Anastacia-Reneé Tolbert selected as Seattle’s next Civic Poet

Tolbert will present at the Mayor’s Arts Awards ceremony,
Thursday, Aug. 31 at 4 p.m.


The Office of Arts & Culture announced Seattle’s next Civic Poet, Anastacia-Reneé Tolbert. She is the former Writer-in-Residence at Richard Hugo House, and a workshop facilitator and multivalent performance artist. Three books by the poet/Tolbert, Forget It (Black Radish Books), (V.) (Gramma Press), and Answer(Me) (Winged City Chapbooks-Argus Press), are forthcoming in 2017. The Civic Poet program celebrates Seattle’s rich literary community, while investing the future of literary arts through community engagement. The program is administered by the city’s Office of Arts & Culture.

“When poetry takes center stage, tension filled spaces become safe literary hubs where community members can gather to share and celebrate the plethora of local, historical, and contemporary voices,” says Anastacia-Reneé. “I’m excited to forge creative new literary paths that lay beyond the standard expectations of poetry.”

Anastacia-Reneé has received writing fellowships from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, VONA, Artist Trust, and Jack Straw, and a writing residency from Ragdale. She is also the author of numerous books: (V.) (Gramma Press), Forget It (Black Radish Books), 26 (Dancing Girl Press), and Kiss Me Doll Face (Gramma Press). Anastacia-Reneé’s creative repertoire includes the field of installation art, as well as writing, producing and directing 9 Ounces: A One Woman Show. Her work has appeared in many publications including Painted Bride Quarterly, Crab Creek Review, Seattle Review, Revise The Psalm: Work Celebrating the Writing of Gwendolyn Brooks, Duende, The Volta and Torch.

The two-year Civic Poet post serves as a cultural ambassador for Seattle’s rich, multi-hued literary landscape and represents 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 August 2017 to August 2019, and will receive a $10,000 stipend distributed over the two-year term.

Photograph by Stanton Stephens.

Civic Poet Claudia Castro Luna launches interactive Poetic Map of Seattle

Poetic Map captures the people and poems of Seattle
Reading on Wednesday, June 28, 2017 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Open Books A Poem Emporium: 2414 North 45th Street, Seattle, WA 98103


Seattle Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna, launches a poetry map of the city. Seattle Poetic Grid ( 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.

“The idea behind the map is to capture a sense of place through the poetic voices of Seattle residents. The poems come from citizens across every corner of the city, from individuals brand new to writing to some who are well established and beloved poets,” says Castro Luna.

Many of the poems were collected during Castro Luna’s “The Poet Is In” program, a residency project with Seattle Public Library where she held drop-in poetry writing sessions at various libraries around the city. Aside from English there are poems in Spanish, Arabic and Japanese. There is a wide spectrum of voices and experiences represented, from youth poets and elementary school writers, to senior citizens and renowned poets like Denise Levertov, Theodore Roethke and Richard Hugo.

In addition to the Poetic Grid and the residency with Seattle Public Libraries, Castro Luna has served for the past year and a half as a cultural ambassador for Seattle’s rich, multi-hued literary landscape. She has held and produced readings across the city in venues large and small and collaborated with a variety of cultural and social organizations such as The Seattle Symphony, Humanities Washington, El Centro de la Raza, Refugee Women’s Alliance, the Seattle Public Library, Seattle Art Museum and many others.

The public is invited to a reading with several of the contributing authors at Open Books Bookstore on June 28. Open Books A Poem Emporium: 2414 North 45th Street, Seattle, WA 98103

Food for thought: Live performance of Voices of a People’s History of the United States at Seattle City Hall on Inauguration Day

Inauguration day, Friday, January 20, 2017 12-1 p.m. (Bring your lunch)
Seattle City Hall: Berth Knight Landes Room 600 4th Ave, Seattle, WA 98104
RSVP here

Join us for a special live performance of Voices of a People’s History of the United States featuring readings by Bret Hamil, Marcus Green, Jarrell Davis, Claudia Castro Luna, Valerie Curtis Newton, Carlynne Newsome, Shontina Vernon and more.

Voices of a People’s History of the United States brings to life the extraordinary history of ordinary people who built the movements that made the United States what it is today, ending slavery and Jim Crow, protesting war and the genocide of Native Americans, creating unions and the eight-hour work day, advancing women’s rights and gay liberation, and struggling to right wrongs of the day. By giving public expression to rebels, dissenters, and visionaries from our past—and present—Voices seeks to educate and inspire a new generation working for social justice. This event is curated by Shontina Vernon and hosted by SALT (Seattle Arts Leadership team), a program of the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.

