This post should come with a dateline: Seattle. This weekend I was lucky enough to go to my first reading at the legendary Elliott Bay Books. Four great poets—Zach Savich (KR’s own), Andy Stallings, Melanie Noel, and Sierra Nelson—read work you/they/we could describe as “new or choose,” celebrating the release of I Take Back the Sponge Cake, the lyrical choose-your-own adventure book (I think it’s safe to say “the”—I know of no other, do you?) that’s just out from Rose Metal Press. I Take Back the Sponge Cake is a fantastic collaboration between poet Sierra Nelson and visual artist Loren Erdrich. Each page offers a poem and an illustration, at the end of which the reader is offered a choice between two homonyms, definitions thereof borrowed from a 1900s spelling book (for instance: “Unable to be everywhere, the gods _____.” Your choices are hide, to conceal, or hied, hastened). Your choice determines which page you travel to next, and so you take your own path through the book. Sierra took us through one full adventure, beginning to end, with the audience voting by show of hands. She showed us each illustration “library style,” book face out to us, and how long has it been since anyone did that for you? A beautiful reading and a book you should all hunt down, one that can be celebrated anew each time. You can read selections right here on the Kenyon Review Online: begin here. (And some other peeks can be found here.)
Seattle’s literary offerings are too many for me to do justice to in one blog post on a borrowed wireless connection, but let’s also mention the heavenly Open Books: A Poem Emporium, which we were lucky enough to stay right around the corner from, and where a Saturday night reading could and did fill the whole bookstore. A beautiful place. Their offerings can also be explored online…
We also enjoyed a reading by four of the 2012 Jack Straw Writers. In this program, run by Seattle’s Jack Straw Productions, each year a curator selects 12 local writers, and the program “features voice and presentation training, in-studio interviews, public readings, a published anthology, and internet podcasts. All live readings are recorded, and selected portions are produced for podcasts and radio broadcast.” This too seemed a lovely collaboration, bringing writing into recorded media and providing training for writers to better perform their work out loud.