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Tacoma's Poet Laureate Unveils Interactive Poetry Map Of The City

Ashley Gross
Tacoma's poet laureate, Lucas Smiraldo

When Lucas Smiraldo became Tacoma’s poet laureate two years ago, he had the spark of an idea. He wanted to get the people around him writing their own pieces and then share them through an interactive map.

Now it’s ready

Click on one poem, and you hear Connie Walle remembering a much more rural Tacoma:

Back then, filled with fear of disappearing into the hay forever, and that adrenaline of the joy of jumping free, we swan-dived into the newly cut hay.

Click on another and you hear Jeremy Silas:

Memories dance, rewinding the brake, flashbacks and canvas stacks, morning chants, awake.

Silas is talking about life as an artist in a studio apartment near Tacoma’s Stadium High School.

The effect is something intimate – a way to see Tacoma through the experiences of other people. Above all, poet laureate Lucas Smiraldo wanted it to be inclusive. He has more than 55 pieces in the project.

`Not For A Rarefied Few'

"Poetry is not for a rarefied few, but is the domain of all," Smiraldo said. 

He sees the poetry map almost as a time capsule.

"The Laureate Listening Project is now a part of Tacoma’s oral history, what was happening in 2014 at that moment in time from the perspective of all these multiple voices," he said. 

Some of the poems are celebratory, some are critical.

Kellie Richardson pays tribute to the grit of the Hilltop neighborhood. She explores her love for the place through the cracks in the sidewalk:

These sidewalks don’t lie. ‘Cause they don’t have to, baby.

And David Fewster gives us a tour of Tacoma through the eyes of a homeless person looking for something to eat:

Hot dinner at Rescue Mission at 5:30. Liver, tater tots, beans, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and unidentified meat chunks.

Smiraldo says he wants to continue the project even though his time as the city’s poet laureate is coming to an end. For more information on how to participate, contact Smiraldo directly

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.