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An Evening Of Poetry, And Personal Growth Through Literature

by Kirby Lindsay Laney, posted 29 December 2017

 

On January 8th, the Fremont Branch Library will co-host another 'Evening of Poetry' with readings by published poets.  Photo of poet Ann Pitkin by K. Lindsay Laney, Jan '15

On January 8th, the Fremont Branch Library will co-host another ‘Evening of Poetry’ with readings by published poets. Photo of poet Ann Pitkin by K. Lindsay Laney, Jan ’15

On Monday, January 8th, at 6:30p, the Fremont Branch of the Seattle Public Library will co-host another ‘Evening of Poetry’, with Floating Bridge Press.  Held quarterly, these evenings provide a platform for readings of original and published poetry, as well as access to experienced authors, talking about the modern state of poetry.  For January, in addition to local, published poets Catherine Bull and Scott Ferry, Fremont will also be honored with readings, and discussion, with Claudia Castro Luna.

Last August Castro Luna completed a two-year term as the first Civic Poet for Seattle.  In January, she begins another two-years, 2018 to 2020, as Washington State Poet Laureate – and our Poet Laureate will launch her term at the Center of the Universe.

‘Allow Yourself To Be Surprised’

Over two-years spent traveling the length and breadth of Seattle, Castro Luna has attended dozens and dozens of readings, and yet she looks forward to attending more.  “I’ve probably been to hundreds of readings,” she acknowledged, “They are not stuffy.  They are the opposite of what we’ve come to expect.”  Castro Luna encourages poetry lovers, as well as those with no experience of the medium, to attend the January 8th ‘Evening of Poetry’ and, “allow yourself to be surprised.”

Unlike many poets, Castro Luna didn’t grow up expressing her inmost thoughts and feelings through poetry.  She did, however, grow up reading voraciously.  “I was surrounded by books growing up.  My parents were teachers,” she recalled.  In 1981, her family fled the civil war in their native home of El Salvador, and Castro Luna had to leave behind her books, to enter a foreign country and learn literature again in a new language.

Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna will read at the Fremont Branch Library on Jan 8th, 2018.

Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna will read at the Fremont Branch Library on Jan 8th, 2018.

As a student, Castro Luna excelled, earning an M.A. in Urban Planning, and a teaching certificate.  She’d started her career and had a family before, as she observed, “poetry chose me.”  Well familiar with the classics, and having learned poetry in school, it was only after the birth of her second (of three) children that she announced to her husband that she wanted to take a writing class at the Community College.  “I went, and I never quit,” she explained, eventually earning an M.F.A. in poetry.  “Poetry has saved my life,” she said.  “It saved my sanity.”

One reason Castro Luna resisted the call of poetry as long as she did was due to her dedication to social justice, until she saw how art can help, to grow together and build awareness.  “We can create a more integrated city,” she observed, through artistic expressions that can lessen fear between us, and clear up misunderstandings.

‘Personal Growth Through Literature’

“We are so diverse,” she observed about the people of Washington State, who she hopes to meet, over poetry, in the next two years.  “One of the things I love about poetry is that everybody is welcome,” Castro Luna observed.  “I’m always aware that people are different,” she said, “the end result is that you engage with language, and find personal growth through literature.”

During her term as Civic Poet, Castro Luna developed a program, with Seattle Public Library, called ‘The Poet Is In.’  During these sessions, she would spend four weeks at a specific branch library (she did this at four branches,) hosting drop-in workshops and group readings, allowing discussion of and exposure to poetry.

The Seattle Poetic Grid links specific sites with poems about them.  Visit it at https://seattlepoeticgrid.com/

The Seattle Poetic Grid links specific sites with poems about them. Visit it at https://seattlepoeticgrid.com/

Also, Castro Luna built the Seattle Poetic Grid, a website/street map of our city, with blue dots on specific sites (like the Fremont Library) revealing views through poems Castro Luna collected.  “Many of the poems came from the workshops,” she observed, written by a diversity of poets, “it’s a broad representation of ages, all levels of expertise,” as well as including a few poems by poets from Seattle’s past.  Castro Luna chose place-based poetry to illuminate our city.  “It’s very fun,” she said, “super fun!”

Castro Luna hopes to create a similar Poetic Grid map for our State, giving voice to all citizens – through poetry.  She sees poetry as an opportunity for everyone, as an art form of so many different expressions, ways of writing, vocabularies, etc.  Poems can vary greatly, and can welcome all.  “Poetry rejects nothing,” explained Washington’s newest Poet Laureate.

Expectations & Opportunities

Castro Luna has spent the holidays with her family and friends, before setting out across our State.  As Poet Laureate, “the expectation is that you will travel.”  she explained, and “my plan is to spend time away; to immerse myself in places I visit.”  Castro Luna would like to be able to spend more than just an afternoon or evening in the communities she will visit, as she did around the City during her ‘The Poet Is In’ workshops.

Castro Luna applied to be Poet Laureate, knowing she would have to go out and talk to people – engaging with people from all walks of life around our State about poetry.  She did the same when she applied to be Civic Poet.

Poet Laureate Castro Luna says poetry rejects nothing.  Photo from Pixabay.com

Poet Laureate Castro Luna says poetry rejects nothing. Photo from Pixabay.com

The position of Seattle Civic Poet began, according to Castro Luna, with the Populist Poet position created by former City Councilmember Nick Licata, being reinvisioned, by ex-Mayor Ed Murray and the non-profit Seattle City of Literature.  The Civic Poet program is currently overseen by the City Office of Arts & Culture, and the Civic Poet is intended as an ambassador for literary arts in our community.  (“The current person is outstanding,” Castro Luna said of Anastacia-Renee Tolbert, Seattle’s second Civic Poet.)

“It’s very progressive,” Castro Luna observed about the Civic Poet program, “working in the community promoting poetry.”  Being able to present poetry, and doing readings, was something Castro Luna agreed to when she applied for the position.  Like many poets, “I’m a total introvert,” she acknowledged, but she had an edge, “I’m a teacher.”  Castro Luna taught high school and, as she observed, “you have to be able to control your audience, to project and to engage them.”

‘Everybody Is A Poet’

“The city [of Seattle] has a very rich literary tradition,” Castro Luna observed.  Over the last two years, she’s met people at libraries, community centers and Open Mics, and she looks forward to meeting more – and encouraging others to find their own poems.

“I believe everybody is a poet,” Castro Luna said.  “If you have feelings, you can write a poem,” she encouraged.  She recalled working with seniors in Lake City (a positive experience that she hopes to have again, as Poet Laureate or not,) assisting them in writing down feelings and creating “simple, distilled poems,” that shared their emotions.  “Poetry makes you feel,” Castro Luna said, “we are talking about things that are very close to our heart.”

Our former Civic Poets and current Poet Laureate encouraged everyone to attend the ‘Evening of Poetry’.  “Come, and I guarantee you that you will find something that speaks to you,” Castro Luna said.  The poetry, by her, Ferry and/or Bull, “will bring something up.  It’s a moment of encounter,” and she’s seen people find connections and awareness through the works that they never expected.

An ‘Evening of Poetry’ is free and open-to-the-public.  On Monday, January 8th at 6:30p, come meet Castro Luna and the other poets, and hear what they’ve got to share, and find your own poetic inspiration.

 

 


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©2017 Kirby Laney.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.

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