WS culture/arts – West Seattle Blog… West Seattle news, 24/7 Tue, 20 Feb 2018 08:55:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 VIDEO: Songs and stories @ Arbor Heights Elementary’s Black History Month celebration Sat, 17 Feb 2018 23:52:25 +0000

(Starr W., Simone S., Zoe P., Tevia & Taytum C., Denise K. singing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’)

“We’re here to remember, honor, and celebrate Black history and Black culture, which is American culture.”

With that mission, Arbor Heights Elementary students and staff presented songs and stories in an hour-long assembly this past Thursday afternoon. They were each other’s audiences – joined by many parents, too. A big ovation greeted AH staffer Rosslyn Shea, who emceed the assembly (and kindly invited us to cover it).

She explained the backstory of Black History Month – which became a monthlong celebration in 1976, half a century after it began – “a time to remember the struggle, while remembering the accomplishments …” The program, directed and produced by Laura Drake, then began, with the anthem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (top video). Ms. McAlpin‘s class sang “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around”; then Reyana H. portrayed Sojourner Truth, telling her story of slavery, and marriage with five children.

She was 30 when slavery ended in NY State in 1827. “I began to work with other abolitionists … I was also a strong believer in women’s rights.” Student Artise B., portrayed Frederick Douglass. “It was against the law for slaves to learn to read and write,” but he secretly taught himself.

“Once I learned how to read, I taught other slaves.” He was an adviser to President Lincoln. “A white man’s happiness cannot be purchased by a black man’s misery.”

Ms. Irish‘s class sang “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.” A poem by Langston Hughes was performed by students Simone D. and Naimo M. Then pilot Bessie Coleman‘s story was told by Mariah R., speaking of achievement despite discrimination.

“I opened the possibility for women of color to become pilots,” though her life was cut short by an airshow-rehearsal accident.

Booker T. Washington, the influential educator, was portrayed by Joaquin L.. “Once I saw white children inside a schoolhouse reading books, that was what I wanted to do.” He ran a school “that is still going strong today.” He closed by reading this quote spiritedly: “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else!” Then Ms. Ciocca‘s class sang “Woke Up This Morning with My Mind Set on Freedom,” and Ms. Amble‘s first-grade class performed to Ella Fitzgerald‘s version of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.”


That was followed by Ms. Wilson‘s class with “If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus.” Then, from even-more-recent history, more historic character portrayals – two trailblazing Black candidates for President, U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm (by Phalestine W.) and Rev. Jesse Jackson (by Zinneddine A.). “What is the American Dream? The American Dream is one big tent.”

Two third-grade classes sang along with Sly and the Family Stone‘s “Everyday People” – “Sometimes I’m right, I can be wrong …” they raise their index fingers on the chorus.

“Love’s in Need of Love Today” by Stevie Wonder was the afterschool program’s presentation, and then “We Shall Overcome” as a closing song, with everyone in the auditorium invited to join in. And on the way out, we stopped to notice student work on the walls:

AH and other Seattle Public Schools are now out for a week of mid-winter break, with classes resuming Monday, February 26th.

Share This

]]> 5
From ‘MacArthur Park’ to Pulitzer Prize: Colson Whitehead visits West Seattle High School Thu, 15 Feb 2018 23:45:15 +0000 (WSB photos)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Before Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Colson Whitehead speaks tonight at Benaroya Hall downtown, he had a few other Seattle stops to make – starting at West Seattle High School.

Language-arts classes filled the WSHS Theater this morning to hear him talk about the writing life.

Teacher Sean Riley, who invited us too, said introducing Whitehead was “like a dream come true,” recalling speaking at a conference last year and getting stuck in a “real rant” of cynicism until he transitioned into a line from Whitehead’s award-winning novel “The Underground Railroad“: “Freedom was a community laboring for something lovely and real.” Riley explained that he feels that “critical thinking paired with hopeful action is a type of freedom.”

Then Whitehead took the podium, telling his own story, wryly.

He was born and raised in Manhattan, describing himself as kind of a shut-in yet not a “sickly child” as the stereotype goes – he “just didn’t like going outside.” He adored Stephen King. He said he hoped to write “the black ‘Shining‘” or “the black ‘Salem’s Lot‘.” But he grew into “more high-brow stuff,” speaking of discovering, for example, Samuel Beckett. In college he “considered myself a writer but I didn’t actually write anything” – he “wore black and smoked cigarettes” – then he tried writing, two 5-page stories, and encountered rejection.

