UNSPOKEN NW is a video collection of poetry readings, from poets residing in the Northwest region. They are shown reading their works in places important to them, and/or their work within the city they live in. This project is meant to allow the viewer to experience the landscapes of the region, both urban and natural, in a unique way. One's environment has a profound impact on who they are, and these readings demonstrate and document the power of place. These videos not only show the powerful impact spoken performance can have, and the accessibility of such expression, but also serves to showcase the talent of both amateur and acclaimed writers present in the region.
We met with James in his home in East Portland, right off of Burnside Street, and we walked from there to Laurelhusrt park where the video was shot. James was perfect for this project because a lot of his work is actually place based, like the piece we see him reading here; the poem having be written in the spot from which he reads. It was this correlation between content and environment that made for some perfect synchronicities, which were much more than mere coincidence. James Yeary is a member of the Spare Room reading series and the artist/writer collective 13 Hats, and publishes a newsletter of varying frequency and name. He also publishes chapbooks and poetry ephemera under the name c_L. With Nate Orton (and sometimes others), and he has collaborated on the My Day series.
My Day is a place-based "plein-aire zine" that has taken me and Nate in for durational sessions of karaoke, walks across suburbs, and days on, under and around bridges. My Day is also an occasional workshop for place-based art and writing, under the auspices of the Multnomah Art Center. I also works in cocktails.
— James Yeary
In the comfort of her room, A.M. O'Malley reads her piece, Everything Cannot Be Terrific. The personal nature of A.M.'s writing, her honest voice in reading, and the intimate nature of the space came together in a perfect way. As A.M. read, and I stood behind the camera, I felt as though I had known her for years, even though we had just met. A.M. O'Malley is the Program Director at the Independent Publishing Resource Center (www.iprc.org), she teaches creative writing and zine making and is working on a manuscript with the working title Tiny Bones. Read more of her work at www.swiftsparrowswallow.com
In this double feature of sorts, Willie Smith recites his poem Your Dog, and reads part of his short story Basement Scholiast from his current anthology Nothing Doing (2012, Honest Publishing). When I arrived outside of Willie's house in Seattle's North Beacon Hill neighborhood, I knew I had found the right place, the curious unique home being a perfect fit for the friendly eccentric character I had been in correspondance with. My friend who was helping with sound and I were welcomed in to coffee and conversation with the poet and his partner Susan before heading up to his writing room, the walls of which are plastered collage style with various forms of refuse he has collected from Seattle's streets. With over twenty plus years of found materials on the walls, and the collection still growing, I couldn't help but feel I had entered a sort of living history of Seattle's litter.
I do not read like most readers; I try to read from inside the words, letting them tell me what rhythm and emotion to put into my delivery; I am not an actor but rather let the words act on me; I am not a reciter, but I feel something is reciting through me when I read. People say I am entertaining when I read, sometimes they mean this as a compliment, sometimes as an insult; I think it's an accurate description and I must say, when I am on and reading well, I entertain myself immensely; I guess that's my acid test: when I am entertaining myself, then I am reading well. Everything I do in writing, and perhaps also in the rest of my life, is an effort to entertain myself; nothing more, nothing less.
— Willie Smith
Alison Cooper grew up living just on the other side of this playground, in Ferndale, Washington, only a couple of exits North of Bellingham, Washington, where she now resides. The concepts she addresses in the piece she reads here, are ones which were far from her consideration when she came to this formative spot as a child; topics ranging from women's reproductive rights to the military industrial complex present in the United States.
In this video Nico Vassilakis reads his piece WHAT SEATTLE in various locations in West Seattle and the South Industrial District, an area also referred to as SoDo (South of Dome, referring to the no longer standing King Dome). The video opens with Nico reading just outside of the Fantographics Books warehouse where he works. Inside of the warehouse, we see Nico in his typical work environment, a quiet more personal environment, contrasting the noisy industrial world outside of the warehouse. The video continues its move from industrial and racketous into a more calming soothing environment, ending in West Seattle along Alki Beach, the sound of the waves providing a backing for Nico's reading. WHAT SEATTLE can be found in Disparate Magnets (2009, Blazevox Books)
Nico Vassilakis works with both textual and visual alphabet. Recent books include Staring @ Poetics (Xexoxial Editions, 2011), West of Dodge (redfoxpress, 2010), Protracted Type (Blue Lion Books, 2009), staReduction (Book Thug, 2008), and Text Loses Time (Many Penny Press, 2007). His Vispo videos have been shown at festivals and exhibits of innovative language art. He was a founding member of the Subtext Collective. Nico, along with Crag Hill, edited THE LAST VISPO: A Visual Poetry Anthology 1998 - 2008 forthcoming from Fantagraphics Books (Fall 2012). Samples of Nico's work can seen at staringpoetics.weebly.com
— Nico Vassilakis
Samantha doesn't feel that she has particularly strong ties to any location in Olympia, but thought that this spot would be a good fit for this project. The area seen is part of a walking/bike path which runs from the Evergreen State College for several miles and then loops around McClane Elementary school, where during the spring the path is lined with daffodils.
I was born and raised in New York for 9 years but associate my roots and creative growth with my time spent in Cleveland, Ohio. I am a 21 year old student currently studying creative writing and 20th century French literature at The Evergreen State College while working as the communications coordinator on KAOS Radio's Cross Cultural Poetics with Leonard Schwartz. I find most of my inspiration through baked goods, sex, prolepsis, and drinking too much wine.
— Samantha Siciliano
Karen's piece is read in the middle of downtown Spokane, in Riverfront Park. She works as the director of the Spokane Arts Commission, and her office is located very near the park. Her piece is about getting lost on the way to a friend's party, and the poem itself is actually a letter to the friend who threw the party.
