Seattle: A Night of Poems and Music

Saturday, October 5, at 8 p.m., Copper Canyon (a non-profit poetry press) and the Bushwick Book Club Seattle are teaming up for an evening of music and poetry as part of October’s Arts Crush.

The event will be held at Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave., and will feature love poems from a variety of Copper Canyon poets set to music by a host of local musicians. A full list of artists, plus a link to RSVP (as space is limited), are available at the Arts Crush website.

Coldfront interviewed Elaina Ellis at Copper Canyon and Geoff Larson at the Bushwick Book Club to for a little background on how the event came together.

ELAINA ELLIS: Sometimes I can’t believe how dreamy the literary landscape is here. I think that’s why Mark Bibbins’ great line “I want more city to kiss you in” came to mind as a title for the event.  At Copper Canyon we’re lucky enough to have close relationships with some of the region’s greatest advocates for poetry—Seattle Arts and Lectures, Richard Hugo House, Elliot Bay Book Company and Open Books—and Seattle has been like a second home for the press for decades. Our community engagement initiative was launched in 2012, and that means a deeper involvement in the Seattle arts community.

GEOFF LARSON: This program came to together when Elaina Ellis contacted me in hopes of collaborating on the event with Copper Canyon Press. She was a poet we worked with a couple years ago for our first poetry inspired event at Hugo House. That performance lived far beyond my expectations, and got me excited to work with more local authors.

EE: I’ve long been a fan of the Bushwick Book Club, and at Copper Canyon we are always interested in exploring collaborations with organizations in other disciplines that are willing to share their spotlight with poetry. I approached Geoff, and we approached ArtsCrush together. Geoff curated the lineup of singer/songwriters, I curated the list of poems, and it unfolded from there.

GL: We wanted to work with the Arts Crush Festival, and this proved to be a perfect teaming of two different art forms (Bushwick is also working with Bookit Repertory Theatre as apart of the festival). Theatre Puget Sound has an awesome event going with Arts Crush, and we are honored to be working with them for two separate events.

EE: The best case scenario with a collaboration like this is that we get a room that’s comprised of something like 1/3 poetry nerds, 1/3 music fans and 1/3 people who are motivated by an appetite for something new. In this case, ArtsCrush is also a sponsor, so we have folks who are cruising their calendar just searching for a great, weird arts event to attend on a Saturday night. We want all of these audiences shoulder to shoulder with each other. At Copper Canyon we adore those who already read poetry and we want to be as welcoming as possible to those who are new to their exploration of the genre.

GL: One of Bushwick’s main goals is to inspire our audience to read the written word. But not only the audience—we want musicians to read and to be inspired to write music from outside their own experiences. Or to tie that source material to their own lives. All we ask the musicians to do is to read the source material and create from that reading experience.

I cannot say exactly how the musicians will approach writing music inspired by the poetry. I know some will be setting the poems to music, and some will be creating their own original songs inspired by the poems. I try putting myself in the dark on the performances so I don’t influence the artists themselves.  I select performers I trust to create something great for our audience.

EE: The event features love poems written by Brenda Shaughnessy, Mark Bibbins, Deborah Landau, Valzhyna Mort, Natalie Diaz, Bob Hicok, Dean Young and Matthew Zapruder. These eight poets live in New York, Arizona, Virginia, Texas and California, when they’re not touring or teaching elsewhere. While none of them can be at the event in the flesh, one or two may make an appearance by video to read their own poems. The poets all know about the project and are excited; some, including Natalie Diaz and Valzhyna Mort, were in touch with the Bushwick musicians to give creative input as these songs took shape. All of their books will be for sale at the event, so while you might not see their faces, after you’ve swooned about their poems you will have the opportunity to take them home with you.

GL: There is power behind having only words, and there is power behind teaming words with music. We will be recording both audio and visual. We want to give the musicians and poets something to show their audience!


–Bill Carty