

When Stacey Tran is not writing poems, she’s making space for others to tell their stories. It’s been a year since she first invited friends for a pot-luck style session of storytelling, with an emphasis on family, food and identity. Tender Table has become a hub for women, femmes and gender non-binary people to find community. This week, Tran invited two of her favorite storytellers from the series, Mercedes Orozco (former director of UNA Gallery) and Leslie Stevenson for a slightly condensed (but very tasty) version.


Tanis Parenteau as Jane, in the 2018 Oregon Shakespeare Festival world premiere of "Manahatta".

Tanis Parenteau as Jane, in the 2018 Oregon Shakespeare Festival world premiere of “Manahatta”.

Courtesy of Oregon Shakespeare Festival

World Premiere of “Manahatta” at OSF — 43:11

Oregon Shakespeare Festival is premiering a new play this spring by Mary Katherine Nagle — a playwright, a formidable lawyer and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. It’s the story of a securities trader dealing with her own indigenous history, while her family struggles to hold onto their home during the Great Recession. “Manahatta” draws fascinating parallels between colonial American history and the financial crisis. Liam Moriarty of Jefferson Public Radio takes us behind the scenes in Ashland.


Portland Tropical Gardens, A Small Correction — 49:34

A couple of weeks ago on the show, we misidentified some of the artists working on the Portland Tropical Gardens. Xi Jie Ng, Michael Stevenson Jr., Erika Dedini and Shawn Creeden are graduates of different programs within Portland State University’s School of Art and Design. Rachel Hines is a senior instructor in art practices at PSU. Also, Ralph Pugay is not teaching in the Art and Social Practice program; he is a visiting professor of art practice. OPB regrets the error.