Seismic

September 8, 2020

Seattle was designated as a UNESCO City of Literature in 2017. But long before that title became official, local writers had begun reflecting on what it would mean to the citizens and the character of the city. They have continued to do so, and now Kristen Millares Young has collected and edited an anthology of essays by local writers, Seismic: Seattle, City of Literature, to be published this month.

Read an article by Trevor Lenzmeier in The Seattle Times and an excerpt by Claudia Castro Luna in Crosscut.

The Seattle Public Library will host a virtual release party for Seismic on Tuesday, September 15, 2020, at 7:00pm. The event is free, but registration is required.


Image credit: Seattle Early Music

This is a guest post by
Jennifer Bullis

In January 2018, out of the blue, I received an email from a composer in Seattle. He wanted to compose a cantata about the mythical Sirens, he explained, and was looking for a librettist. He had an idea: to seek a poet to write the lyrics. Standing in Elliott Bay Book Store, browsing the recently published Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, he flipped to the mythology section, where a poem of mine happened to appear. When he contacted me, I was intrigued by his concept and by the prospect of working with someone in a different artistic medium. Thus began my collaboration with Aaron Grad on “Honey-Sweet We Sing for You.”

Aaron detailed for me his ideas for the cantata and his reasons for choosing the Sirens as his subject. Inspired by the #MeToo movement and Emily Wilson’s new translation of The Odyssey, he wanted to compose an original piece reimagining the story of the Sirens from their own point of view. Based on his idea, Early Music Seattle was planning a myth-themed concert of short pieces by Baroque-era composers, highlighting women’s stories and voices, for the 2019-2020 season.

This collaboration has been an education and a joy for me at every phase of the process. Aaron asked me to draft the libretto first, and then he composed the music to it, and we worked together to revise the libretto as the whole cantata took shape. Initially, to help me prepare to write, Aaron gave me a fascinating crash course in operatic vocal composition and the cantata form. I learned, for example, about recitative and aria passages, including the good and necessary “rage aria,” a section conveying the character’s fury at being wronged.

Developing the content, I got to research other versions of the Sirens myth, and found useful models for transformation in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It offered Aaron and me a different way into the Sirens narrative, one that de-centers Odysseus and his sailors and focuses instead on the Sirens’ original devotion to, loss of, and search to recover the goddess Persephone after her abduction by Hades. In this new context, the Sirens’ songs of enchantment can be imagined as not only a seductive lure to sailors, but as cries of outrage, grief, and searching. “We sing for her,” sings the soprano voice in the cantata’s final recitative; “We sing for all our sisters.” The program’s title was adapted from this lyric.

Since planning for “For All Our Sisters” began, it expanded to include even more women’s voices and artistic forms. EMS Executive Director Gus Denhard commissioned Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna to narrate the program and perform original poems, and Seattle dancer Milvia Pacheco to choreograph and perform an original dance.

The live performance was scheduled for May 30th, but because of the pandemic is being rescheduled. In the meantime, Early Music Seattle is posting an exciting series of videos in which the program’s musicians and other artistic contributors, filming from home, present excerpts and discuss their visions for amplifying women’s voices through their performances. You can watch these videos on Early Music Seattle, with new videos posted weekly, and enjoy these artistic collaborations highlighting women’s voices and stories.

In addition to the links embedded above, learn more at:

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Jennifer Bullis is the author of the chapbook Impossible Lessons (MoonPath Press). Her poems and essays appear in Verse Daily, Cave Wall, Water~Stone Review, Terrain.org, Cherry Tree, Gulf Coast, and Under a Warm Green Linden. She is nominee for Pushcart and Best New Poets awards, and is recipient of an Artsmith Residency fellowship. Her full-length manuscripts have been finalists for the Brittingham & Felix Pollak Prizes for Poetry and the Moon City Poetry Award.

Poetic Shelters

May 22, 2020

The ever-busy, ever-imaginative Claudia Castro Luna, Washington State’s Poet Laureate, has introduced a new project for these times: Poetic Shelters.

“This project asks you to consider the poetics of your home and how its physical and emotional character is changing during this time. The home, whatever that may be for someone, is a space we each know intimately and can therefore represent poetically by sharing our memories, frustrations, daydreams, and also by by describing its physical configuration.”

