Microphone at open mic night
Microphone at open mic night

Civic Poet

"We are a literary city and it is only fitting we have a Civic Poet that will engage and inspire us all."
Mayor Ed Murray

Office of Arts & Culture
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Civic Poet 2015-17: Claudia Castro Luna

Claudia Castro Luna's muse is the city, from little libraries and food trucks to the green tunnels of Lincoln Park. Claudia left her native El Salvador at the age of 14 escaping the Civil War with her family. Resilient to the low expectations of high school counselors, she went on to study Anthropology and French at the University of California Irvine and earned an MA in Urban Planning from UCLA. Fluent in German, she is a K-12 certified teacher with a passion for arts education and teaching immigrants. In 2012 she earned an MFA in poetry from Mills College. She was a 2014 Jack Straw fellow and is a recent recipient of a King County 4Culture grant. Her poems have appeared in Milvia Street, The Womanist, Riverbabble, and forthcoming in the Taos Journal of Poetry and Art. She has been a featured reader for the Berkeley Poetry Festival and for NPR-affiliate KALW. Claudia is also writing a memoir, an excerpt of which appears in the 2014 Jack Straw Writers' Anthology. Living in English and Spanish, Claudia writes and teaches in Seattle where she gardens and keeps chickens with her husband and their three children.

You can learn more about Claudia on her blog or follow her on twitter.

Seattle Poetic Grid 
Seattle Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna, launches a poetry map of the city. Seattle Poetic Grid (http://www.seattlepoeticgrid.com) is an interactive poetic cartography of the city and a culmination of Castro Luna's two-year Civic Poet residency. The Grid brings Seattle's poetic side to light. The project is intended to remain as a living testament of the city, and includes a link for those who would like to make their poetic contributions.

Claudia Castro Luna
Civic Poet
Claudia Castro Luna

Am I not an immigrant?
(After Soujourner Truth's speech, Ain't I a woman?)  

There is so much turmoil in our country of late, something must be terribly wrong.  

There is a man over there, who occupies the highest office in the land, who says immigrants are rapists, criminals, the worst kind of people.  

I have never committed a crime, have paid taxes every year of my adult life, and have worked to earn an honest wage! And, am I not an immigrant?  

He says, immigrants take away from everyone and for this they should be rounded up by the millions and deported; they should be banned and blacklisted for worshiping in a way that differs from his. I studied hard to obtain an education and worked to educate children in public schools and everyday commit to lead a life worthy of my parent's sacrifice, who knew this country was by no means perfect, but it offered us refuge and hope! And, am I not an immigrant?  

That man over there may well say, "you are an exception," but let me tell you, all of us in my immigrant family, my immigrant friends, and many immigrant brothers and sisters, none of us lead our lives to cheat, deceit, take advantage of anyone or any system. We love our kin like everyone else and aspire to a fulfilled life.  

The immigrants I know are nurses, teachers, doctors, day laborers, professors. They own businesses, clean school buildings, compose music, make sculptures, write poems. And all are dreamers.   From its dawning where did the majority of this country's population come from? Where did it come from?  

From other places, other countries! The exceptionalism of this country resides in that very fact!  In the respect and wonderment of difference.  

Let her, let her who can produce a birth certificate immune to the waves of immigration to this county, speak to the grandeur of this land before it was bound to western laws.

Otherwise the road has been/is made by walking -- together. Juntos. Together. Todos Juntos. All together. 

Claudia Castro Luna

Emerald city blues

Sky favors no one grey upon grey or ocean blue
Lovers and homeless wake up under it wet with dew
The model city we imagine and how to renew

Night after night old man his curtains drew
Then in one day his house razed and cat at the window too
Sky favors no one grey upon grey or royal blue

All over where there was a structure now there's two
With fallen buildings, memories of who we are wither and slew
The fair city we dream of, or the one we misconstrue

Corner barber poets keep faith, comb newspapers through
New trends motivate, then again, crows weep a déjà vu
Sky favors no one grey upon grey or summer blue

Change leads to change till the day when we ask, we are who?
And what of our hearts to unlock the impact of each adieu?
The city we imagine, and the one we are, can be true

In future's rearview mirror, we knew what we knew
Those who lose are many, those who win are few
Sky favors no one grey upon grey or blissful blue
The city we aspire to be, or the one we may rue

Claudia Castro Luna

Incandescent and Intact

When I consider our radiant powers of creativity at birth
and think of the perfection in the bodies we have been granted
the organ we call skin, how it lets us feel the tiniest sting from an icy snowflake
how it lets us consider the roughness of a rock, the forgiving wiriness of moss
how the two beacons known as eyes filter for our amazement heaven's wonders
just how by their method a mother's profile is unmistakable to her babe
When I think of the cruel and grotesque ways
human dignity and possibility are, and have been, robbed and trampled
think that thousands of boys and girls, men and women
never got to harvest the fruits of their genius
how their potential was crushed
how some lost their lives

