Claudia Castro Luna Constructs a New Poetics
The city’s first civic poet maps verse from across the region.
"Writing is a very solitary act,” says Claudia Castro Luna. The image of the great literary figure is often one of a shut-in divorced from worldly concerns, a la Dickinson, or an antisocial degenerate, a la Hemingway. But the former state poet laureate and inaugural Seattle civic poet embodies all the ways this very solitary act can draw us closer to one another.
A former grade school teacher with an MA in urban planning, Castro Luna’s poetics very much extend from these experiences; in her writing, she creates a place where people can live. Her forthcoming collection centers her own narrative for the first time, but previous projects Washington Poetic Routes and the Seattle Poetic Grid amplify strains in a chorus of stories—poetry from around the state and the city, respectively, compiled into an interactive map. “Seattle is not a place that knows its own history very well,” says Elliott Bay Book Company’s Rick Simonson, a collaborator of Castro Luna’s. He also points out that we are relatively isolated from the rest of the state, culturally and ideologically speaking. The work of writers and activists, like Castro Luna, who are invested in bearing witness to a sense of place, he says, is crucial to understanding our city’s trajectory.
Take Seattle’s multilingualism—we are not a city with a single first language, Simonson says, despite the Anglocentrism that has historically dominated in literary arts spaces such as Hugo House, where Castro Luna is an instructor. Last year, she and a coalition of writers of color at the Capitol Hill–based nonprofit demanded more linguistically diverse classes. “It comes from the stance that literature and storytelling belong to us all,” says Castro Luna.
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