Courtesy Floating Bridge Press

Claudia Castro Luna, Seattle’s First Civic Poet, Wrestles With the City’s Biggest Problems

The poet says what the politician cannot.

If you’ve attended a Seattle City Council meeting in recent months—as part of the #BlocktheBunker movement, say, or as a worker fighting for secure scheduling—odds are good you’ve heard at least one poet read their work aloud. As part of her role as Seattle’s first Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna curates the poetry readings that open City Council meetings. To many who attend these meetings on official business, this is probably just a bit of pointless civic nonsense to tolerate, some grandstanding to placate the arts community.

But these readings serve an important purpose. Poetry reacts in interesting ways against the deeply ceremonial wonkery of Council meetings. Luna’s poem “To tear a piece off my shadow as if from a loaf of bread,” for example, with its reminder that “Sometimes your life is a minute ahead and a few days behind the place you want to be,” gains additional depth when presented as a preamble to legislation. The way Luna conflates time and space, yearning and loss, aspiration and failure in just a few words reminds us that we may never arrive exactly where we need to be at exactly the right time.

You can see many human emotions play out in the Council’s chambers on a regular basis—hope, fear, anger, happiness—but the “realization that the place you assiduously search and yearn for is nowhere” is not usually acknowledged in those halls. Politicians communicate many ideas to their constituents, but they do not do a very good job of acknowledging our failings. It takes a poet, sometimes, to admit that when we come together as a people to build a place, we do not always succeed.

Read the rest of this review in Seattle Weekly’s print edition or online here at Seattle Review of Books.

Paul Constant is the co-founder of The Seattle Review of Books. Read daily books coverage like this at seattlereviewofbooks.com.

More in Arts & Culture

Cast trailers for “Three Busy Debras” filming at the Snoqualmie YMCA parking lot on Sept. 4. Madison Miller / staff photo
New TV show filming in Snoqualmie

“Three Busy Debras” is being filmed in cities in the Seattle area, including Snoqualmie.

Tyler, The Creator performs during Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019 in Seattle, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Gallery: Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival 2019

Scenes from Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival at the Seattle Center.

Acquisition gift chosen from 2018 Seattle Art Fair. Installation view of Recent Acquisitions: Toyin Ojih Odutola, Frye Art Museum, 2019. Photo: Jueqian Fang.
Seattle Art Fair renews partnership with Frye Art Museum

The Seattle Art Fair, presented by AIG, is pleased to announce the… Continue reading

Bread Face. Courtesy of the artist @breadfaceblog.
Seattle Art Fair returns Aug. 1

The Seattle Art Fair, presented by AIG, is proud to announce the… Continue reading

Linda Hodges Gallery in Pioneer Square. Photo courtesy Linda Hodges Gallery
Despite Construction, Pioneer Square’s Art Galleries Remain Strong

Long a hub for Seattle’s visual arts scene, the neighborhood gets an new space this spring with the opening of ARTS at King Street Station.

Patty Gone offers an artistic toast to Danielle Steel. Photo courtesy Mount Analogue
Patty Gone’s Queer Romance Novel Reflections

The artist’s upcoming residency at Mount Analogue explores the cultural impact of pulpy romantic fantasy.

Photo by Spencer Baker 
                                Mark Haim’s torso will be guided by his friends’ movements in Parts to a Sum.
Crowdsourced Choreography

Mark Haim’s ‘Parts to a Sum’ exemplifies how choreographers are relinquishing control in the name of collaboration.

Seeing the Seattle Opera’s <em>The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs</em> counts as screen time. Photo by Philip Newton
The Innovative Tech Disconnect of ‘The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs’

Like the technology Jobs pioneered, the Seattle Opera production is flashy but lacking in soul.

Seattle Asian American Film Festival 2019 Picks

Make the most of the cultural cinematic event with these four selections.

‘Roma’ projects to be the big winner at the 91st Academy Awards this Sunday. Photo by Carlos Somonte
And The Winner Is: 2019 Oscars Preditions

Who will take home the awards on cinema’s biggest night?

Britney Barber (center) and Samantha Demboski (left) perform in ‘Empty Orchestra.’ Photo courtesy Jet City Improv
Making It Up As They Go Along

Jet City Improv’s retributive actions towards a former player raise issues of the comedy institution’s staff culture.