Seattle’s first-ever civic poet sees fertile ground for verse in this city’s “time of transition” amid rapid growth.
Claudia Castro Luna, appointed Monday by Mayor Ed Murray, told KUOW’s Ross Reynolds that something specific about the role called to her.
“For me it was the word civic in it. The city was asking for somebody to engage in the public life of the city, rather than a poet laureate, which is more common practice for cities to do,” said Luna. “I have a background in urban planning and that just caught my eye because it was really sending a statement.”
Murray said she had a “deep commitment to engaging the community through her poetry.” She brings a diverse background: She came to the U.S. as a 14-year-old fleeing El Salvador’s civil war and went on to get a master’s in urban planning, K-12 teacher certification and a master of fine arts in poetry.
“Cities are defined by spatial relationships and I think literature and poetry does away with limitations like that,” she said, “so you could be in North Seattle and read a poem written by somebody in the Rainier Valley and through the power of the imagination see and live somebody else's experience and I think that is so needed for us in this time of transition.”
So what will she write about? It’ll be a mix, she said.
“I live in a beautiful place near a gorgeous park and so maybe that day I will be inspired to write about nature,” she said. “But maybe I could be frustrated about transportation, a transportation corridor, and that is my truth that day and it could be captured in a poem.”
How will she measure her tenure’s success?
“Two years from now I would love to see a poetry grid,” she said.
She imagines this interactive “grid of poems" layered on top of a Seattle map. "If we could superimpose that and create a poetic grid for the city where we could drop a pin or open up a window and up comes a poem that reflects our cultural diversity and just the richness of our backgrounds and situations, I think that would be a fabulous thing for Seattle."
Here’s a poem that Luna included in her application to the city:
“A Corner to Love”
Maps of this city
number in the thousands
unique and folded
neat in each citizen's heart
we live in the city
and the city lives in us