Poems, mini-essays, and accompanying photos, if available, are invited. While Poetic Shelters is Washington-centric, contributors from other locations are welcome to submit.

Visit Poetic Shelters for more information and to read a sampling of poems.

Poems to Lean On

March 14, 2020

If you, like Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna, are feeling somewhat confused, isolated, and worried in these uncertain times, please share a poem.

From now through Wednesday, April 15, 2020, you are invited to submit a link to a favorite poem (or one of your own) that offers fortitude, hope, resilience, and humor, along with a two- to three-line explanation of what about this particular poem resonates with you.

Read Claudia Castro Luna’s invitation and submit your poem by email to poet@humanities.org.

Thank you.

February 7, 2020

In case you missed the announcement of this exceedingly juicy bit of philanthropy, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has granted $4.5 Million to The Academy of American Poets. Believed to be the largest grant ever made by a philanthropic institution to support poets in the United States, the unprecedented amount will enable The Academy of American Poets to fund its Poets Laureate Fellowship program for the next three years.

In its press release on the grant, Poets.org cites the work of four poets laureate, including Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna.

What a fine gift!

another year of Claudia!

December 5, 2019

Humanities Washington and ArtsWA announced this week that Governor Jay Inslee has extended the term of Claudia Castro Luna, the 2018-2020 Washington State Poet Laureate, to January of 2021. This represents a huge commitment on Claudia’s part, for which poets and poetry lovers across Washington can be grateful. Read the full story.

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Photo by Timothy Aguero

a little kick for poetry

November 14, 2019

We recently highlighted a Kickstarter campaign for Claudia Castro Luna’s ambitious project, One River, a Thousand Voices. An all-or-nothing funding effort, it has been named a Kickstarter “Project We Love” and still needs a lot of support.

If you have a few bucks to give, crowdfunding is a lot like voting: one person, one vote, one dollar, can make a difference. It’s also instructive and intriguing to see what’s going on in the support-poetry world. For example,

Copper Canyon Press is running an all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign to support the 2020 publication of Indigo by Ellen Bass along with books by nine other authors (Traci Brimhall, Victoria Chang, Leila Chatti, John Freeman, Heather McHugh, Philip Metres, James Richardson, Alberto Ríos, and Ed Skoog).

There are also crowdfunding opportunities for poetry books, music, performance, film, and travel on IndieGoGo and gofundme (including a nearly three-year old, apparently still open, project to publish My Friend Jack, a collection of work by the late and beloved Jack McCarthy).

Most crowdfunding projects offer the option of supporting in someone’s name, so as we approach the gift-giving season, you might consider the win-win possibilities.

You may not know that in addition to serving as Washington State Poet Laureate (and other concurrent professional and personal responsibilities), Claudia Castro Luna is completing a two-year stint as Designer in Residence at Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts. Her SVC residency culminates with an ambitious project: a poem and illustrated book, One River, a Thousand Voices, that celebrates the Columbia River’s energy, beauty, and power, and honors the resilience of Native peoples who for millennia have lived along its banks.

Claudia’s goal is to place this artist’s book in all 67 Library Districts and all 27 tribal libraries in Washington State. To support that goal, which includes a signed, hardcover, accordion-fold edition as well as paperback and recorded editions, she has initiated a Kickstarter campaign. Read all about it and support it if you can.

workshop reminder

October 5, 2019

Workshops

Just a quick reminder that there are terrific poetry workshops coming up in Bellingham on Saturday, October 26, and Saturday, December 7, 2019. Terrific instructors. No previous poetry experience needed, but advance registration is required. All the details on the WORKSHOPS page.

Olympia two-fer

September 11, 2019

The Olympia Poetry Network (OPN) invites your participation in a weekend of laureate poetry, LaureateFest.

On Saturday, September 21, 2019, 1:00-3:00pm, there will be a panel discussion with Washington State Poets Laureate Samuel Green, Kathleen Flenniken, Elizabeth Austen, Tod Marshall, and Claudia Castro Luna. That evening, beginning at 7:00pm, there will be a LaureateFest reading. Both events are free and will be held at Norman Worthington Conference Center, Saint Martin’s University.

On Sunday, September 22, Elizabeth Austen will conduct a workshop, “The Title as Frame and Invitation,” 11:00am-1:00pm, at Heart Of The Deernicorn studio in downtown Olympia. Workshop is limited to 20 participants and registration is required.

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