Arts & Culture

Tacoma’s poet laureate performs at Live at the Auricle, listens in the Laureate Listening Project

Tacoma’s poet laureate Lucas Smiraldo doesn’t just write poetry — he speaks it and listens to it. And in two projects happening this weekend, Smiraldo is offering Tacoma some brand new poetry interwoven with live music, and the chance to sit down and read the laureate our own poetry.

In this Friday’s Live at the Auricle show, Smiraldo collaborates with Tacoma Symphony bassoonist Elizabeth Paterson; in the Laureate Listening Project on Saturday, he’ll record local poetry for an online city map of spoken word.

“I wanted to create a home for spoken word fused with other art forms,” says Smiraldo of the Live at the Auricle series of events held on fourth Fridays at the downtown B Sharp Coffee House. Now nearly a year old, the monthly reading night involves more than just poetry: October’s event featured poetry by William Kupinse set to music for soprano and digital track by Greg Youtz, and the December event will see dancer Francesca Berry choreographing to spoken word.

“I found that with purely open mics, it’s hard to maintain (the audience) over time — people keep hearing the same thing,” Smiraldo explains. “I wanted to create an original piece of performance art every month over two sets so that people would never hear the same thing twice.”

For this month’s Black Friday edition of the Auricle — so named for the pun on “aural” and “oracle” — Smiraldo approached Paterson, whom he knew from attending the Center for Spiritual Living. She came up with an eclectic selection of bassoon music, both original and transcribed, and Smiraldo sat down and listened, coming up with both writing of his own and works from classic literature inspired by music by Joplin, Gounod, Vaughan Williams, Bach and Alvin Etler.

The first set, “Nine Epitaphs and One Funeral,” is Smiraldo’s own work, a pun on “Black Friday” that offers nine poetical, theoretical farewells to Smiraldo’s own life.

“It’s an invitation to look at our own life and see it in a multidimensional way,” he says.

The second set includes excerpts from “The Crucible,” “The Invisible Man,” “Fahrenheit 451” and more. An open mic will follow each set.

Then on Saturday, Smiraldo will continue the Laureate Listening Project, which he began a few months ago to gather local poetry with a sense of place. Anyone can contribute. After listening, he’ll record the poetry, and gather the poems onto an online map of Tacoma with flags at each poem’s location that pop up with a photo of the poet, the audio file and GPS coordinates.

Smiraldo is looking for diversity of voices and people, and says poems can be about anything as long as they convey a sense of place — particularly Tacoma.

“They can be as intimate as your kitchen or as broad as Commencement Bay,” says Smiraldo, who has about 20 poems already recorded. “It’s all over the map, and that’s where I want it to be.”

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