Writer and storyteller Jack Hitt has made a career portraying the larger-than-life characters he's encountered: a flamboyant neighbor who made international news as one of the world's first transsexuals, a building superintendent who was also a Brazilian mobster. "Why do these things always happen to you?" people ask. They don't, he says. Unbelievable stories happen to everybody. His new solo show mingles these stories with scientific research to show how our story-generating brains are constantly editing reality and "making up the truth" for us. Steve Scher talked with Jack Hitt in 2009.
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet W.S. Merwin is best known for his writing about the Vietnam War. Merwin has written and published poetry for over 50 years and translated the works of Dante and Pablo Neruda. He also comes from the generation of some of America's most famous poets: James Merrill, Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O'Hara, James Wright and John Ashbery. What was it like to work in that company? Steve Scher talked with W.S. Merwin in 2010 about the art of poetry.
Have you heard of a "choosey Suzie" or a "wife-in-law?" Do you know what being "in pocket" is? Thousands of underage kids trapped in prostitution know all too well. Steve Scher talked with Joanna Ward, then a case manager at YouthCare’s Orion Center, and heard first-hand stories of underage sex trafficking.
Most of us have fond memories of our childhood friends, but what about our friends that weren’t real? Imaginary friends come in many shapes and sizes, and they often provide handy scapegoats. Steve Scher talked with Marjorie Taylor, professor and head of psychology at the University of Oregon and author of "Imaginary Companions." He also talked to Stephanie Carlson, professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, about where our imaginary friends come from and why they leave.
At the end of 2009, legendary Gourmet Magazine printed its last issue. Steve Scher talked with then-editor and author Ruth Reichl just four days before the announcement of the magazine’s end about how and what Americans are eating.
Robert Olen Butler On Vietnamese Expat Communities
Robert Olen Butler is the author of “A Good Scent from a Stranger Mountain,” a collection of short stories about Vietnamese expats. In his book, Butler recalls many stories from Vietnamese expats around the world and the often, as he deems them, temperamental dynamics of these communities. Steve Scher talked with Butler back in 1992.
But for Barzallo Sockemtickem, now 17, that "classroom" happened to be her room at Seattle Children's Hospital. She has spent many months at Children's, being treated for cancer and working with WITS poet Sierra Nelson.
Barzallo Sockemtickem's poem "Where I'm From" is defiant and tender, and challenges her listener to understand that she won't let her disease define her: "I am from stubbornness / and spitfire. / I am from refuse to give up. / I am not just cancerous."
Her poem was awarded the "Origins" prize from Seattle Arts and Lectures.
Barzallo Sockemtickem was recorded in the KUOW Studios on August 2.
"Summer hearts buzz like sapphire dragonflies," writes Marjorie Manwaring in "Church Camp-out, 1978," a poem that captures the particularly adolescent ability to conflate the sexual and the spiritual. The poem is part of Manwaring's collection, "Search for a Velvet-Lined Cape."
Esperanto's a language born out of the dream that if we all spoke the same language, we wouldn't have wars. That might sound a little naïve, when you consider how divided we can be even within the United States - where many people do speak the same language. Still, one can't help thinking: If we could turn on the television and see the personal stories of Iraqis, would the United States have gone to war with that nation?
Some would argue we are starting to understand each other, through English language reporting from news organizations like Al Jazeera, and CNN, which has an Arabic language channel. It's too early to say whether that programming will smooth out the differences between American and Middle Eastern cultures. But even with cable news going international, those broadcasts are just cultural diplomacy for nations that still think in different languages. And the idea of Esperanto still has power.
The Local Esperanto Connection
Seattle has an Esperanto club (it has several, actually). KUOW's Joshua McNichols called up club member Leland Ross to get a local perspective on the international language of Esperanto.
Seattle's Leland Ross on how he'll celebrate World Esperanto Day.
Leland says Esperanto isn't dead. In fact, it's doing better than ever before, thanks to the Internet. He says in the past, an Esperanto speaker would send off letters to an Esperanto-speaking pen pal and would have to wait for a response, but today, you can hop online and immediately chat with someone anywhere in the world.
Leland says one local group of Esperanto enthusiasts have a regular poker night conducted entirely in Esperanto. It isn't world peace, but you've got to start somewhere.
KUOW Presents is going on vacation next week. We'll be back July 29!
One of the most profound duties of child to parent is to honor their last wishes, as best we can. In "Their Bodies," poet David Wagoner addresses the students of the anatomy lab at Indiana University, where his parents donated their bodies.
Poet Peter Munro recounts the complex mix of blessing and burden in caring for a dying parent in his multi-part poem, "Ketogenesis Apocalypse." In this section, "Reading My Father's Bible," Munro finds a metaphor for his preacher father's decline in the image of his Bible worn to the point of falling apart.
Munro spends much of his time in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska, working as a fisheries scientist. His poems have been featured in Poetry magazine and the Beloit Poetry Journal. He lives in Seattle, and is a frequent reader at the open mics hosted by the North End Forum.
Munro's reading was recorded by Jack Straw Productions, as part of the 2013 Jack Straw Writers Program.
In the last 12 months there has been a series of political trials in Russia. First there was the punk rock group Pussy Riot. Then, demonstrators from the anti-Putin protest movement faced the court followed by the rising star of the opposition, Alexei Navalny. Some say Putin is using the justice system to shut down their political rivals and that this kind of injustice is accelerating.
When This Whole Thing Started
It began ten years ago with the arrest of the oil billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky. He has been in prison ever since. First, he was in Siberia. Now, he's at the edge of the Arctic. His mother travels vast distances to visit him.
Today on KUOW Presents, we join her on that long, cold train ride.
"I will no longer mispronounce myself," resolves Phin Dauphin in "Baritone Without a Body."
A self-described "gender fluid person," Dauphin says the poem was written while part of a slam poetry team preparing to represent Seattle at Brave New Voices, an international poetry festival. "Baritone Without a Body" aims to document the path taken to understand Dauphin's gender, and reflects a deep regard for language rooted in the experience of growing up in a household where English, Spanish, French and Creole were spoken on a daily basis.
In "Epiphanette," Woodinville poet Dennis Caswell speculates on what happens to the "carefree cognitive tumbleweed" of his baby daughter's mind when it "is struck by the SUV of enlightenment" in the form of a little epiphany.
Already she baby-knows: A dance you learn; the dancer you're stuck to. from "Epiphanette"
Strange fruit has black seeds. Papaya pearls dropping tropics in our mouths.
from "Traveling Seeds"
Contemplating the generative power of papaya seeds led writer Jourdan Keith to write a parable about the African diaspora. Her story-poem "Traveling Seeds" is a hybrid of African folktales, Native American legend, Japanese poetic forms and also pays homage to the Harlem Renaissance.
Based in Seattle, Jourdan Keith is a poet, storyteller and environmental activist. She served as the Seattle Public Library's first Naturalist-in-Residence and is a Seattle Poet Populist Emerita.
One of the most persistent stories about America — that it was made by immigrants fleeing "the old country" — is also one of the most incomplete. And since stories shape our perception of reality, poet Colleen McElroy is intent on telling another aspect of America's story in "Crossing Oceans." The poem appears in her most recent collection "Here I Throw Down My Heart" (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012).
The Woodstock generation may be aging, but don't try to tell them they're not still cool. Poet Marjorie Manwaring's "Letter to Mick Jagger from the St. Paul Chapter of the Daughters of Norway" captures the dissonance between how we feel inside, and how we may appear to others.