Whitehead eventually found himself at the Village Voice, as a TV critic, and then his trajectory turned into books. And his presentation at one point involved a clip from the ever-mystifying twice-a-hit song “MacArthur Park” (“I grew up with the Donna Summer version”) – “the song poses an enigma, who left the cake out in the rain and why?” He said it wasn’t until he started “getting all these rejection letters” that he understood it was “an investigation of the artist’s journey … someone left my cake out in the rain,” and he read the lyrics from there. He spoke the names of publishing companies that rejected his work – “why did you leave my cake out in the rain?”

So, Whitehead continued, he started trying to think “what else I might be able to do” – saying he wasn’t fit for physical work, with physical characteristics more like that of, say, a pianist. He noted that a man with similar characteristics had recently served as president “so if that was our time, I pretty much missed it.” Maybe he could be a surgeon, “but then I heard about how long operations are … 10, 15 hours on my feet.” He joked that he’d gone into writing “so I could sit on my a** all day.”

The average successful book sells 5,000 copies. Even if those readers each convince 10 others to read it, with 5 billion people in the world, you’ve still barely made a ripple, he said dryly – noting he didn’t really want to scare the writers in the audience, but … the search for an audience could be daunting. “What about life on other planets, you might naturally ask yourself next … I hate to burst your bubble but scientists say the nearest planet in the solar system is 10 and a half light years away, and that’s quite far. …” and could there be a planet with a taste for what he does?

That led to a musing on evolution – how a friend of his “who’s a jerk” came to be. Neanderthal jerks falling in love and reproducing … all the way to the first Neanderthal existentialist (“hunting and gathering, gathering and hunting, is that all there is in this life?”).

As he “sat in my dirty apartment surrounded by rejection letters,” he realized he had to “start again,” so he did, and it “went better this time.”

Whitehead then invited questions. After a long instant, a student finally asked one. Why did he write a novel about a TV show first?

“Kind of a dumb idea,” he smiled. “I can write some genres – others are beyond my ability.”

Another student asked Whitehead to define an essay. He says he mostly writes fiction now, though maybe once a year or so he’ll write something nonfiction. The word comes from “to try,” he said, so he tries. He likes “the argument” of a short nonfiction piece. The novel-writing process takes a long time. “An essay is compact and short and when successful, has a complete linear argument … to try to capture something about the world.”

Another student: “What is your process when you write?”

Whitehead said he starts with an outline, while knowing that’s just a start. “It’s hard enough to find the right words each day …” let alone know what’s going to happen, so he knows what the outline sets out might change. “If I can get 8 pages a week, that’s 400 pages a year.”

Another student: “How did you actually get one of your pieces published?” Whitehead talked about the collaboration between writer and editor – sometimes not much interaction is needed, sometimes it is.

Referring to “Underground Railroad,” a student requested: “Can you give us a little insight into your personal connection to the book?” Whitehead said he was thinking about it for many years – in 2000, he thought about when he was a child and first heard the phrase “underground railroad,” and thought maybe it was a train. It wasn’t so much about slavery, he said, as “what can I get out of this kooky idea?” He said he also felt that he needed to be more experienced, more mature, to really do the subject justice. “So I waited.” Personally, he said, he realized, thinking back to Africans being kidnapped, enslaved, and abused, it’s “a miracle” that he’s here at all – that his ancestors survived.

Next: “You said you were depressed when people trashed your work …how did you get over that depression?” he was then asked. He said he realized he wasn’t going to get a job of the kind his parents hoped he would – lawyer or veterinarian – so he had no choice but to try again. And he realized nothing else would fulfill him like writing, so he had to keep going.

What kind of reaction does he hope his work will evoke? Some of his books have “more ambiguous endings,” he said, “open to interpretation,” so it’s really up to the reader.

“What was high school like for you?” He said he went to a “small friendly touchy-feely elementary” but then a bigger high school, where he was “a dork.” He said he found “my crew I liked to hang out with,” and some books he liked to read – he said his fourth book addressed that to some degree – “in short I was pretty miserable, also kind of happy; I survived.”

