SAL/on air is a literary podcast featuring engaging author talks and readings from over thirty years of Seattle Arts & Lectures' programming.
Seattle Arts & Lectures (SAL) is a literary nonprofit. We champion the literary arts by engaging and inspiring readers and writers of all generations in the greater Puget Sound region.
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Richard Powers’ characters are often both artists and scientists—disciplines he sees as intertwined. In a delicious moment in this March 2008 reading, he describes the commonality between art and science as a state of “bewilderment,” which happens to be the title of his new book, released thirteen years later in September 2021.
In this recording, Powers shares a short story called “Modulation.” A story that draws on Powers’ knowledge of music and technology, “Modulation” centers on the global dissemination of a musical computer virus.
Powers’ work embodies this spirit of marveling and wondering in a most bewildering way. His writing describes in Technicolor detail our most ephemeral human experiences, yet his precision doesn’t define; instead, it expands our awe and pondering long after his tales are over.
Dean Baquet, Timothy Egan, & Jim Rainey
Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times, and Jim Rainey, an award-winning reporter with the Los Angeles Times, spoke with hometown hero Timothy Egan in March of 2019 about the importance of investigative journalism and the path forward for media in this political era.
These veteran journalists discuss how investigative reporting has changed over time, and what audiences expect and demand from the media today. They share challenges that reporters face when reporting from the field. “We allowed ourselves to become mysterious; as a result, people saw us as elites in an ivory tower,” Dean Baquet says.
Jim Rainey agrees, adding, “When we go out now, it's not just what we write. It's how we conduct ourselves. How empathetic we are. And so—I think, correctly—we have a lot to prove.”
These reflections set the tone for a lively conversation about transparency, credibility, and truth. With wit and honesty, they shine a spotlight on what the media can and should do better in an era of disinformation. They look to the future of newspapers: from print journalism (here to stay, they insist) and paid content, to podcasts and interactive digital storytelling. They also discuss ways in which journalists—young and old—mentor each other today.
In this talk, recorded in March of 2010, former U. S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove shared poems from her then-new book, Sonata Mulattica. This collection tells the story of George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower. Previously just a footnote in Beethoven’s biography, Bridgetower—who was a Black violinist—had a sonata dedicated to him, and then, after a falling out over a girl, found that same sonata renamed. In this groundbreaking book, Dove tells Bridgetower’s story and restores one piece of lost history of African Americans in classical music.
Without Dove to revive his story, Bridgetower may have been lost to time. Dove once noted, “There’s always been a special place in my work for people who drop out of history.” In this reading, which feels like an intimate fireside chat, she brings George Polgreen Bridgetower to life for an audience in whose minds he lives still. Let’s rekindle his spirit once again, and hear what Dove’s writings—and Bridgetower’s life and music—continue to tell us today.
At the start of this reading, which includes poems in English and Polish, Zagajewski says, “As long as you write new poems, you are alive. It’s the only proof of this.” Zagajewski died this March, but his poems remain with us—proof he was alive and lives still. In a poetic twist of fate, the date of Zagajewski’s passing was the same as the evening he read at Seattle Arts & Lectures—exactly nineteen years earlier.
This reading by Adam Zagajewski, recorded in March 2001, was postponed from its original date by the forces of Mother Nature. On February 28, 2001, the Nisqually Earthquake struck. In wry form, Zagajewski banters about the interplay between reality and poetry, life and art. He notes thematic links between his book Tremor, his poem Lava, and the shaking earth that brought daily life in the Pacific Northwest to a halt.
The pre-eminent Polish poet of his generation, Zagajewski’s early work was political in nature. He sought to illuminate conditions in western Poland post-World War II: “the bitter bread of urgency and contemporaneity.” With insight and imagination, Zagajewski’s poems depict the surreal experience of daily life in a totalitarian state following the Soviet takeover of his hometown, Lvov, in present-day Ukraine.
This talk by celebrated novelist Wallace Stegner, recorded in 1990, is really a master class on the intermingling of life and art. With equal measures of charm and critique, Stegner questions the very nature of storytelling: is it method, perspective, experience, or technique? The writers he admires aren’t carpenters working from blueprints, he says, but sculptors in search of “the mystery implicit in the stone.”
The questions Stegner raises in this lecture—about fact and fiction, life and art, craft and vision—are ones we continue to explore today.
"I live in a space between," Imbolo Mbue says in this talk. "It is the immigrant's burden to live with a body in one place, and the heart in another."
In this episode, recorded on June 7, 2019, at Town Hall Seattle, Imbolo Mbue describes how her in-between began in Cameroon, where she was born, and continued in New York, where she traveled to attend college. She stayed, attended Business School, got a job in New York City and then in 2008, she lost her job in the Great Recession. She saw during this time the great economic stratification of New York and the seed for her book, "Behold The Dreamers," was born. The book went on to be a New York Times bestseller and an Oprah book club pick.
The book asks the questions we all inherently struggle with. What is happiness? And what makes a good life? Why would we be willing to do or to give up for ourselves, for family, for love, and for dreams?