A Living Map of Washington State Poetry

“Washington Poetic Routes” from state poet laureate Claudia Castro Luna overlays our roads and highways with poetry.

  • April 11, 2019
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  • Poetry
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  • By David Haldeman

For Claudia Castro Luna, the Washington State Poet Laureate, the twisting lines of a map feel like the twisting lines of a poem, so she’s taken Washington State’s highways and roads and overlaid them with poetry.

The result is the new Washington Poetic Routes, an online poetry map of our state. Visitors click dots on the map to see a poem from a Washington State poet written about that location.

Launched this April as a celebration of National Poetry Month, the map is intended to be a living document of Washington State. The map currently has 25 poems from both established and younger poets, but Castro Luna hopes that a broad swath of Washington’s residents will be included, from school children to adults to long-time poets and first-time writers. Anyone can submit a poem for consideration via the website.

“As a writer and poet I am constantly interested in the relationship people have to place,” said Castro Luna. “Geography is inescapable. We are bound to the locations we inhabit: we dream in space, work in space, love in space. When we write about the place we live in, we tap into memory, into history, into our desires and frustrations. This is fertile territory for poetry.”

The project is part of the Washington State Poet Laureate program, sponsored by Humanities Washington and ArtsWA (the Washington State Arts Commission). Each poem will be accompanied by artworks selected from the Washington’s State Public Art Collection. Managed by ArtsWA, the Collection is comprised of 4,700 public artworks located at public K-12 schools, colleges and universities, technical schools, and government buildings across the state.

The theme of “routes” was chosen because of Washington’s terrain. Though our state is full of natural wonders, its numerous mountains and waterways can be difficult to traverse. But our routes and roads, like poetry, can connect us despite the challenges that surround us.

“My hope is that together, through our own poems of place we will have a new, different way of engaging with each other as citizens,” said Castro Luna. “Together we will create a living map of what it is like to live in this wonderful place we share called Washington State.”

See the project at washingtonpoeticroutes.com.

The Washington State Poet Laureate program is sponsored by Humanities Washington and ArtsWA, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, the Amazon.com Literary Partnership, as well as several individual donors. Find events and more information at wapoetlaureate.org.