Arts & Culture

Tacoma poet laureate Lucas Smiraldo launches the “Laureate Listening Project”

Tacoma poet laureates have done plenty to encourage local poetry since the biannual position was created in 2008. But current poet laureate Lucas Smiraldo has created something new for the region: an interactive online audio anthology of local poetry centered on the theme “spirit of place.”

Smiraldo, whose term as laureate extends to 2015, is a spoken-word poet who performs locally as Vanilla Soul and has collaborated with dancers, writers, musicians and others. In the “Laureate Listening Project,” he’ll work with nonprofit and cultural organizations to encourage people to share their poetry about Tacoma. After editing the audio recordings, Smiraldo will pair them with soundscapes and music created by local artists before putting them on a website that will allow users to place the poetry in context and search by location.

“I was thinking about how, through the Internet, we could invite new voices to contribute to the spoken-word community,” says Smiraldo, who was inspired to do the project by an Internet choir he’d heard about in a TED talk. “Mostly anthologies are written, but it’s equally exciting and valid to have a spoken one.”

Among the voices Smiraldo has already recorded are those of local young people telling their stories, which he will use in his role as artist in residence at the Race and Pedagogy National Conference held in September at the University of Puget Sound.

The project is funded by a Spark micro-grant from the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation; the map is made possible by the city of Tacoma.

From the press release: “Poets and other artists will function as creative journalists to document ideas, challenges and solutions to address the topic of education in a dynamic and changing America.”

To share a short spoken poem with the “Laureate Listening Project,” contact Smiraldo at vanillasoul@clear.net. For more information about the laureateship, see tacomaculture.org.

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