When I talked with poet Michelle Peñaloza last week, she explained that she wrote much of her debut collection of poetry, Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire, here in Seattle. Even though she moved away to northern California two years ago, she knew she wanted to celebrate the launch of her new book here in town.
"I'm happy to be having my literary launch in Seattle because it does still feel very much like literary home for sure," she told me. Peñaloza is very happy in California, but she misses "just how literary the community [in Seattle] is, and how many good people I had and still have there."
She's celebrating her book's release with three big events starting this Saturday with a "literaoke" celebration at Massive Monkees Studio in the International District. Peñaloza admits she's "stealing" the literaoke idea from Kundiman, which has hosted readings with karaoke at AWP for many years now.It's exactly what it sounds like: a book party with readings and audience karaoke.
"Two of my favorite things are our poetry and karaoke," Peñaloza explained, "and you'd be surprised how many poets love karaoke. I think there's something cathartic about it."
For the other readings, beginning at Estelita's Library on Beacon Hill on Sunday and continuing at Elliott Bay Book Company on Monday, Peñaloza has something else in mind. "I wanted to have an all-Filipinx lineup. it was important for me to be intentional about that and ask other Filipino-American folks to participate in that with me and make it all about us."
It's thematically tied to the book, too. Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire is in part about what it means to be a Fillipinx-American — the historical, cultural, and geographical implications of everything that it took to get her to this place in this planet at this time. At Estelita's, Peñaloza will be joined by Anis Gisele, Jen Soriano, and Dujie Tahat. At Elliott Bay, she'll be reading with Robert Francis Flor, Emily P. Lawsin, and Corina Zappia.
Onstage, Peñaloza will be celebrating with some of the finest Fillipinx authors this city has to offer. If you have a really big moment in your life like a poetry book launch, why wouldn't you spend it with the people you most want to celebrate?
Massive Monkees Studio, 664 S King St,251-1524, http://www.openpoetrybooks.com, 7 pm, free.
Estelita’s Library, 2533 16th Ave S, https://www.facebook.com/events/2089635727813422/, 3 pm, free.