How did pop culture change between his newspaper days and now? “25 years have passed,” he noted. It’s much easier to find something you might hear about – track down a record, etc. “I kind of liked those days of foraging.” The cultural writing back then was “innovative,” he added, “you could talk about anything” – and now, “that’s taken for granted.” … “All the things that made me, 30 years ago, are available to everyone.”

“Do you feel connected to your characters?”

His reply distilled to “sometimes,” although with “Sag Harbor,” he said, he felt connected to the character, and from there, he has focused on characters. Overall “you move on to the next project – so you can’t really dwell on (the last ones).”

Where is his favorite place to write? At home – more freedom to wear what you want, do what you want.

Have rewards and attention changed him? He said he’s been in a good mood the past year … he used to wake up at 5 am “and be seized by terror and anxiety,” now he wakes up cheery (said sardonically).

Where do you get the names for your characters? He said Cora – the protagonist of “Underground Railroad” – was the name of the daughter of friends he was visiting. Sometimes it’s random … sometimes it’s research.

When you’re reading a book, how do you analyze what other authors are doing? “Sometimes I read for pleasure and go ‘oh, this guy is a real page-turner,’ but there are some books I read that are more meditative, constructed around voice, and you can admire someone” for what they’re doing. “If it’s really good I’m like, ‘note to self, I don’t have to do a five=page flashback’.”

What’s the most difficult thing to write (in terms of format)? For a newspaper, for example, you are somewhat constrained by someone else’s style, but for a novel, it’s your own. He doesn’t write short stories, he said.

What does he enjoy about writing? “The surprise” – when things deviate from his outline, “when characters appear, sometimes they do something different.” Having a breakthrough. “Some days it’s really hard, some days you realize you’re on this kind of weird journey with your brain about how you put things on the page, and you’re surprised.”

After his speech/Q&A, Whitehead was off to autograph books in a WSHS classroom. At noontime, we heard him on KUOW’s “The Record” (listen here). He appeared at WSHS as part of the Seattle Arts and Lectures Writers in the Schools program. More than 6,000 students in 28 schools, kindergarteners through seniors, are part of the program.

Share This

]]> 4
VIDEO: Students’ Page-to-Stage poetry performances @ Chief Sealth IHS Fri, 09 Feb 2018 09:28:28 +0000 Again this year, we were at Chief Sealth International High School for ninth-graders’ Page-to-Stage poetry performances – group performances of 19 poems, in the four clips below:

As explained in the program for Thursday night’s performances:

The project is a collaboration with classroom teachers Heather Griffin, Gentle McGaughey, Luke Azinger, and Andy Tuller. This semester half of the 9th-grade classes wrote original poetry focusing on a variety of poetic devices. After the writing process, the poems were given to the remainig 9th graders in Ms. Griffin’s, Mr. Azinger’s, and Mr. Tuller’s classes. There, Book-It teaching artists worked with (the) students to analyze and adapt the student poems into scripts for the stage. The adaptations followed the Book-It style of creating dynamic tableaux, and adapting the poems using skills such as vocal expression, repetition, and choral lines. The result is what you will see here … these groups collaborated to create live plays out of the poems – taking them from page to stage.

This is the program’s 18th year at CSIHS; this year’s Book-It teaching artists were Jillian Johnson and Kelly Kitchens.

Share This

]]> 1
BIZNOTE: Virago Gallery moving around the corner to ex-bookstore space Thu, 08 Feb 2018 01:15:33 +0000 A West Seattle Junction business is on the move … but not going far. Virago Gallery is moving from 4306 SW Alaska, the space just west of Easy Street Records, to 4537 California SW, where Merryweather (Leisure) Books recently closed.

But don’t look for Virago in its new space just yet – proprietor Tracy Cilona told us today that the remodeling work is just about to get under way and she’ll be moving in this April or May. Meantime, Virago’s current location remains open – and in fact you’re invited to stop in during West Seattle Art Walk tomorrow night, 6-9 pm, for a trunk show and pop-up by Kate S. Mensah.