Then, I refuse to believe that their life force is forever gone
lost to slavery, racism, sexism, lost to bigotry and greed
I refuse to accept that this plethora of exuberance and intelligence was for naught
let this poem be a garden, a gathering place
a place where all the unclaimed creativity
of those who went without its benefits may exist unbounded

let Emmett Till, killed at age 14 in Mississippi, let him sing here
let Santos Rodriguez, killed at age 13 in Austin, let him dance here
let Tamir Rice, killed at age 12 in Cleveland, let him dream here
let these boys experience the pulse and tenderness of becoming
let them be safe here
let them gather in this garden

I refuse to let them go into the dark night
with their brilliance incandescent and intact
this poem is a garden of respect, a garden of dignity, a garden of love
so long I read, so long you read and listen to these lines they live
they live in hearts that throb inside ribcages, enwrapped in skin
skin that we all own
skin that should never define us, should never define us

Claudia Castro Luna

Go tell America
- From the Reverend Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech

 Remind America
of the fierce urgency of now
whithering injustice, discrimination, poverty
exhile in [our] own land
America, her citizens of color defaulted
America bankrupt

This legitimate discontent will not pass
we must rise with soul force, realize our destiny
we cannot turn back
we can never be satisfied as long as
unspeakable police brutality
we can never be satisfied as long as
children are stripped of their adulthood and robbed of their dignity
we cannot be satisfied as long as
[we have] nothing for which to vote
can never be satisfied
no, no, we are not satisfied
we will not be satisfied

This situation can and will be changed
I dream all men are created equal
I dream an oasis of freedom and justice
I dream that crooked places be made straight
I dream that children be judged by the content of their character
I dream, I dream, I dream, I dream, I dream

This hope stands for freedom
if America be
a great nation
this must be true:
we allow, we ring, we speed, we join, we sing
we are
we are
We are

Claudia Castro Luna


I invite you to come along on a bicycle ride the whip of the green river early September when its water teems with pink salmon and bank anglers dream their fishy dreams and you...rolling past wishing slack tide for the anglers and flood tide for the fish. 

I invite you to lie on a blanket stretched under the heart shaped leaves of a Little Leaf Linden tree. Let breath yield to grass, branch, bark, release unaware your secret lusts. Pistil and stamen, flutter of wings, legs in shorts, vegetable sap. Ecology of desire, mid-summer heat, Volunteer Park.

I invite you to caramel city. A place where every cash register displays hand rolled, hand-wrapped or neatly packed salted caramels luring your will power to ruin.

I invite you out to breakfast 6:30 am, Fisherman's Terminal, fried oysters and a pile of hash browns.  Between the large windows and boats ensconced in fog, invisible to the naked eye, marked only by a column, the architecture of life-times made and lost at sea.

I invite you to Alki point, a una noche de verano, mar y arena, luna y estrellas, suave el aire sobre tu faz.

I invite you to buck the trend. Next time you pass someone by, resist the unfriendly pull - don't look away or down. Kaput indifference. Melt the freeze. Breach the gap.

 I invite you to stand on a South Beacon Hill bus stop on a vaporous and chilly 40 something rainy winter's day, and wait and wait and wait for a bus that's again late, late, late.

I invite you to a house renovation project where your only job is to order the paint and so you visit a SODO paint store where fifteen minutes go by and no one behind the counter bothers to greet you, you don't even get a sideways glance - others get called, receive their orders, ask questions. A large sign announces "Color Trends." Invisibility is no paranormal trick on your part. You don't ever choose to make yourself invisible.  "Hey!" you want to shout, "Do you all want fries with that?"

I invite you to a party in Ballard where a woman expresses regret at hearing the news you're moving to the south west corner of the map, "We'll never see you again," she says in a self congratulatory way. What you say is, "Oh, there is a whole bunch of us living down there having a good time, you should come down some time." What you don't say is, "Hey, do you want fries with that?"

I invite you to shop for grapes. "Taste the red ones," says the man stocking produce.  You lean in to grab a bag ..."NO! not those," he says concerned, "Those are organic - the regular ones are here!" pointing to a different stack. Taken aback you say nothing. But you want to say, "Hey, do you want fries with that?"

I invite you to orbit emerald chaos at the Seattle Center satellite fountain. Watch water jettison, then fall sparkle and splash, the way you wish your doubts would simply crash. 

I invite you to Hillman City where strangers turn to greet you, sometimes with a smile. I see you their gesture says, you, You, YOU. Tall oaks line this stretch of Rainier Avenue and leaves trail/splutter/flap after the 7 rambling downtown leaving behind periphery and heart.