About Voices: VOICES is a non-profit arts, education and social justice organization active throughout the United States. It was founded in 2007 by a group of activists, artists and educators, led by historian Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove, who together edited the book Voices of a People’s History of the United States. VOICES came together as a result of enthusiastic audience response to occasional readings from the book Voices, held across the country starting in 2003, and to ongoing requests from readers and audiences for educational material and more performances. This evident hunger for a history in which ordinary people can participate and recognize themselves, their forbearers, their neighbors and their fellow workers, motivated the founding of VOICES.

Today VOICES employs live performances, as well as educational programs based on primary source materials, to illustrate the struggles that ended slavery and Jim Crow segregation, advanced women’s rights and gay liberation, created unions and the eight-hour work day, protested war and the genocide of Native Americans, and worked to right the wrongs of the day. Voices of a People’s History of the United States is an anthology edited by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove. First released in 2004 by Seven Stories Press, Voices is the primary source companion to Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

About 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.

The Poets Are In! Reading at the Central Library with Seattle Civic Poet Claudia Castro Luna and friends

 Saturday, April 23, 2016, 2 – 4 p.m.
Seattle Central Library, Level 1, Microsoft Auditorium


SEATTLE (April 19, 2016) — The Poets Are In! is an intergenerational reading featuring Seattle’s Civic Poet, Youth Poet Laureate and friends on Saturday, April 23 from 2 – 4 p.m. at the Seattle Central Library, Level 1, Microsoft Auditorium. Hear six poets share what it means to live, love and remember in the Emerald City. Civic Poet, Claudia Castro Luna, Youth Poet Laureate Leija Farr and Anastacia Rene’e Tolbert, Alan Chong Lau, and youth poets Maya Chinen and Max Taylor will share individual work and together create a poetic cartography of Seattle.

The reading celebrates National Poetry Month and marks the inaugural reading of The Poet Is In!, Claudia Castro Luna’s tenure as artist-in-residence at the Seattle Public Library. Castro Luna will lead month-long interactive poetic explorations in a number of branches inspired by the everyday life of a neighborhood. At least one branch in each quadrant of the city will host a session with the Civic Poet.

About the Poets:

Claudia Castro Luna, Seattle’s first Civic Poet was born in El Salvador. She has a MA in Urban Planning, a teaching certificate and an MFA in poetry from Mills College. She writes because the flesh remembers even when the mind forgets and moving the hand across a page is a measure of resistance. Her poems have appeared in Riverbabble, the Taos Journal of Poetry and Art and are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest and Dialogo. She is working on a memoir about her experience escaping the Salvadoran Civic War; an excerpt of which appears in the 2014 Jack Straw Writers Anthology.

Maya Chinen, a first-year student at Seattle University, is pursuing degrees in both Environmental Studies and Spanish. She grew up on south Beacon Hill and began her walk with the spoken-word in a classroom on First Hill. She continues her writing today through creative non-fiction and page-poetry.

The first ever Youth Poet Laureate in Seattle history, Leija Farr became serious with poetry after winning a spoken word contest as 12 years old with a poem on teens and drugs. Since then, she has grown mentally and physically through open mics across the city.

A poet and visual artist, Alan Chong Lau is the recipient of numerous awards, and his poems have been widely anthologized. He is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Blues and Greens: A Produce Worker’s Journal and no hurry. He serves as Arts Editor for the International Examiner.

Queer super-shero of color moonlighting as a writer, performance artist and creative writing workshop facilitator, Anastacia Rene’e Tolbert has received awards and fellowships from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, VONA, Jack Straw, Ragdale and Artist Trust. She was recently selected as the 2015-16 Writer-in-Residence at Hugo House, a place for writers in Seattle. Her chapbook 26 was published by Dancing Girl Press. Her poetry and fiction have been published in Literary Orphans, Bitterzoet, Radius Poetry, Seattle Review, Duende, Bone Bouquet, Dressing Room Poetry and many more.

Max Taylor is most often seen residing at his house in Wallingford or stroking his chin at the front row of an open mic. He is graduating this year as a senior at Roosevelt High School, but takes advantage of Washington’s Running Start program to take his classes at North Seattle College. He finds his passion in poetry and performance art and hopes to develop his writing wherever the future may take him.

Library events and programs are free and everyone is welcome. Registration is not required. This event will be recorded for future podcast.

*Central Library 206-386-4636 or Ask a Librarian

Space is limited at library events. Please come early to make sure you get a seat. Due to the fire code, we can’t exceed the maximum capacity for our rooms.

Invitation, by Claudia Castro Luna, Civic Poet

Read for Ampersand Live at Town Hall – November 12, 2015 


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
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