Who am I? I am both a poet and visual artist. I write regularly, read at community events and participate in the life of the community. I'd like to say that I am diligently working on a manuscript for submission. Mostly I work at the Arts Commission and I mess around the edges of the creative processes that I love.
— Karen Mobley
While the sun set on Padden Lake, Robert sat looking out onto the lake and trees beyond, and read his poem Blues for Big Mama. By the time he had finished this moving piece, the sun had almost finished setting, and we found ourselves left speechless in the twilight.
A semi finalist for the PEN/Rosenthal fellowship, Robert lashley often performs at Northwest spoken word venues and has helped Bellingham, where he lives, develop one of the nation's finest poetry slam scenes. He has had poems published in such Journals as Feminete, No Regrets, and Your Hands, Your Mouth. His poetry was also featured in 'Many Trails To The Summit', an anthology of Northwest form and Lyric poetry. His full length book, Songs My City Taught Me, was published by Radical Lunchbox Press in 2009.
Braden Smith (who also worked as a boom operator, and assistant DP for about half of the videos included in the Unspoken NW project) is shown reading a poem about the city he grew up in, reading different sections of the piece in several locations he spent valuable time at during different stages in his life.
My name is Braden Smith and I only dabble in poetry occasionally. I have never read in public or been recorded reading until now. Thus begins my ascent to poet stardom! Eckh. I grew up in Spokane, Washington. It's a pretty conflicted town culturally, economically, politically, etc. and it has raised me to be a pretty damn conflicted person. So if my emotional vomitry of a poem sounds conflicted, that's why. It's a purely personal piece, but maybe some other crazy person out there can relate to it. The locations are all in the Spokane area and signify different periods of my life. I have fond memories of time spent with friends and thinking alone at each place. I wrote this piece specifically for this project, Unspoken Northwest, as it gave me an excuse to reflect on the impact Spokane has had on me. I'm not currently involved with anything poetical or really much else for that matter. If you want me to write a poem for you I would be happy to do so.
— Braden Smith
Travis Naught spent many years working on the Eastern Washington University basketball court, helping to manage the team. Travis can be seen here reading his poem on the very court which he used to work. The poem he chose to read is part of his recently published The Virgin Journals.
— Travis Naught
I am a 28 year-old poet that lives in Cheney (15 minutes from downtown Spokane). My book The Virgin Journals was just released by ASD Publishing in March and I have been fairly active the last six months in the Spokane poetry scene.
— Travis Naught
Nicki is an active participant in Broken Mic, a weekly open mic poetry event held every Wednesday night at Neato Burrito/ the Baby Bar. Her read takes place atop what remains of an old bridge which used to connect West Central Spokane to the upper Browne's Addition neighborhood. This spot, several blocks away from her home, now serves best as a viewpoint or for being used to display graffiti.
Kathleen spent a lot of time at the location, which she sees as an example of an "edge-scape", a place where environments of different natures meet. The spot has a surprising abundance of plant and animal wildlife for how close it is to downtown Olympia. With The 4th avenue bridge in the background, the tracks followed to get the spot, and the teaming invasive species of plant in the location, it is easy to see man's effect on the spot, but what Kathleen finds interesting about the spot is its balance between the man-made and the natural in the location.
I chose to read this poem where the inlet meets the city, where abandoned train tracks have been overgrown with invasive plants, and where heron come to stalk. I’m interested in poetry as a way to experience edges, the edge where our inner lives meet the world, and the edge where our humanness meets the liveliness of other beings on our planet. I want poetry to be part of our common, shared experience. I believe we all have, by our natures, a poetic impulse. I teach poetry at South Puget Sound Community College and I like to share my poems with friends at Olympia Poetry Network and with my writing and visual art comrades Team Awesome. If you come to look for poetry in Olympia, you will find it.
— Kathleen Byrd
Allen Duffy & Chris Dreyer read their collaborative work, Cod Piece, on a set of stairs which connect the neighborhoods of Browne's Edition and Peaceful Valley.
We have a typewriter with an unending spool of fax paper in our living room. We sit down from time to time to masturbate our brains. One time we tried to read it on some stairs. Luckily there was a filmmaker there for documentation.
— Chris Dreyer
Augustine is presently at the age of 24. From L.A., She currently resides in Bellingham, Washington, where she is very active in the local arts community. She creates artwork in many mediums, some of which can be seen during this reading of her poem Night, Night, My Moon, shot inside of her personal studio.
Night, Night, My Moon was born vespertine, as a lullaby it came to me in a place where I was witnessing turning water, waters and nights that turned in on themselves that opened into a place that can only be reached by means the milky way, it is a vision of what lives outside of frames, what one senses by means of intuition and through fable. I chose to read it in my art studio, inside the cove and womb where a lot of processes began at that particular time in my life. Beyond the ambiance and stature of my studio's wooden frame, it was to create the closeness and represent the affinity that I feel with/for Night, Night, My moon.
— Augustine Magdalene
Tim and I adventured through downtown Spokane, shooting in various alley ways, hotels, and landmarks. After shooting downtown, we went back to his home and recorded his reading in his kitchen, and I wound up finding this reading to be the best way to display Tim's work.
I was born and raised in Spokane, WA. I've lived in Spokane all my life. When I was a kid I used to go on road trips with my father to California. A lot of these trips he would drive straight down non-stop to different parts of the Bay Area. As I became older I started reading about other travelers and also writers who lived on the road. Right now as I write this I am in Austin, TX, I just got finished driving over 3,000 miles through California, Arizona, and New Mexico among other places. My solar panel on my car is working good again along with the motor I fixed last night. The 1989 Isuzu Trooper I got for free 6 years ago and resurrected from the dead I officially named 'Electric Prune Blue' after driving through Oregon because it cheers me up.
— Tim Moore