RAÚL SÁNCHEZ, THE newest poet laureate of Redmond, would like you to go by his house on 39th Avenue Northeast and 140th Street Northeast in Seattle’s Lake City neighborhood and take a poem from his Poetry Pole.
The charming display is Sánchez’s way of engaging with the community in pandemic times. “There’s only so much you can do via Zoom,” says Sánchez, who misses standing in front of a live audience to read poems like “My Father Was a Bracero,” a poignant verse about his dad where he writes, “He didn’t want me to live / by my strong back, my strong arms / but by my words.”
Sánchez adds new poems to the box every week, including pieces by other authors, such as the late Sam Hamill and current Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna. The low-tech installation, decorated with his own hand lettering and shiny tin stars he purchased in his native Mexico, stands as a counterpoint to the digital world. “People have the opportunity to take home something tangible, and tell a friend, ‘Look what I found’ … and it may end up on the door of their refrigerator, or attached to their bathroom mirror,” says Sánchez.
And it seems to be effective. As soon as we sat in a shady spot of his lush front yard for a socially distanced portrait session, someone stopped by the pole, and Sánchez’s gentle face lit up: “Mira. Alguien se ha parado. ¡Funciona!” he exclaimed in Spanish with excitement. (“Look; someone just stopped by. It works!”)