In response to these changes in its urban character, Portland saw the rise of a literary and cultural avant-garde that thumbed its nose at the city’s gathering prosperity. Darker and angrier than the beatniks or hippies, the new avant-garde drew on international artistic currents to articulate the spirit of revolt. Near the center of the ’70s avant-garde in Portland was a performance poetry troupe called the Impossibilists. Founded by Tom Cassidy and Mark Sargent, the Impossibilists published manifestos—mingling poetry, prose, satire, and graphic art—for a period of more than ten years. They also staged live shows, readings, and events. Their manifestos featured writers and artists like Curtis and Katherine Dunn, and later figures from outside Portland like Subwaxin Haddock and Blaster Al Ackerman. Though circulation never exceeded a few hundred copies, their literary activities—and their forceful assertion of an avant-garde ethos—helped shape Portland’s cultural identity. --EJC
Tom Cassidy illustrated my first and only Mississippi Mud short story. He managed the Earth Tavern when I moved to Portland in 1977, and he usually worked the door for shows.
Lucas would sneak into the venue by walking in backwards (to give the illusion that he was walking out, get it?) and Cassidy seemed to appreciate the ruse, as he normally let Lucas get away with it. I usually ended up paying at the door.
I didn't contribute to the Impossibilists, but perhaps I should have. I liked all the characters surrounding the movement/scene, including everybody mentioned in this piece.
The scene moved to the Long Goodbye Tavern, circa 1978, which I described in the intro to Cold Eye: A Generation of Voices, a collection focused on the Portland writers who met there on Tuesday nights to read and drink.
I was genuinely discomforted when Cassidy moved to Minneapolis. Seemed like a Portland loss at the time, and it was indeed.