Share This

]]> 6
YOU’RE INVITED! Students’ Page to Stage poetry performance Thursday @ Chief Sealth International High School Sun, 04 Feb 2018 19:39:23 +0000

Thanks to Heather Griffin from the Chief Sealth International High School faculty for sharing the rehearsal photo and invitation:

Ninth-grade students at Chief Sealth International High School are participating in the 17th annual Page to Stage drama-based instruction conducted by Book-It Repertory Theatre. Students have been studying poetry in their Language Arts classes, and have used that work to create a final performance for you to see on Thursday, February 8th, at 7 p.m. We welcome the community to join us in this dynamic interpretation of student-written poems at the Chief Sealth International auditorium.

The auditorium is on the west side of the campus at 2600 SW Thistle. Last year we recorded and published video of 11 of the 23 performed poems – but nothing compares to being there and seeing and hearing for yourself (performers always appreciate an audience, too).

Would you post this on the blog for us?


Heather Griffin

Share This

]]> 0
Trendy Crafts: Welcoming a new West Seattle Blog sponsor, with summer camps and more! Thu, 01 Feb 2018 23:33:00 +0000 Today we’re welcoming a new WSB sponsor, Trendy Crafts. New local sponsors get the chance to tell you about their business, and here’s what Trendy Crafts would like you to know:

It all started in 2004, when two friends discovered a shared passion for crafting. As new mothers, the hours for creating were limited. Eventually, with children in school, Julie Rasmussen and Elizabeth Chapman decided to share their love of crafting as an afterschool class at their children’s school. It wasn’t long before requests came in from other schools to teach Trendy Crafts, and a business was born. Over the last five years, Trendy Crafts has continued to expand to many of the elementary schools in West Seattle.

Trendy Crafts inspires children to think creatively, to believe in their artistic vision and to support and encourage each other. We also love to share the joy of crafting in our community and are always looking for opportunities to bring people together to create! We are very excited to bring 5 sessions of summer camp to West Seattle families this summer.

If you have a child that loves to create and craft, a Trendy Crafts afterschool class or summer camp is the place to be. We focus on crafting in a social environment, and the results are projects both kids and parents want to keep! We often have parents tell us that their child loves to craft and they just don’t have time to do it at home (or don’t want the mess). We are passionate about keeping the American Arts and Crafts movement alive and thriving in the next generation.

We see so many transformations through crafting – children boost their self-confidence, and we work hard to foster an environment that is socially supportive for all kids. Adults who craft with us are looking for a social and creative outlet, and we often hear about how they were looking for a way to add more creativity into their lives. A night out with friends that ends with a creation you love is a positive experience.

In the five years that Trendy Crafts has been part of the West Seattle community, we have built relationships with so many families through craft projects. Adults and children alike are looking for creative outlets and we love to provide options. We host birthday parties, adult evening crafting events, and of course our afterschool enrichment classes and summer camps. In the past we have partnered with other West Seattle businesses to host adult craft parties.

Trendy Crafts‘ founders are active in the community, with organizations including – to support and empower children around the world – and Girl Scouts of Western Washington, to encourage and inspire girls in our community (you might remember this WSB story). In addition to the very crafty Girl Scout troop that Elizabeth leads, they also volunteer as Cabin Leaders at Camp Chinook every summer.

Interested in Trendy Crafts summer camp? Here’s the registration page. Links about everything Trendy Crafts offers can be found on their home page. Questions? Contact info is here.

We thank Trendy Crafts for sponsoring independent, community-collaborative neighborhood news via WSB; find our current sponsor team listed in directory format here, and find info on joining the team by going here.

Share This

]]> 3
ARTISTS WANTED! Friends of Roxhill seeking proposals for EC Hughes mural Wed, 24 Jan 2018 04:06:59 +0000 (Corner where mural will go – photo courtesy Friends of Roxhill)

EC Hughes Elementary is reopening this fall, as the new home for the students and staff currently at Roxhill Elementary, and while the district is doing some renovation work on the city-landmark building, that doesn’t cover everything. We’ve told you before about the project to upgrade its playground; Friends of Roxhill Elementary also have grant money for a mural. Here’s their announcement:

Call for Artists

Request for Proposals for Mural Design at the corner of 32nd Ave SW and SW Holden St in West Seattle

The Project

Friends of Roxhill Elementary has received a Neighborhood Matching Fund grant from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods that includes funding for a mural. We are seeking an artist to create an original small mural at the corner of Holden and 32nd Ave SW, with potential to extend southward along the wall that runs the length of the property on 32nd. This opportunity is open to established artists living in the Seattle/Northwest area. The application deadline is March 1, 2018, with interviews to follow and the final artist selected by April 1, 2018. The selected artist is to complete the mural in summer of 2018. This will be a community-partnered project working with students and community members for inspiration, with installation to take place (also with community assistance) when the weather is suitable.

