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.
  • Isotopia – Ellie Belew

    2017 Jack Straw Writer Ellie Belew’s mytho-historic novel, Isotopia, examines the intersection of science, one’s sense of place, and the personal life of a female physicist working on the Manhattan Project.  In her interview with Jourdan Imani Keith, Ellie discusses Post-WWII America, the emergence of the modern woman, and the ways in which these themes are echoing in modern times. “To me, the way that stories work . . . is that they can give you kind of a double-vision. You can see the thing that went on in the story and it makes you see what’s going on with you and around you differently.”

    Music by the Steve Griggs Ensemble, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

  • Erasure - Quenton Baker

    Quenton Baker’s project for the 2017 Jack Straw Writers Program was to write a series of erasure poems, exploring the omission of certain events and narratives of enslaved people in the United States. In his conversation with curator Jordan Imani Keith, Quenton talks about the slave revolt of 1841, his process for creating this kind of poetry, how his work speaks to people in these current times, and offers some advice to other writers navigating difficult material. “There’s a desire to do it all, to do as much as you can, to get it all out of you as fast as you can, but I would say that taking a break, letting the field lie fallow is part of the process.”

    Music by the Steve Griggs Ensemble, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

  • Love - Wancy Young Cho

    In 2017 Jack Straw Writer Wancy Young Cho’s piece “The Men on the Hill”–from his collection in progress tentatively titled Let’s Pretend We Don’t Know Each Other–a man describes his romantic encounters with a series of men who move in and out of his housing complex.  Though his work is fiction, the bulk of his writing is autobiographical and draws on the theme of love and its many forms.  When he sat down with curator Jourdan Imani Keith, they discussed the intersections of race and sexual orientation and how those influence our ideas of what love looks like. “I think a lot of factors play into it: being Asian–being Korean–and then being gay and then sort of being an outsider even within these outsider communities, so there’s tangents of love, like the sense of belonging and not belonging . . . I think that’s at the core of each story.”

    Music by the Steve Griggs Ensemble, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

  • Tenderloin - Calvin Gimpelevich

    Calvin Gimpelevich’s piece in the 2017 Jack Straw Writers Anthology is an excerpt from his novel Tenderloin, set in an alternate reality present-day San Francisco, tracing the intersections of various movements and communities through the 1970s. His conversation with curator Jourdan Imani Keith covers his love of history, using writing as a tool to build empathy, and the way that his personal transitions informed his journey as a writer. “Events and people are very complicated . . . and the best thing is to probably have as much compassion for people as possible without letting them bulldoze you or other people–which, you know, you could put on a pillow and embroider it.”

    Music by the Steve Griggs Ensemble, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

  • Shoes - Catalina Marie Cantú

    2017 Jack Straw Writer Catalina Marie Cantú has been working a on a series of short creative non-fiction stories as a way to speak to young women about feeling okay with who they are in a Photoshop world. Her conversation with curator Jourdan Imani Keith covers bullying, the influence of teachers, and the ubiquity of “Buster Browns,” the title of her piece in the 2017 Jack Straw Writer’s Anthology. “We have to build bridges with each other in order to move forward in this day and age, despite the political rhetoric that would have us do otherwise.”

    Music by the Steve Griggs Ensemble, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

  • Divination – afrose fatima ahmed

    After a series of personal transitions, 2017 Jack Straw Writer afrose fatima ahmed went from “running around and achieving” to spending a year and a half on the Olympic Peninsula to be with herself in nature.  Her collection of poems blood gold and honey, which grew out of poetry commissions at farmer’s markets and festivals, has become an intricate tarot deck with accompanying rituals. When she sat down with curator Jourdan Imani Keith, they discussed the idea of poetic divination being a tool to reach into your subconscious and experiencing connection and reflection through the work.  “If somebody buys the deck and chooses to use it as a tarot deck, or to pull a card for inspiration or contemplation . . . they’re continuing to create the story of each poem. They’ll be embodying it, and the meaning that they draw from it will be theirs.”

    Music by the Steve Griggs Ensemble, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

  • Pilgrim - D.A. Navoti

    2017 Jack Straw Writer D.A. Navoti describes his piece “One Pima Pilgrim” as a love-letter/goodbye letter to the Gila River Indian Community outside of Phoenix, AZ, in the Sonoran Desert. In the 2017 Jack Straw Writers Anthology, Dan explores the beauty of the landscape and what it feels like to be an outsider in his own community. His conversation with Jourdan Imani Keith ranges from being inspired to create a version of Walden with an atheist perspective to Dorian Gray as a window into literary possibilities. “You’re born on the motherland; you’re supposed to stay there and that’s where you’re gonna die. But . . . ever since I was a kid, I just wanted to explore.”

    Music by the Steve Griggs Ensemble, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

  • Salvage – Brandon Young

    2017 Jack Straw Writer Brandon Young spoke with curator Jourdan Imani Keith about hoarding and its range of meanings and expressions, from bountiful treasure to suffocating trash. Brandon and Jourdan explore the idea that hoarding can provide salvation from an emotional trauma and is often a sign of an insecure environment. For Brandon’s work, he interviewed people about their relationships with objects and discovered the memories and potential that can be contained in things: “She looks back and says, ‘I wore this then’”; “A coupon might be used one day. An old pair of shoes might be repaired.”

    Music by the Steve Griggs Ensemble, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

  • Smoke – Steph Kesey

    Steph Kesey‘s piece in the 2017 Jack Straw Writers Anthology is an excerpt from a book-length memoir in progress about her father’s battle with mental illness. She talks with curator Jourdan Imani Keith about this experience, how she began as a sculptor and became a writer, and how she finds form by putting the brutal and the beautiful next to each other. “I think . . . mental illness hitting a family . . .  you have people at their most vulnerable, and the love that’s required to overcome something like that is the glue of families in those moments.”

    Music by the Steve Griggs Ensemble, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

  • Rage - Jamaica Baldwin

    2017 Jack Straw Writer Jamaica Baldwin talks with curator Jourdan Imani Keith about finding her voice in poetry, adopting silence as a kind of armor, and the male gaze in art and literature. “Women’s lives are surrounded by violence; some of them endure it, some of them go through it, and I like the poets who don’t shy away from that. Where their skin is peeled back and their bones are exposed. I like that. . . . And I think it seeps into my own work.”

    Music by the Steve Griggs Ensemble, produced as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.