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Putsata ReangPutsata Reang’s project for the 2019 Jack Straw Writers Program is a memoir that chronicles her life growing up in rural Oregon and her family’s journey escaping the war and genocide in Cambodia. In her conversation with curator Kathleen Flenniken, they discuss the difficulty of writing a memoir involving people who are living, displacement in its many forms, and Reang’s mother’s love of the television show Survivor. “Growing up, I didn’t really understand why, of all the TV shows, she loved this show so much. . . . I thought, you know, Mom’s, just, being crazy. Well, after I heard the story of how we escaped Cambodia and survived — Actually, I do think she can win.”

Putsata is a Cambodian-American memoirist and journalist. She has lived and worked globally in countries including Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Thailand, where she trained journalists in investigative reporting and advocated for freedom of expression. She is an alum of Hedgebrook and Mineral School residencies, and currently serves as an alum board member of the Mineral School Artist Residency. Her memoir, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in Spring 2020, explores themes of debt, duty, and the double displacement experienced by gay refugees.

SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at www.jackstraw.org. Music by The Bird Tribe Orchestra, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

2019 Gabrielle BatesJack Straw writer Gabrielle Bates spoke with curator Kathleen Flenniken about her collection of poems about growing up in the South. In their conversation, they discuss her array of projects, including a poetry comic collection, surrealism in her writing, and finding patience during a project.  “I keep going back, lately, to this great quote in Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, wherein he talks about being an artist isn’t ‘about the day’ . . . It’s about ‘ripening like a tree’ and ‘letting the sap come as it will’ and trusting that ‘the seasons will change.'”

Gabrielle works for Open Books: A Poem Emporium, cohosts the Poet Salon podcast, and edits for Poetry Northwest, Broadsided Press, and Bull City Press. Her poems and poetry comics have appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, and New England Review, among other journals. She is originally from Birmingham, Alabama.

SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at www.jackstraw.org.

Josh AxelradJosh Axelrad began his storytelling career on The Moth, and his Jack Straw project is a collection of short stories meant to live in the world of prose rather than performance. In his conversation with curator Kathleen Flenniken, they discuss his circuitous path to becoming a writer, the way we present our lives online, and testing new work in front of a live audience. “The audience really doesn’t lie to you. If there’s something there, they’re going to be with you . . . And if there’s not or if what you’re saying doesn’t seem true emotionally, you’re going to feel it physically.”

Josh is a writer and performer from Seattle via New York via L.A. via Hays, Kansas. His memoir, Repeat Until Rich, was published by Penguin Press. A regular at The Moth, he’s hosted StorySlams, appeared on stage nationwide, and been featured on The Moth Radio Hour.

SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at www.jackstraw.org.

Jack Straw Writer Michael Schmeltzer spoke with curator Kathleen Flenniken about his poems that explore the line between good and bad, and his own history as a biracial Japanese-American man. In their conversation, they discuss the juxtaposition of tenderness and atrocities, the conflicting narratives about the Japanese during war, and the value of empathy and compassion. “You can stand up for what is right and you can fight for justice and equality and all these things that are very much needed — but if you do that at the cost of your own humanity, whatever you were fighting for is lost.”

Michael was born and raised in Japan. He is the co-author of the nonfiction book A Single Throat Opens, a lyric exploration of addiction and family. His debut book Blood Song was a Washington State Book Award Finalist for Poetry. He is a member of Seattle7Writers and currently serves as the President of Floating Bridge Press.

SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at www.jackstraw.org.

Music by The Bird Tribe Orchestra, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

Wet – Leanne Dunic

Leanne DunicLeanne Dunic’s project for the 2019 Jack Straw Writers Program is a book of lyric pose called Wet that takes place in Singapore, inspired by the thick haze of forest fires during a writing residency. In her conversation with curator Kathleen Flenniken, they discuss rolling with the punches, the influence of nature, and the overlap between Wet and songwriting for Dunic’s band Deep Cove. “I guess, if I have some themes in my head and . . . some sort of topic I want to write about, I will write about it in all the ways I can write about it — So, songs or poetry or fiction or nonfiction.”

Leanne is a multidisciplinary artist, musician, and writer. Her work has won several honors, including the Ema Saiko Poetry Fellowship and Alice Munro Short Story Award. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Leanne is the Artistic Director of the Powell Street Festival Society and is the singer/guitarist of The Deep Cove. To Love the Coming End is her first book, and was named one of the best poetry books of 2017 by Entropy Magazine.

SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at www.jackstraw.org.

Music by The Bird Tribe Orchestra, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

Christianne Balk2019 Jack Straw writer Christianne Balk spoke with curator Kathleen Flenniken about her series of poems of early 20th century voices inspired by her grandmother’s life as a young nurse serving in France during WWI. They discuss the importance of research in her writing, her background as a biology major, and inspiration taken from naturalists like John Muir. “I said, ‘You know, I don’t want to write papers. I want to enter these people’s lives and write poems.’ . . . And, so, I just started writing . . . inspired by their writings, and touching, perhaps, on things they never touched on in their writings but were autobiographical or emotional journeys that they took.”