Roxhill Elementary is moving in fall 2018 to a renovated E.C. Hughes building at 32nd and Kenyon in Southwestern West Seattle. We are using the bulk of the grant to add a playground.

The Award

A maximum of $10,000 Commission for the artist selected to realize his/her work, which must include materials and permits, if required.

Project Intent

The neighborhood near E.C. Hughes — specifically along 35th Ave SW between Webster and Kenyon – is changing. It’s becoming more of a connected, human-scale neighborhood, with multimodal transportation that goes beyond people riding along in cars. Activating the space along Holden as it nears the intersection with 35th, as this project would do, can help create an open, inviting sense of identity. Roxhill is a multi-cultural school and community and the artist must reflect that aspect in his/her work.

Through this project, we also want to build a long-range vision for all our kids’ successes. Working together to create a mural that reflects our hopes, dreams and visions for the future can help connect each of us to each other. We will build relationships both within our school and outside our school through connections with our new E.C. Hughes neighbors and other PTAs and collaborative organizations, as well as through coalition building with West Seattle neighborhood groups and media. It is imperative the selected artist view the project as a collaborative one, and focus on building connections in the way the mural is planned and painted. It will be a very public showpiece that reflects and celebrates our multicultural school and community at large.

The announcement continues with information about the site, eligibility, and how to apply – see it on the Friends of Roxhill site. The deadline for applications is March 1st.

Share This

MUSICIANS WELCOME! Be part of the West Seattle Community Orchestras Tue, 23 Jan 2018 02:49:13 +0000

(WSCO photo: Wind Symphony in concert, December 2014)

The West Seattle Community Orchestras have this invitation for you:

West Seattle Community Orchestras (WSCO) officially started the spring session (last week), leading up to performances planned for March and May. All musicians are welcome!

There are still openings in the following groups:

· Student Strings: Open to students through grade 12. Taught by a professional coach. FREE!

· Adult Beginning Strings: Also taught by a professional coach. Nominal fee. Haven’t you always wanted to play the viola? How about string bass??

· Wind Symphony: Think advanced concert band. There are spots for all instruments, but especially welcome are trumpets, trumpets trumpets! Student musicians FREE of charge; adults nominal fee.

· Debut, Intermediate, and Symphony Orchestras: Openings for strings and various other instruments especially including percussion.

For more info, please check out our website, or contact

Share This

WEST SEATTLE TRAFFIC ALERT UPDATE: Film crew working in The Junction tonight Mon, 22 Jan 2018 01:55:55 +0000

5:55 PM: Just a reminder – as first noted here on Wednesday, a commercial-production film crew is working in The Junction tonight, and traffic is being stopped intermittently on California SW between SW Oregon and SW Alaska as a result. We just arrived for a firsthand look and also noted that the traffic stops also involve SW Alaska at California (photo above). As the production scout had told us, the crew (from locally based StraightEIGHT) is “filming a car” being driven on that block – repeatedly. That’s what we’ve seen so far; we’re also checking to see how long they plan to work (the permit runs until 11 pm).

6 PM: Just talked to the scout who had first contacted us, Dave Drummond, who’s on site with the crew, answering bystanders’ questions, etc. – he says they’ll likely be done between 9 and 10 pm. (And while they’re filming a car, it’s not a new car – (added) see photo above – and not a car commercial.)

Again, this is not a continuous traffic stop – and the road has reopened for long stretches between shooting sequences – but if you’re Junction-bound in the next few hours, just be aware you might encounter one of the stops.

10:08 PM: Just went back to The Junction to check; the crew is indeed packing up.

