SoundPages

SoundPages is produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. This podcast features interviews and live readings from artists in the Jack Straw Writers Program. Each year a series of twelve episodes is produced featuring the current Jack Straw Writers and curator.
  • Michael Schmeltzer at Jack Straw

    Empathy - Michael Schmeltzer

    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.”

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

  • Leanne Dunic at Jack Straw

    Wet - Leanne Dunic

    Leanne 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.”

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

  • Christianne Balk at Jack Straw

    Suzanne - Christianne Balk

    2019 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.”

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

  • Samar Abulhassan reading at Jack Straw

    Lena – Samar Abulhassan

    2019 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?”

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

  • Rena Priest in the Jack Straw studio

    Oblique Sonnets - 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.”

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

  • Sylvia Byrne Pollack at Jack Straw

    Selves - Sylvia Byrne Pollack

    Sylvia 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.”

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

  • Shankar Narayan reading at Jack Straw

    Robo-Poet – Shankar Narayan

    Jack 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.”

    SoundPages was produced by Jack Straw Cultural Center as part of the Jack Straw Writers Program. Music by The Bird Tribe Orchestra, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

  • Dianne Aprile at Jack Straw

    Eenie - Dianne Aprile

    2019 Jack Straw writer Dianne Aprile spoke with curator Kathleen Flenniken about her memoir-in-progress on the story of her aunt’s long-held secret of rape and subsequent lobotomy. They discuss how Aprile’s background as a journalist helped her to uncover the truth of the story, the evolution of mental health, and where her aunt’s story fits into the #MeToo movement. “It began to make more sense to me, too, why she never wanted to tell and why nobody wanted to talk about it. It seemed just to be a part of what the society demanded at that time—There was no other way for her to deal with it.”

  • Home[sic] - Rachel Trignano

    Rachel Trignano’s project for the 2018 Jack Straw Writers Program is a collection of essays called Home[sic] that deals with family, memory, and the changing of truth over time. In her conversation with curator Daemond Arrindell, they discuss the intersections of storytelling, intimacy, and perspective. “You can have an intimacy and familiarity with your family and know them your entire life—I liken it [to] having your favorite mailman or something. . . . I’ve known you since I was x years old, I see you all the time, I enjoy you . . . I have no idea who you are.”

    Music by Amy Rubin and Dawn Clement, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

  • Daniel Atkinson at Jack Straw

    Beyond February – Daniel Atkinson

    Jack Straw Writer Daniel Atkinson’s contribution to the 2018 Jack Straw Writers Anthology, “To Know Your People Is to Know Yourself,” deals with the complicated interracial history of his Southern family. He spoke with curator Daemond Arrindell about George Walker, a founding father of the Harlem Renaissance; being “hired to ‘be diversity’ as opposed to ‘do diversity’”; and the Black history that goes beyond the month of February. “People, when they read what I write, they always say it’s got this anger to it . . . but . . . I am the Credible Hulk. I have matched my vocabulary with my rage. . . . Though it’s discomforting for you, that doesn’t make it wrong.”

    Music by Amy Rubin and Dawn Clement, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.