Anastacia-Reneé had a good year. Formerly a Hugo House writer in residence, where she taught adult classes for emerging and established writers, the poet and performance artist published not one, not two, but three books of poetry in 2017: (v.), Forget It, and Answer(Me). She’s also continued a two-year run of her one-woman show, 9 Ounces. And back in August 2017 she assumed the role of Seattle’s second-ever civic poet.
Established in 2015 by the Office of Arts and Culture, with Claudia Castro Luna as the first “poet in chief,” as Castro Luna puts it, the job on paper is to act as emissary for the literary arts in Seattle. What that entails during the two-year tenure depends on the poet. Castro Luna focused on connecting pockets of the literary community through readings, presentations, and classes responding to the city’s rapid progress. But the landscape changed this year, she observes. “We’re looking more broadly at what the country’s political climate is doing to our city,” and how we can react to the increased volume of hate. She thinks her successor is the perfect voice to guide those sorts of discussions.
Anastacia-Reneé exploded onto the scene this year, but she’s been writing and performing in Seattle for nearly a decade. Before that, even, she worked as a journalist, blogger, radio DJ, and performance artist in San Diego, Japan, and her hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. Much of her work, including her three newest books and one-woman show, articulates the experiences of being a queer woman of color. “But it’s not about me,” she explains. It’s about empathy. “I don’t think the larger public understands what it might be like to wake up and be the center of a bunch of hate.” The arts, she says, play a vital role in closing the distances between seemingly disparate groups.
One of her early steps in forming this connective tissue will be to address generational gaps. “Like 14-year-olds and 70-year-olds. I’d love for them to be in a writing workshop together.” Sometimes, she says, “it’s as simple as putting people in a room who otherwise wouldn’t even say hello to each other.”