by Bryan Willis for OLY ARTS
Washington State’s new Poet Laureate, Claudia Castro Luna, will be featured at the Lacey Library Monday, May 7 at 7:00 p.m. at a free event for the public.
Castro Luna will be joined by Olympia poets Dawn Pichón Barron and Emily Van Kley. All three poets will read from recent work and facilitate a conversation on how poetry can be essential in our everyday lives. The 90 minutes of poetry, conversation and community will include light refreshments, served by the Friends of the Lacey Library.
The event, entitled Outspoken: an Evening of Outstanding Washington Poets, is co-sponsored by Humanities Washington. During her two-year terms at Poet Laureate, Castro Luna will lead workshops and give public presentations of her work in geographically diverse areas of the state.
Castro Luna fled war-torn El Salvador at the age of 14 when she was “not quite a kid, not quite an adult … It was a violent place. It’s still a violent place though the violence has taken a different form. At the time it was the State vs. the People. I remember when we left the city was patrolled by tanks. Now it’s more about individual citizens and gangs. I’ve only been back three times in the last 37 years and the memory of that trauma, overcoming that fear, has been difficult. But when you’re in that situation, it’s sink or swim. You just have to move forward.”
Her family moved to the United States and Castro Luna found herself in a middle school that wasn’t equipped to teach someone who didn’t know English. “I carried a dictionary everywhere,” she recalls. “And I’ve always been a good student and love learning. I’m sure it helps to have strong language skills in one’s own language and somehow I’ve always had an innate propensity for language.”
She earned three advanced degrees and found work as a K-12 teacher. Castro Luna would later become Seattle’s first Civic Poet and won acclaim for the “Seattle Poetic Grid,” an online interactive map showcasing poems featuring different locations around the city.
Although she most often thinks and dreams in English, Castro Luna writes (and translates) in Spanish as well. “There’s a degree of protection in English, a little distance. Spanish is more expansive and lyrical but it doesn’t offer much separation from the memories I still retain of the trauma of war. And yet when I’ve gone back to my old neighborhood, to those cousins and neighbors, there’s a familiarity and tradition that feels like home. I’m overcoming this sense of fear and certainly writing about it helps. I’m ready to go back.” She’s currently writing a memoir focusing on the story of leaving El Salvador.
Signed copies of her chapbook, “This City” and the collection “Killing Marias” will be available for purchase at the Lacey event courtesy of Browsers Bookshop.
Castro Luna will return to Olympia as a featured artist with Jim Lynch and other writers at the 4th annual Center Salon at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. But that’s not until April 12, 2019 – so don’t miss your chance to see her twice.
Outspoken: an Evening of Outstanding Washington Women Poets
Featuring Washington’s Poet Laureate,
Claudia Castro Luna
Lacey Timberland Library
500 College St. SE
Monday, May 7
7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.