Claudia Castro Luna

Think of Santos
-- In memory of Santos Rodriguez

Since not anger, not prayers, nor protests
The clock can stop and prevent the bullet
Fired by a half man and his coward hand
And no brotherly love nor mother's tears
Life into his lifeless body may inject
We who live yet must Santo's life recall
His narrow shoulders, the milk of his teeth
Remember his tomorrows in each day
In children smiling on their way to school
Cherish and protect the things he didn't get
When you say his name he lives inside you
Inside me live his truth, his hopes, his dread
So as the moon calls tides from her distant perch
So may one day soon Santos and Justice merge.

Claudia Castro Luna
Seattle's Civic Poet

A Corner to Love

Maps of this city

number in the thousands

unique and folded

neatly inside each citizen's

 heart.  We live in the city

and the city lives in us

Seattle's Poem

Seattle is a house
on the comings
and goings
of water and wind
ripple of fish
feather of crow
early morning
ferry yawn

Seattle I say
and invoke
a man and a place
the two inseparable
not proportional
not parallel
but as language
is to poem
and salt to sea

I watch bridges, bicyclists, boats
summer blankets tendered
on public lawns
I watch fiery sunsets
tango and sway above jagged peaks
and autumn trees bursting gold
up and down hilly streets

Nevertheless before
I postcard and gloss
and more sunsets
and more trees
find their way into my lines
I must confess
the house's foundation
is in places brittle
and many rooms are dark
for windows lack

Plenty have I been
on the receiving end
of rehearsed indifference
heard enough shallow
arguments on who belongs here
to wake up scooping
ocean water with a spoon
we are all here
that need to be

The city is concrete and steel
plus the sum of its people
every day we destroy
our house
then race to remake it
those narrow windows
block future's view
mute voices
that need to be heard
muffle the sound
of the falling tree limb
heavy with ripe plums

Every day we tread
over Chief Sealth's legacy
his prophetic words,
"At night when the streets
are silent (..) and you think
them deserted,
they will throng
with the returning hosts
that once filled them
and still love this land"

We are not alone
save for his people
we are all immigrants here
waiter, teacher,
artist, worker, nurse
we belong
all of us belong
Seattle is a house
we all need to afford

Claudia Castro Luna

About the Seattle Civic Poet Program

The Civic Poet program celebrates Seattle's rich literary community, while investing the future of literary arts through community engagement. The Civic Poet program is administered by the city's Office of Arts & Culture. The two-year Civic Poet post will serve as a cultural ambassador for Seattle's rich, multi-hued literary landscape and will represent Seattle's diverse cultural community. In addition to five annual performances, the Civic Poet will also complete hands-on work with communities to engage constituents city-wide. Seattle's Civic Poet will serve a term of two years, and will receive a $10,000 stipend distributed over the two year term.

In addition, Luna will participate in the Seattle Public Library's Sharing Our Voices project. The Library will commission three original poems, record Luna reading her poems and record an oral interview with her identifying the inspiration and creation process inherent in poetry. The recordings will be added to the Library collection.

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For Artists

Current Grants/Funding for Artists
LHPAI Facility Grant
Aims to create community impact by broadening arts and culture participation at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, an historic landmark cultural facility in the heart of the Central Area neighborhood of Seattle.
smART ventures grant
Encouraging innovation and widening cultural participation, particularly by individuals, organizations and communities that may not qualify for other grant programs. Accepting applications year-round, smART ventures is flexible, inclusive and simple.
Professional Development

Professional Development

ARTISTS UP <span class="glyphicon glyphicon-new-window"></span>
Supporting artists of color, including those from other countries or new to our region, with resources, services and programs.
Seattle Arts Leadership Team (SALT)
The Seattle Arts Leadership Team (SALT) is a flexible and creative professional development program for artists and arts administrators. SALT combines the need for on-going professional development with the creativity of the sector by bringing interesting, challenging and thought provoking workshops, networking and training to the Seattle’s arts ecology.
Other Artist Rosters
Community Arts Partner Roster <span class="glyphicon glyphicon-new-window"></span>
The roster is a vetted list of teaching artists and community arts and culture organizations that have been approved to work in Seattle Public Schools through the Creative Advantage. The roster is a community resource, available to schools, and community agencies who seek partners to lead creative learning experiences within their programs.
Ethnic Artist Roster
The Ethnic Artist Roster is a diverse list of artists of color who were selected through a panel process for exhibition opportunities in city owned or affiliated galleries.
The Creative Advantage Community Arts Partner Roster now open<span class="glyphicon glyphicon-new-window"></span>
The Office of Arts & Culture maintains an Arts Partner Roster of teaching artists and community arts and culture organizations for The Creative Advantage. The roster is a resource for schools seeking partners to meet their education and community goals. The application to the 2017 community arts partner roster is now open. Deadline: April 18, 20174/18/2017

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