Share This

]]> 11
SUMMER CONCERTS AT HIAWATHA: Now seeking 2018 performers! Thu, 18 Jan 2018 20:51:39 +0000

(WSB file photo)

As mentioned in our coverage of the Admiral Neighborhood Association‘s recent meeting, organizers of the ANA-presented Summer Concerts at Hiawatha are gearing up to plan this year’s series. This announcement is just in from Stephanie Jordan:

The Admiral Neighborhood Association (ANA) is now accepting performer submissions for our 2018 Summer Concert Series at Hiawatha Park!

The ANA Summer Concert Series at Hiawatha is a free, family-friendly outdoor concert event held outside the Hiawatha Community Center on Thursday evenings in the summer. The series is produced by the Admiral Neighborhood Association in partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation, the Associated Recreation Council, and through the generous sponsorship of community businesses. Last year’s lineup can be viewed on the ANA website.

We are seeking performers for the following dates: July 19th, July 26th, August 2nd, August 9th, and August 16th.

Interested artists should provide:

1. a brief description of your musical style
2. links to website/music/video or other resources that will help us know your music better
3. contact information, including email
4. your fee for a 90-minute set
5. preferred dates (and any dates you are unavailable)

Please send all information to . The committee will accept submissions through February 28th, 2018.

If you or your business is interested in sponsoring the 2018 ANA Summer Concert Series at Hiawatha Park, please contact Dave Weitzel at

We would also love to hear from community members! Tell us what you’d like to see more of, recommend your favorite performer or style of music, or just say hello!

You are welcome to comment below with recommendations, and/or e-mail the same address mentioned above – – to reach Stephanie and the committee. This will be the 10th year for the series, launched in 2009!

Share This

]]> 3
WEDNESDAY: Nancy Pearl, Susan Landgraf at WordsWest Literary Series Tue, 16 Jan 2018 19:43:03 +0000

She just might be the most famous librarian ever – she even inspired an action figure. Tomorrow night, Nancy Pearl (above right) will be in West Seattle, appearing in the next edition of WordsWest Literary Series, 7 pm (Wednesday, January 17th) at C & P Coffee Company (WSB sponsor). Pearl and poet Susan Landgraf are this month’s headliners. The theme, as described in WordsWest’s announcement, is “‘Broken Promises — Resolutions, Riots, and Repair,’ an unearthing of the stories that lie under promises made to loved ones and to the land, promises abandoned, and the incremental mending.” Pearl has recently added “novelist” to her resumé, with the publication of “George and Lizzie.” Landgraf’s most-recent poetry collection is “What We Bury Changes the Ground.” You can read the full announcement in our calendar listing. Susan Rich, one of WordsWest’s curators, says they’ll also be collecting donations at the event (for which admission is always free) for C & P’s down-payment crowdfund.

Share This

West Seattleite Claudia Castro Luna, city’s first Civic Poet, prepares to become state’s next Poet Laureate Tue, 16 Jan 2018 04:10:52 +0000 By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

West Seattle poet Claudia Castro Luna has just concluded a huge week, and her two-year term as Washington State Poet Laureate hasn’t even officially begun yet.

Consider last Monday: She read two poems at the inauguration ceremony for four citywide elected officials, including West Seattle-residing City Councilmember Lorena González (click the image to see and hear via YouTube):

That same day, she started her fourth year working at Denny International Middle School, teaching poetry to Spanish-immersion students, a four-week series in conjunction with the Jack Straw Cultural Center, where the students will record their poems at the end of the series. Some will be set to music this year, with the help of a guitarist.

The next day – this past Tuesday – she was at Seattle University, teaching a composition class.

Next Wednesday (January 20th), she’ll be at Elliott Bay Book Company, for a reading from her new book “Killing Marias: A Poem for Multiple Voices,” with a classical guitarist who has set eight of her poems to music: “I was floored by what she did – it’s incredible.”

But of all the events on her busy schedule, the biggest will be at 7 pm January 31st, when she officially becomes our state’s new Poet Laureate, succeeding Tod Marshall (who himself followed West Seattleite Elizabeth Austen), in a “passing of the laurels” ceremony during a reading event at the Central Library downtown.

This comes close behind the conclusion of her term as Seattle’s first Civic Poet.