Christianne Balk grew up in upstate New York, studied biology and art at Grinnell College, English and writing at the University of Iowa, taught at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and now lives in Seattle. Her poems have appeared in Cirque, Poemoftheweek.org, Women Writing Nature, Floating Bridge Review, Nimrod, Terrain, and other publications. Christianne loves gardening, the Anglo-Saxon rhythms of everyday street talk, and open water swimming. Her most recent book is The Holding Hours (University of Washington Press Pacific Northwest Poetry Series).

SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at www.jackstraw.org.

Music by The Bird Tribe Orchestra, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

Samar Abulhassan2019 Jack Straw Writer Samar Abulhassan’s poetry project unites several different bodies of work: in particular, a project called “Lena,” set near bodies of water. In her conversation with curator Kathleen Flenniken, they discuss the relationship between writing and listening, writing and movement, and the parts of our identity that sometimes stay hidden in the background. “How do we open up space for the parts that we send away or are just too way deep for us to even know that they are missing?”

Samar holds an M.F.A. from Colorado State University and has worked as a teaching artist for ten years, for Seattle Arts and Lectures’ WITS Program, Jack Straw, and the Skagit River Poetry Foundation. Born to Lebanese immigrants and raised with multiple languages, she is a 2006 Hedgebrook alum and the author of multiple chapbooks, including Farah and Nocturnal Temple. She received a 2016 CityArtist grant to complete a novel-in-poems, reflecting on memory, longing, and the Arabic alphabet, ignited while exploring Pike Place Market and Seattle’s waterfront.

SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at www.jackstraw.org.

Music by The Bird Tribe Orchestra, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

Rena Priest Jack Straw writer Rena Priest spoke with curator Kathleen Flenniken about her poetry project Sublime Subliminal, inspired by Jim Simmerman’s “20 Little Poetry Projects.” They discuss the richness of languages, where poems start, and expectations of identity. “In a way, language, using it for poetry or powerful prose that changes a person’s mind or changes a person’s relationship to the world, is like a type of magic.”

Rena Priest is a writer and Lummi tribal member. Her debut book, Patriarchy Blues, was released on MoonPath Press and garnered an American Book Award. Her most recent collection, Sublime Subliminal, was published by Floating Bridge Press in 2018. She has attended residencies at Mineral School, Underwater New York/Works on Water on Governors Island, and Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers. She is the recipient of a 2018 National Geographic Explorers Grant, and has taught various topics in writing, storytelling, and literature.

SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at www.jackstraw.org.

Music by The Bird Tribe Orchestra, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

Sylvia Byrne PollackSylvia Byrne Pollack’s project for the 2019 Jack Straw Writers Program is a collection of prose poems written from the perspective of two fictional characters who deal with disability and mental illness. In her conversation with curator Kathleen Flenniken, they discuss Sylvia’s history as a scientist, her return to writing, and personification as a tool to grapple with one’s own struggles. “It’s been clear that if I want to be of service, one way I can do that is to use my poetry to talk about these issues and to, hopefully, pull back the curtain for other people so that they can see what it might be like to experience some of these things.”

Sylviahas a collection of soubriquets acquired over the decades, including professor, cancer researcher, mental health counselor, lesbian, Jew, flutist, world traveler.  Among her favorites are Mom, Nana, wife, poet. Her poems have appeared in Floating Bridge Review, Crab Creek Review, Clover, and Antiphon as well as other print and online journals. A two-time Pushcart nominee, she won the 2013 Mason’s Road Winter Literary Award and was a medalist for the 2014 inaugural Russell Prize. In 2018, her chapbook manuscript Overheard: The Deaf Woman Poems was a finalist for the Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize and received Honorable Mention for the Charlotte Mew Chapbook Contest.

SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at www.jackstraw.org.

Music by The Bird Tribe Orchestra, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

Shankar NarayanJack Straw Writer Shankar Narayan’s manuscript “Circuit Breaker” grapples with the impact of technology on society and the body. In his conversation with 2019 Writers Program curator Kathleen Flenniken, they explore themes of bias in technology, how his writing is influenced by with his work as a lawyer for the ACLU, and the intersection of artificial intelligence and humanity. “Every technology is a set of assumptions of the builders, right? And there are always winners and losers when a given technology is rolled out into the world . . . a lot of what I’m doing is surfacing assumptions about who’s impacted and who’s not impacted and making these connections among the rollouts of technology.”

Shankar explores identity, power, mythology, and technology in a world where the body is flung across borders yet possesses unrivaled power to transcend them. Shankar is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, winner of the 2017 Flyway Sweet Corn Poetry Prize, and has been a fellow at Kundiman, Hugo House, and now Jack Straw. He is a 4Culture grant recipient for Claiming Space, a project to lift the voices of writers of color, and his chapbook, Postcards from the New World, won the Paper Nautilus Debut Series chapbook prize. Shankar draws strength from his global upbringing and from his work as a civil rights attorney for the ACLU. In Seattle, he awakens to the wonders of Cascadia every day, but his heart yearns east to his other hometown, Delhi.

SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. All of the writers heard in this series are published in the Jack Straw Writers Anthology, and featured online at www.jackstraw.org.

Music by The Bird Tribe Orchestra, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

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