Writing Against: On Rachel Zucker’s “Poetics of Wrongness”

By Rachel Edelman


Three weeks ago, on Tuesday, November 8th, I left a reading in South Lake Union and walked west on Harrison. I attempted, unsuccessfully, not to look at the U.S. maps glowing so red on every bar’s television screen. I arrived at the bus stop knowing my own phone was dead, fearing my roiling anxiety would soon to be displaced by a not entirely different terror. I took out a pen and drew what stood in front of me: the Space Needle aspiring toward the waxing gibbous moon. I crosshatched the observatory windows, followed the sturdy frame to its disappearance behind the square buildings ahead of me. I willed my hand to stay steady.

This was before the public deluge of disappointment and shock upon Donald Trump’s victory. It was before I began to fear my Affordable Care Act-enabled health insurance would disappear, before I assured my mother my passport was up-to-date.

On election night, I arrived home to find my partner spinning in his desk chair, scribbling electoral arithmetic along with a listless David Brooks on PBS. Staring at what was in front of him, in front of me, in front of all of us, I broke into sobs. I howled; my cat howled back. I kicked and cried against my body’s response, willing it to stop, to contain itself. But containment is not how my body responds to grief for my country or fear for my friends’ and neighbors’ safety. My body unleashed itself in an emotional momentum not unlike what I experience in Rachel Zucker’s work.

Usually, I read poems slowly, pausing at the end of lines, finishing, then immediately reading it again—then again. But with Zucker’s work, my eye tips into a furious acceleration. She scurries and stumbles, breathless. She collects impressions, questions, acute impulses, and absurdities as she traverses an unstable present.

pay attention.

This is not just the way you feel today. This is
the future retrospective portent that made it all
make sense,” Read more…

WITS Voices: Holding 67 Hearts

By Laura Gamache, WITS Writer-in-Residence


On my ninth day with fourth graders at Broadview-Thomson, I asked the kids to take out their hearts, and hand them in to me. I had drawn each heart on red copier paper before our second meeting, after the teachers had expressed doubt the kids could reliably draw them themselves.

On the second day, kids wrote and drew things, people, places, ideas, activities and animals they loved inside the hearts. We used that information and energy in the “Like You” credo poems they wrote after we read and talked about Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton’s poem “Like You”. The poem was printed in Spanish and English on their handout. In one class, where there were several Philippine immigrants, I was excited that each stanza was read aloud in Spanish by a different child. Read more…

Indies First: SAL Instagram Takeover

Book nerds, it’s time to use your powers for good! On Small Business Saturday, November 26, Indies First will be unfolding at an independent bookstore near you. This national campaign to support local indies was launched by Sherman Alexie in 2013, a day where thousands of authors volunteered as guest booksellers across the country.

In an open letter to fellow readers, Lena Dunham—this year’s spokesperson for Indies First—writes, “I wouldn’t be who I am without independent bookstores. It might seem bizarre to make a commercial enterprise a cornerstone of your identity, so let me explain. Indie bookstores are like college and a nightclub combined—places for learning, community-building, and falling in love with strangers.”

All good reasons to support your local bookstores. But, if you need even more incentive, Sherman Alexie is amping up the fun this year with the Indies First Party Bus: a bus filled with 25 authors, artists, and other great minds in Seattle, all of whom will be descending upon local indies, drawing attention and excitement for all things books.

Catch Sherman’s Party Bus as it stops at these three locations on November 26:

        12-1 PM  Third Place Books Seward Park

        2-3 PM  –  University Book Store

        4-5 PM  –  Elliott Bay Book Company

And, for an added bonus, our friend Paul Constant will be taking over SAL’s Instagram account for the day, sharing stories and snaps from the road! Follow our Instagram @seattleartsandlectures to see the lit and hilarity that will ensue.

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Sherman Alexie modeling an Indies First tote bag. Photo credit: American Booksellers Association.

