New year, new poems from Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna


These poems were written and performed for Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Day Celebration at Seattle City Hall, January 14th 2016

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


 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






Two new poems from Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna

Civic Poet Claudia Castro Luna has penned two more poems this fall to add to the city’s growing collection. Enjoy:

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


November 2nd, 2015


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


Mayor’s Arts Awards 2015 by the numbers

2015 marks the 13th year Seattle has been celebrating our arts and culture scene with the Mayor’s Arts Awards. For the past 13 years three Mayor’s have been honoring the best organizations and individuals that make Seattle one of the most livable and fastest growing cities in the U.S. This year was no exception. So instead of a narrative about the day, we thought we’d let the numbers speak for themselves. Check out the video,

  • 500 people attended the ceremony

Mayor Ed Murray, Councilmember Nick Licata and the 2015 Mayor’s Arts Awards recipients.
On September 4, 2015, Mayor Edward B. Murray honored the 2015 recipients of the MayorÕs Arts Awards at the Seattle CenterÕs Mural Amphitheater. Presented in partnership with Bumbershoot, the awards ceremony is part of the official opening of Bumbershoot 2015, which runs through Monday.
The 2015 honorees are:
¥ Cultural Ambassador: Dr. Robin K. Wright
¥ Arts & Innovation: Akio Takamori
¥ Cultural Preservation: Densho
¥ Future Focus: Seattle JazzED
¥ Creative Industries: Daniel Brown
Photo by Marcus R. Donner © 2015

  • 600 programs printed
  • 300 chairs were set up (so yes, there were quite a few standing)
  • 25 members of the Chinese Community Girls Drill Team
  • 1 Mayor
  • 5 Mayors Arts Awards winners
  • 14 Seattle Arts Commissioners
  • 1 Seattle Councilmember

1 Civic Poet (here’s a link to the poem she read)

  • 1 Seattle based glass artist Manuel Castro who designed and created the Mayor’s Arts Award, in partnership with Chihuly Garden and Glass (maybe a link to his site)
  • 1 artwork Fear of Volcanos 46 unveiled that was dedicated to Councilmember Nick Licata (by artist Ryan Molenkamp, and purchased with Seattle Public Utilities 1% for Art funds)
  • 75 volunteers to set up the event
  • 7 temporary artworks in the Seattle Center Sculpture Walk
  • 397 nominations
  • 1 ukulele player, thank you Champagne Honeybee!
  • 9 months of planning

Mayor announces Claudia Castro Luna as Seattle’s First Civic Poet

Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna, will perform at the
Mayor’s Arts Awards ceremony Friday, Sept. 4 at 4 p.m.

Mayor Ed Murray announced Seattle’s first Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna. The new Civic Poet post serves as an ambassador for Seattle’s rich literary landscape and represents the city’s diverse cultural community. “Claudia brings a fresh perspective and a deep commitment to engaging the community through her poetry,” said Mayor Murray. “We are a literary city and we’re excited to have an accomplished poet that will celebrate and inspire us through her creativity.”

Luna will perform at the 2015 and 2016 Mayor’s Art Awards, in addition to five community performances and workshops throughout the city. She will serve a two year term from August 2015 to August 2017, receiving a $10,000 stipend. The Civic Poet program is administered by the city’s Office of Arts & Culture.

“I thank Mayor Murray and Office of Arts & Culture Director Randy Engstrom for creating Seattle’s Civic Poet program,” said Councilmember Nick Licata, “a post inaugurated by the Poet Populist program in 1999. Claudia’s poems ‘Wake’ and ‘Choking My Vernacular,’ performed during one of the Council’s 2013 Words’ Worth readings, were moving and I am pleased to welcome her as our first Civic Poet. Words can change the world and no one knows the power of words better than a poet.”

Luna was born in El Salvador and came to the U.S. as a young teenager fleeing civil war. Since then she has completed a Master of Arts in Urban Planning, a teaching degree, and a Master of Fine Arts in poetry.

Luna is a K-12 certified teacher with a passion for arts education and teaching immigrants. In 2012, she earned a Master of Fine Arts 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. Luna is also writing a memoir, an excerpt of which appears in the 2014 Jack Straw Writers’ Anthology. She writes and teaches in Seattle, where she gardens and raises chickens with her husband and their three children.

Additionally, 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.

Seattle Announces 2015 Civic Poet Program

Just in time for Poetry month in April, Seattle is launching a Civic Poet Program. The Civic Poet program celebrates Seattle’s rich literary community, while investing in the future of literary arts through community engagement.  The call for the 2015 Civic Poet opens Thursday, April 16 and will close Thursday, May 28. The Civic Poet program is administered by the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.

“Seattle is one of the most well-read cities in the country. From libraries to book stores, from universities to literary organizations, Seattle is passionate about language,” says Mayor Murray. “The Civic Poet program celebrates our history and commitment to the written and spoken word, and the people who have given it such a place of honor in our city.”

The new 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, from July 2015 to July 2017, and will receive a $10,000 stipend distributed over the two year term. Applicants must be Seattle-based, eligible to work in the U.S., have at least five years of professional experience, and a demonstrated interest in civic engagement and the power of the written and spoken word.

The Civic Poet program is inspired by the previous Poet Populist program instituted in 1999 by Seattle City Council member Nick Licata. The goal of the Poet Populist program was to support the practice of literary arts democracy, and promote local literary arts organizations to a general audience citywide. The Poet Populist program was discontinued in 2008. The Civic Poet program will continue the legacy of the Poet Populist program by fostering community dialogue and engagement between the public and artists, while celebrating the literary arts.

To learn more about the call, visit For questions about the call, please contact Annie Holden, (206) 733-9591.

Photo: Adillia Scott presenting at the City’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration in January 2015. Photo by Jenny Crooks.