Angeline Roof Summer Solstice

Greg Bem

Greg Bem

Greg Bem organized one of his very lively events this past Monday night, June 20, 2016, as an open reading and Summer Solstice celebration. That the occasion also featured a Full Moon, the Strawberry Moon, and the first full moon on the Summer Solstice since 1967. That season also happened to be the Summer of Love if you were in San Francisco or the Six Day War if you were in Israel/ Egypt/Golan Heights as one of our Solstice participants pointed out.

And while celebrating the longest day of the year seems especially apt in northern latitudes like Seattle where days are considerably longer this time of year (the Fremont Solstice Parade is a legendary celebration) there seem to be few other celebrations of this event, so kudos to Greg Bem who has also created at least one Winter Solstice poetry event in the past year.

Peter Munro by Ed Jay

Peter Munro by Ed Jay

And Peter Munro invited the EasySpeak Seattle community to be part of the proceedings, a group which will be celebrating the end of the two+ year run of open mic nights at the Hummingbird Saloon on Monday, June 27 at 7:30. Starting in September the Wedgwood Ale House will host that regular 4th Monday event along with their regular second Monday open mic night.

Carol Blackbird Edson

Carol Blackbird Edson

Almost all open mic readers read something pertinent to either the occasion, or the lack of dance savvy by Al Gore, and Carol Blackbird Edson did an invocation to end the proceedings, which seemed like a perfect conclusion. I created a Summer/Solstice playlist on Spotify. You can follow me there to see what we were tuned into before and after the reading. I am grateful that some of my Angeline neighbors attended and I got to know them a little better.

I began to write a poem for the occasion Monday night, but the experience itself was necessary for the poem to complete itself Tuesday morning and I hope to read it at the last Hummingbird session Monday night. The evening ended with a viewing of a rare Seattle thunderstorm, which capped the night in a memorable manner. I’ll post some photos below and give you an early heads-up that Thursday, September 22, 2016, at 7pm, we’ll celebrate the equinox that will have happened that morning and also the 55th solar return of a guy who likes these rooftop poetry affairs. No gifts necessary. Roasting poems welcome, as is saké, FYI. Photos below by Greg Bem, Peter Munro and that 54.7 year old who has posted below some photographs of the sky from the Angeline taken in the last week.

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Photo by Ed Jay

T Clear

T Clear

Some of the gathered

Some of the gathered

Bonnie Wolkenstein

Bonnie Wolkenstein

Jeremy Springsteed

Jeremy Springsteed

Jared Leising

Jared Leising

Larry Crist by Ed Jay

Larry Crist by Ed Jay

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Sarah de Leeuw Skeena (Interview)

On May 30, 2016, I had a chance to chat with Sarah de Leeuw, a poet with work published in Make It True: Poetry From Cascadia. Her new book is Skeena, a book-length poem about one of the largest rivers in Northern BC. My intro:

Sarah de Leeuw

Sarah de Leeuw

Rivers have been a source for poetry since poetry has been an outlet for deep human experience. Li Po has river poems that continue to be shared 1300 years after he lived and who can forget Langston Hughes The Negro Speaks of Rivers. But Sarah de Leeuw has written a poem from the point of view of one of the largest rivers in Northern BC, the Skeena River. The author of four literary books and two academic texts, she earned a Ph.D., in geography and she makes a living as a researcher on medical humanities and health inequities. A native of Northern BC, we talk to Sarah via Skype today about Skeena, the book, the river and the task of writing as a river. Sarah.

In the first segment Sarah discussed how she grew up in the Queen Charlotte Islands, now known as Haida Gwaii, how she currently splits her time between Prince George and Kelowna, BC and why she cringes at being called a BC “Native.” She also discussed being a poet in Northern BC and how George Stanley and Barry McKinnon opened up ground for poetry in that part of BC, which helped younger poets like herself. Listen to Part 1 – 8:44.

In the second segment she talked about how the poetry community has gotten more vibrant since the height of the Stanley/McKinnon days, how she and others are “trying to pull poetics, stories and narratives out of the land.” She discussed the re-naming of this Northern BC as the “Spirit Bear Territory” and how she’s fascinated by naming and the forces that shape naming and re-naming. Listen to Part 2 – 6:20.

In Part Three she discussed the moment she first conceived of writing this book-length poem about the Skeena River, (on Michigan Avenue in Chicago of all places) about how having a theme is her preferred way of writing and how Patricia Young’s editing of the book was invaluable. Listen to Part Three – 6:15.

In the fourth segment she discussed the irony of that Michigan Avenue moment, how she keeps pocket journals to jot down potential composition notes and about the Skeena River in general. Listen to Part 4 – 3:20.

In Segment Five she said that the river “describes itself”, that she did not want to pull the river out of its “socio-cultural context” which includes resource-extraction, highways, trains, howitzers and deadly avalanches as well as a working class social geography and indigenous geographies. As part of that she cited the numbers of missing or murdered women that she said: “Should terrify all of us.” Listen to Part 5 – 4:24.

Skeena CoverSkeena Time. In the sixth segment she read from the book, starting on Page 10, a segment which illustrates the points made in the previous segment.  She also responded to a question about how she creates her lineation. Listen to Part 6 – 7:47.

Avalanche Accidents in Canada III. She read from found material one of the more tragic events in the book, from 1982. With a nod to Alice Oswald’s “Dart”, she read that section of the book and talked about the joy she has doing research, despite the grisly nature of some of the events she relates. She also talked about her desire to create a “poly-vocality” in the book. Listen to Part 7 – 6:50.

In part eight she talked about the notion of “Permaculture Poetry” and referenced Eric Magrane of Tucson, Arizona, editor of Spiral Orb: An Experiment in Permaculture Poetics. She also discussed other experimental and marginalized poetries and her hope that recent movements like Black Lives Matter and justice for indigenous peoples would be realized through new forms and media. Listen to Part 8 – 5:57.

In part nine she talked about how she balances indigenous material without appropriating culturally that which is not her own culture. She described an experience of asking for permission from a First Nation about getting permission to include some of their website material in the book. She referenced an essay by Lenore Keeshig-Tobias entitled Stop Stealing Native Stories and she referenced a story in her book on page 30 about the Gitanmaax, as well as a personal story of a First Nations friend who asked her “Are you doing it with a good heart?” Listen to Part 9 – 8:19.

In part ten, the final segment, she discussed the notion of Cascadia, how it is peripheral to her own inspiration and she is pre-occupied by this bio-climatic region, but her orientation is as a feminist, more than bioregionalist. She says however that she never writes “without this geography in mind.” She read Rain from the book. Listen to Part Ten 7:15.

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Hugo House Out, Whole Foods In

Seattle had the second or third highest rent increase of cities in the U.S. in 2015 depending on how you figure it. Regardless, the housing market here is insane. Is anything sacred? No. Across the street from Seattle First Baptist Church was a perfectly suitable brick office building housing dentists and other Pill Hill professionals. In new Seattle this is WAY too short and will become a 16 story tower with 800 or so apartments and a Whole Foods on the ground floor.

The Richard Hugo House literary center was the New City Theater and now will be a multi-story edifice with the Hugo House getting a new home in the new building. But, while memories of the old days at the house will linger in the minds of thousands of patrons and the sight lines will no doubt be improved, there’s something sad about the transition. If anything other than a sterile environment can be created there, it will be with a great deal of finesse. Here’s hoping.

Top - Where the Hugo House was. Bottom - Where the new Whole Foods will be.

Top – Where the Hugo House was.
Bottom – Where the new Whole Foods will be.

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