Castro Luna lives with her husband and their three children in Gatewood, not far from where we sat down recently to talk over coffee. She acknowledged she’s receiving many invitations and working to fit them into her calendar. “There’s not a moment to waste … When I was Civic Poet, I always worked from the motto that I always try to say yes … (but) it will become harder, since (as Poet Laureate) it’s the whole state.” That will be a big change from traveling to what seemed like the far corners of the city. “West Seattle is … such a complete community in a way, it felt like going to Lake City (or elsewhere) was far away. It’s all putting it in perspective.”

Almost six years ago, she and her family chose West Seattle as their home after he got a job in Tukwila. Their children, a tween and two teens, attend West Seattle public schools.

She adds that “I’m from El Salvador … I love being close to the Salvadorean Bakery” in White Center, “and South Park,” with resources about which she rhapsodizes, from the library to the Duwamish Rowing Club.

Castro Luna’s identity “as a woman and an immigrant” factored heavily into her decision to apply for the Poet Laureate position. Two years ago, at North Delridge-based Southwest Youth and Family Services, we recorded her telling her story of coming to the U.S. as a teenager:

While on one hand, she says, the Poet Laureate role will demand a lot of time and travel, and she wanted to be certain she could do that, “in the end, I thought, when you consider the legacy of the people who have occupied the position, it’s daunting … (I was) thinking of, what can I bring, what can I offer, can I offer something of substance?” And she realized that “in the historical moment we are living,” in a time when “immigrants are being considered in all sorts of light that is not necessarily the most flattering and engaging … I’m proof that we are people who contribute to society – in many ways, not just economically, but also in art making.”

(We should note, our conversation happened before the President’s recent slur against regions and nations including El Salvador.)

She continued, “This is the most esoteric thing you could be doing … a working poet … we have all these ways to contribute … this is a moment, something i could offer through my life story and my dedication to the art, to offer a new viewpoint and to open ways of thinking about immigrants and people of color.”

That art, Castro Luna declares, is “more important than ever.” Not that poetry “has ever gone out of style – it’s as important as it has always been, one of the oldest art forms that we have.” But – “in terms of breadth and variety and expression of voices, I don’t think we’ve had such a rich time.”

This is not just an urban passion or indulgence. She notes a visit to Mount Vernon in Skagit County, where she asked a bookstore owner “do you have a poetry section?” and he replied that he “can’t keep the books in stock, they sell so fast.”

And the readers start young – “kids love poems” because they hear so much that rhymes, and “they love rhyme.” Middle-schoolers, the ages of the students with whom she works at Denny IMS, work to express their feelings through poetry. Denny, for example, has an annual poetry slam for 8th graders. The number of participants “impressed” Castro Luna, who adds that she is “floored by where the kids want to go as writers, to talk about their lives.” In addition to schools, other organizations are involved too – she mentions The Boot, the publication of work by youth in an intensive writing workshop at SWYFS (read the 2017 edition here).

She reads for young audiences, too, recalling a Civic Poet presentation at Fairmount Park Elementary, saying she had “never been so nervous” as she was, in the cafeteria there, reading to the 4th- and 5th-grade classes. “Everybody was so quiet, and I could not read any expression – I thought maybe I had made a mistake” (in what she chose to read) – “I finished reading and the teacher asked for questions, and there were so many! (Questions) about process – how do you write, how do you come up with ideas – I realized they were so quiet because they were hanging onto every word – they were so focused!”

Castro Luna did not start her own writing early. She began in college but “never took myself seriously about my writing … but everywhere, everything I did, turned to writing.” She earned an MA in urban planning and a teaching degree. Then after the birth of her second daughter, she “got creative” and took a community-college class. “Then another, and another … I said to my husband, ‘I need to do this’.” She pursued an MFA degree, and was on the writing path from thereon out.

And now, as she looks ahead to her two years as Poet Laureate – a position sponsored by both Humanities Washington and Arts Washington – she also has a concurrent project, as artist in residence at the School of Visual Concepts. (Words are part of SVC’s emphasis – Castro Luna explains that they do a lot of printing and typesetting.) The residency involves coming up with a project. She “decided to write a series of poems that explore stories of arrival in this state – it is a very young state … I want to explore that, not just people, the natural world (too) – when did species come to Washington state? This whole idea of arriving …I’m thinking of the geography and topography of the state,” including its “far isolated corners.”

