Poet Sherman Alexie knows who to credit for his success as a writer.
“Independent bookstores are the reason why I have a career,” he told Steve Scher on KUOW’s The Record. “When this started out, a book of poems and stories by a Spokane Indian would have never fit anybody’s algorithm. This was a very specific case of a very specific group of people: The white liberal women of independent bookstores promoting my career."
Steve Scher sits down with everyone's favorite librarian Nancy Pearl for her book recommendations of the week including the collection “The Art Of Losing: Poems of Grief and Healing” edited by Kevin Young, and “The System: The Glory And Scandal Of Big Time College Football” by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyain.
It seems every family has at least one "wild card" relative — that person who is reliably unreliable, in one way or another. Seattle writer Anne McDuffie's poem "Conditions" tells the wryly comical story of trying to prepare her young children to meet one such relative.
"I don't really distinguish between science and poetry; they're kind of like two different languages," said Peter Munro, a fisheries scientist and writer.
"Hard Weather Prayers" reveals his fluency in both languages. The 15-section poetic sequence finds a metaphor for spiritual alienation in the harsh weather of southeast Alaska, an area Munro knows first-hand from growing up in Sitka, as well as his field work at sea.
In Jennifer Maier's poem, "Responsible Person," a young boy practices constructing a self by building a paper version of the man he hopes to be in the future.
His father and the poem's speaker, "not his mother, the woman after his mother" look on, noting that he looks "like someone // you could count on, one of the numbered / good on which the world depends."
What can you tell about people based on what they've chosen to have inked on their body? Poet Kelly Davio takes that question in a provocative direction in "One in Four of Us Is Marked" from her new poetry collection "Burn This House" (Red Hen Press, 2013).
Local poet Rebecca Hoogs' new collection, "Self-Storage" (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2013), is full of witty and surprising verbal self-portraits. "Honeymoon" turns the mirror outward, looking at two friends' relationship. Hoogs says the poem was prompted by the fact that she knew one very important fact about the couple before they wed.
Hoogs is the curator of the Seattle Arts and Lectures Poetry Series, SAL U and the Literary Arts Series. She's the author of the chapbook "Grenade" and has been awarded fellowships from ArtistTrust and the MacDowell Colony.
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.