Writers benefit from a sense of community. It’s a truth that dates back to the classic works of Ernest Hemingway and continues in the small pockets of creativity found in cities like Portland.
Inspired in many ways by the community of writers Hemingway created while living in Paris, the Portland Thorns defender Emilie Menges began his own literary journal called Bel Esprit. It’s a few print editions after its debut as an online-only publication, and Bel Esprit is gaining new subscribers among the Rose City Riveters and others in the Portland area.
“Bel Esprit’s name comes from a passage in Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast,” Menges said. “Hemingway lived in Paris and ran in a small literary crowd. His buddy Ezra Pound who, while having dubious fascist ideas, came up with a concept called Bel Esprit and Hemingway quickly jumped on board. At the time, TS Elliot worked in a bank and everyone, especially Ezra and Hemingway, thought that Elliot shouldn’t work in a bank because he should write and also because he hated it. They came up with Bel Esprit as a way to pool money and receive donations so Elliot could quit working at the bank.
Menges’ newspaper, which debuted in October 2020 and only recently added its print edition, pays out $25 per publication in the paper to local writers who want to get their work out there. The print edition comes out once a month with a constantly rotating series of articles posted on the journal’s website.
Menges will also be posting news/analysis on Instagram to feed Bel Esprit’s content feed.
“I worked my way up with the goal of having a physical journal all the time,” Menges said. “July was my fourth edition in print, although it was my 22nd edition overall. I’ve always loved to write, and I have friends around town who also love to write, and we formed this writing guild-type contract where we would meet from time to time.
“It was my first introduction to a sort of writing community. Bel Esprit came out of this with the idea of giving people a platform to post on for those who wouldn’t necessarily have it otherwise. Being able to do whatever I want with it has been really fun.
Menges hopes that work published in Bel Esprit is an “enjoyable and fun way” to consume topical content while consuming primarily literary work. Poetry, essays and short stories are all accepted as pitch, and Menges tries to make room for as much work as possible from his tight-knit community of writers and beyond.
His Thorns teammates also read and support him. Fellow defender Kelli Hubly is a die-hard crossword fan, so Menges said the upcoming crosswords will be Hubly-themed as a nod to her. It’s all fun and laid back, but it’s important that the creatives Menges partners with can also spread their work.
“The concept of donating and ‘energetically’ supporting the passion projects of my peers so they don’t have to sacrifice their creative endeavors for anything was a primary motivating factor in starting Bel Esprit, and why I named it that,” Menges said.
–Ryan Clarke, [email protected]