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State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna joins SCC for a virtual visit

Claudia Castro Luna  (Timothy Aguero)
Claudia Castro Luna (Timothy Aguero)

Spokane Community College’s Hagan Center for the Humanities will host a virtual visit with Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna on Wednesday.

The visit is open to the public and will be livestreamed on SCC’s YouTube channel at 6:30 p.m. An additional session Wednesday morning will include only SCC students and faculty.

The primary goal of the event, SCC Dean of Arts & Sciences and event organizer Gwendolyn Cash-James said, will be “to bring people together as our state’s poet laureate, Claudia Castro Luna, builds awareness and appreciation of poetry.”

Castro Luna is expected to read from her works and discuss her role as poet laureate, specifically with reference to her diverse background and “the intersection of her lived experience and her writing.”

A secondary goal, Cash-James said, is to further the Hagan Center’s mission to remove “equity gaps in achievement and success” within the student body and the community at-large by providing them with more opportunities to hear from diverse voices in the humanities.

After fleeing war-torn El Salvador for the United States at age 14 with her family in 1981, Castro Luna went on to earn an MFA in poetry and an M.A. in urban planning, then worked as a K-12 teacher.

Castro Luna was appointed state poet laureate in 2018 and will hold the position through 2021. She is the first immigrant to be appointed Washington State poet laureate as well as the first person of color and whose first language is not English.

Castro Luna has authored several books, including “Killing Marías” which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and shortlisted for the Washington State 2018 Book Award in poetry. Luna’s most recent work, “One River, a Thousand Voices,” was released in September.

This collection celebrates the Columbia River and the Native people who “for millennia have lived along its banks, and at this historical juncture with climate change, it is a call to consider our personal role as stewards of the natural world,” Castro Luna’s website reads.

From 2015 to 2017, Castro Luna served as Seattle’s first civic poet, a position appointed by the mayor. In that role, Castro Luna received praise for her “Seattle Poetic Grid,” an online interactive map showcasing different locations around the city through poetry.

A similar project, “Washington Poetic Routes,” will expand this grid to include the rest of the state. The poet laureate is sponsored by Humanities Washington and the Washington State Arts Commission/ArtsWA, with the support of Gov. Jay Inslee. For information, visit wapoetlaureate.org.

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