Pictures of Peter Culley

For Peter Culley (1958-2015)

Pictures of Peter Culley

Pictures of Peter Culley (2)

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Pig War Poetry & Pictures

San Juan Poetry Walk Sponsors

San Juan Poetry Walk Sponsors

Although the gathered group was small, they were feisty enough to take on the fierce winds that greeted our Guided Poetry Walk at the American Camp on San Juan Island last Saturday (Apr 11, 2015). Mike Vouri, the expert on all things Pig War and longtime Park Service Ranger at the Camp invited me to come down and lead one of the walks given my seven year project has been completed and ready to share, if not yet published.

San Juan Poetry Walk

He introduced me at the trailhead and I started with a statement of my gratitude for being able to lead the walk, discussed the project I’d worked on and read the poem that opens the Pig War & Other Songs of Cascadia manuscript, an homage to the first people of this area. The poem is also a nod to my last book A Time Before Slaughter and is called Before Pigs.

20150411_121654We started the walk and I had taken some photos when looking the route over before the reading and got a few during. When the winds got very fierce, we went behind Glacial Erratics, giant boulders left by the movement of glaciers. Once we went into a ditch that had been dug to repel the feared invasions of British soldiers that never came. One poem I read was an homage to energetic medicine (Alaskan flower essences) and local flowers, Shooting Star, Death Camas, Chocolate Lily among them, some of which we saw on the walk. It was that poem that was excerpted by the San Juan County Land Bank, co-sponsors of the series.

Photo by Chris Clarke

Photo by Chris Clarke

Between stops for poems, I engaged with different folks who’d come for the walk and the poems. The whole project came across to me as one steeped in a very rich sense of community and maybe that’s a benefit of living on an island. Regardless, it was great to read these poems inspired by an event that happened on the very spot we were gathered. The Pig War is part of the rich (and recent) history of Cascadia and that the only casualty was a pig says a lot about our part of the world.


Shooting Star


Death Camas

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Mike Vouri, Paul Nelson

Mike Vouri, Paul Nelson

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ATJ 53-56 (Death of the Imagination)

I get a kick out of certain Facebook threads and, yes, probably spend too much time there. You can argue with an idiot, but even if you win, you’re only a little better than an idiot and I guess I should shoot higher than that. The thread was about rents in Columbia City, one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in Seattle and one experiencing Ballard-style gentrification. Rents in an apartment complex that will house the new Puget Consumers Co-op location will be $1,800 to $1,900 a month for a single bedroom flat. Included in the amenities are:

  • A bike club, fitness room, theater, 6th floor lounge, and a roof top terrace with resident P-patches.
  • Resident pets are provided with a dogwash/grooming facility.

Nothing says Yuppie like that last amenity.

And the thread went on with my ire reserved for the people who said, essentially this is what we have. This is what the market demands. Essentially: There Is No Alternative. That’s the line the powers that be want us to swallow and people swallow easy, even good Seattle liberals who vote for Democrats, eat organic produce and have an anti-war sticker on their Prius.

Capitalist Realism (cover)

Capitalist Realism

But there are alternatives, like rent control, mixed-income buildings, artist housing (my favored solution, bringing in Art Space Inc. and have them do something like their recent Mt. Baker Lofts project) and other ideas. I tried to point out that thinking as if there is no alternative is a huge failure of the imagination. The Market is God people do not like being called out as bourgeois and some likened me to a socialist and maybe a Marxist. I AM in favor of worker-owned collectives and I support PCC, as it is a co-op, and based locally, but I see myself more a Libertarian Socialist, as Noam Chomsky would say. I like cooperative capitalism and limits when the market is in Casino Capitalism mode, which it appears to be now in Seattle real estate.   I also pointed out that the first chapter in the book pictured here is entitled: “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than an end to capitalism.”

I asked Sam Hamill about the fate of Seattle. He said it is sealed, what poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti laments about San Francisco will happen here and there’s nothing you can do about it. Ferlinghetti complains that San Francisco has been overcome by a “soulless group of people”, a “new breed” of men and women too busy with iPhones to “be here” in the moment…” See him talk to PBS here:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti on PBS

Lawrence Ferlinghetti on PBS

This all leads me to ponder my next moves as a poet and activist. Part of it is creating a safe place for poets to read without the spectre of commerce lurking, or interrupting because commerce is as Edward Abbey described it, a cancer. I have always been interested in alternative housing and this might be part of my next move. A long way to say here are the latest four poems in the series After The Japanese and you’ll see the connection if you read the next 20 lines, or listen.

ATJ 53-56















And then Eduardo Galeano dies.

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