Not only will she write the poems, she will “publish a book that I will make myself” with the typesetting and printing equipment at the school. To start the residency, there was a “passing of the apron” – a printer’s apron – from her predecessor in the role. “What attracted me is something new to explore, the link of poetry to printing, the power of the printed word.”

And there is power in the handwritten word – that’s how Castro Luna writes her poems, she told us.

Now, she gets to lead our state in celebrating, enjoying, and practicing her chosen art. “It is such a huge thing to be awarded the title – sometimes I can’t believe it.”

(The public is welcome at her upcoming events, mentioned above, and she keeps a calendar online.)

Share This

]]> 4
SAVE THE DATE! Sub Pop’s 30th anniversary party set for Alki Beach on August 11th Fri, 12 Jan 2018 17:00:11 +0000

One BIG beach party is in the works for Alki this summer … seven months away, but that’s not too far off for you to save the date. Legendary Sub Pop Records just shared the news with us so we could share it with you:

To celebrate 30 years of releasing somewhat well-regarded records, CDs, and tapes, Sub Pop Records is hosting an entirely FREE event we’ve taken to calling SPF30. Sub Pop’s 30th Anniversary Party (with entertainment) will be held Saturday, August 11th, 2018, along incredibly scenic Alki Ave. in the Alki Beach neighborhood of West Seattle. …

SPF30 is altogether FREE and will have… Bands! A record fair-type event! A host of local nonprofit organizations! Food! Booze! (The food and beer and wine and soda or whatever, you will have to pay for! These parts are not free!) Good times and opportunities to embarrass yourself and those who’d always hoped for better for you! Plus, bands!

Sub Pop’s 30th Anniversary Party (with entertainment) at Alki Beach
Saturday, August 11th, 2018
Noon – 10 pm
West Seattle

For FREE / For YOU

Which bands? Of course you’d ask that. Too soon to say, Sub Pop tells us. But they want you to save the date and be ready to celebrate with them on (have you memorized the date yet?) August 11th. We’ll have updates in the months ahead.

Share This

]]> 25
THEATER: West Seattle High School student-directed ‘Killjoy’ next 3 nights Wed, 10 Jan 2018 03:56:56 +0000

Tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday nights (January 10, 11, 12), you have an extra entertainment option: This year’s West Seattle High School Drama Club student-directed production, the romantic-comedy thriller “Killjoy” by Jerry Mayer, directed by Kimberly Le. Just show up at the WSHS Theater (3000 California SW) in time for the 7:30 pm curtain – $10 at the door.

Share This

]]> 2
YOUR COMMUNITY: Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights CC won’t meet tonight but invites you to 2 special events Tue, 02 Jan 2018 21:47:54 +0000 The Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Coalition usually meets on first Tuesdays – but not tonight, given the proximity to the holidays. However, WWRHAH is helping coordinate these two special upcoming community discussions that you’re encouraged to be part of. First – imagine more events in Roxhill Park!

learntodance(2016 WSB photo from ‘Blood Wedding’ performance in the park)

On Tuesday, January 9, from 6:30 to 7:30 at Southwest Library, we’ll join Parks Commons and Arts in Parks Coordinator Randy Wigner to discuss ways Roxhill Park could be a good location for this program. The goal of the Parks Commons Program is to develop community capacity and civic engagement in event production, and the program is assigned to parks that experience long-term public safety issues and where those issues would be improved by increased community use of these parks. We’ll discuss park needs and if the program is a good fit.

Next – looking ahead to the RapidRide H Line, but not about the buses or routing:

On Thursday, January 18, community members and kids are invited to join artists from Oakland’s WowHaus studio for a discovery walk to help inform art projects coming to our neighborhood as part of the redevelopment of the 120 into the Metro Rapid Ride H line. Around 2:30 pm, we’ll meet at Roxhill Elementary under the main entry awning, then walk over to the 26th and Roxbury stop and hop on the 120 bus to the stop at Trenton and Delridge (so bring your bus fare). Members of the public can also meet at between 3:30 and 4 at the corner of Delridge and Henderson (where the largest concrete triangle is located in the right-of-way), and join the walk from there. What ideas do you have? Join us and share! Learn more about our selected artists here.

Share This