Three Questions: Travel Writer Kim Brown Seely

Perhaps this Thanksgiving weekend you’ll be joining the tens of millions of Americans on the road, or—in light of the recent election—hiding at home from certain relatives, eyes blurry as you scroll through your Facebook feed. Either way, this is a great time for a virtual escape. Luckily, we have Kim Brown Seely, a local writer who happens to be a nationally acclaimed leaver-of-town, to whisk us away.

Kim, SAL Advisory Board member and general literary arts champion, has just been awarded a 2016 Travel Journalist of the Year Award by the American Society of Travel Writers for “bringing a reporter’s eyes and a writer’s ear to her craft.” If you’re not familiar with this award, think of it as the National Book Award for travel writers—it’s a pretty big deal. You can find Kim’s writing in the pages of Virtuoso Life, National Geographic AdventureTravel & Leisure, and other drool-inducing travelogues.

To celebrate her accomplishment, we (envyingly) asked Kim a few questions about which travel writers have been her touchstones, her most memorable assignment, and where she’s headed next…


Read more…

Introductions: Nick Offerman

On October 28 at Benaroya Hall, Nick Offerman – star of NBC’s Parks and Recreation and America’s premier evangelist for making things – had us in stitches over his new book about woodworking, Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Workshop. SAL Associate Director Rebecca Hoogs introduced Nick, the first in SAL’s 2016/17 SAL Presents Series.


By Rebecca Hoogs, SAL Associate Director

It is an incredible honor to introduce Nick Offerman to the Seattle Arts & Lectures stage. Now, you might be wondering, why would Seattle Arts & Lectures, a literary organization, be interested in presenting an actor and comedian who is on tour for book on woodworking? A book which debuted, by the way, at number ten on the New York Times bestseller list this week? A book called Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Workshop?

Because, if you know Nick, you know that he is a true artist, a craftsman trying to live an authentic life, an old-fashioned maker in the way that all great poets, authors, and artists are makers. In his many acting and comedic roles, most notably as Ron Swanson on Parks and Rec, he makes us laugh and even cry. Off-screen, however, his passion (besides his wife, actress-slash-goddess Megan Mullally) is making us things with wood. Working with his hands. Read more…

“Unsolicited Advice to People Who are Going through the Same Thing” by Lovely Pierre

Unsolicited Advice to People Who are Going through the Same Thing, After Jeanann Verlee

When your best friend forces you to do things,
Say, “No.”

When you best friend starts bullying you,
Do not take it as a joke.

Smile.
Say,
“We’re over” and
Walk away.

When you finally learn how to Nae-Nae and it’s 2015,
Do it everyday.

When you go to your grandma’s house,
Do not take that for granted,
Do not spend your time watching T.V.

When she hugs you,
Do not let go,
Do not push her off.

When people push you around,
Do not stay silent,
Do not shrug it off.

When people say, “You’ve changed,”
Take it as a compliment.
Set the roof on fire.
Check the way you set yourself. Read more…

What SAL’s Reading: Fall Edition

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Ruth Dickey, Executive Director:
“I am currently reading Walk Through Walls by Marina Abramović, which has stunned and moved me, and Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón. I was so captivated by Ada’s reading that I tried to purchase the book that evening, but Open Books had run out (and then I struck out at both Phinney Books and Elliott Bay Books). Luckily, University Book Store had a copy when I popped in, and I’m eager to revisit her beautiful poems on the page.”

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Amanda with baby Aria Marie!

Amanda Carrubba, Finance & Operations Director:
The Cat in the Hat!  :) And all Dr. Seuss.” Read more…

Friday Roundup

Twelve fun links from around the web.


From Frantumaglia, a new collection of writings by Elena Ferrante.

On Fresh Air: Viet Thanh Nguyen on his escape from Vietnam.

Rachel Zucker has a new podcast up with Shane McCrae! (See her on the 14th.)

Who’s going to Wordstock in Portland? Emma Straub is.

Five books making the news.

The Paris Review’s Instagram account curates incredible quotes from their trove of author interviews.

Local author Elissa Washuta on Native American History Month. Read more…