Consume whole sentences
into your being by writers
who never flew, can’t be true
Hide in ignorance, uneducated writers
that mass of writers
Eat those words
Dotted on the page
set for the digestive tract
turned for blood
I wallow in my own mind
this clay of form-fitting madness
the sheets are heavy
the pillow a stone
the clock a whip
snaps me to attention
While outside, heard through a window cracked
the freeway, a river of cars, sounds like wind rushing
in the trees, or the waves finding shore—NO
tires on old pavement working the graveyard shift heading home
And then, there it is
as clear as a cloudy night
We are all travelers
Here it is! Better late than never. Folks were asking for the link to the Bellingham Alive article (November 2017 issue) by KATE GALAMBOS. Kate touched on my writing, radio and Poem Booth work. Thank you Kate, and THANK YOU Bellingham Alive for placing me next to my crush Rick Steves!
Bellingham has its artistic success stories (Death Cab for Cutie, comedian Ryan Stiles), but it also has its grassroots luminaries. Author, poet, and radio producer Shannon Laws is one. She has the privilege of not only being one of many talented Bellingham artists, but possesses a passion for supporting the local art community. Since beginning her writing career in 2009, she has expanded her reach to radio and community art installation.
Laws has always wanted to be an author. At just 12, she announced to her mother that one day she would be. “I’m sure that statement made her smile. I had poor grammar and spelling skills,” Laws said. Years later, Laws began writing poetry after finding herself in a dark time of life. While living on San Juan Island, she was intrigued by a writing class offered by Pacific Northwest author Susan Wingate. “That class changed the direction of my creative life and gave me hope.”
In June, Laws released her third book of poetry, “Fallen.” The collection explores loss, heartache, and quiet eroticism. Draped in dark humor and metaphor, the writing is a middle-of-life work that aims to “ask questions about a dark past, finding truth in the now, while (being) confident about how it all ends.” The book was a community effort, edited and published by Bellingham residents (Independent Writers Studio Press). Laws said she hopes readers find solace in the familiarity of the poetry. Grief is never felt the same, but her collection aims to lead readers through the process of loss. “I’m saying to the reader, ‘Come join me while I wallow around in my mottled life. We’re all a bit muddy. Let’s take that mud, cook it in the sun, and build a home together.” Loss is never a clean endeavor, and that is all right.
Beyond her writing, Laws produces the award-winning radio show, Bellingham Art Beat, which airs on Make.Shift Radio (KZAX LP-FM 94.9) and online at KPNW-DB. In March, the weekly program has been awarded the 38th Annual Mayor’s Art Award for its advocacy for local artists. It covers the art scene with live interviews and music. Laws draws much of her inspiration from the radio show. Each interview brings to light the awesomeness of the human experience. “I fall in love with everyone I interview,” Laws said. While each experience differs, we are all part of human existence. Our experiences are as unique as our fingerprints, she said. Laws is driven by inspiring stories of survival from all dimensions, big and small.
Laws also has had the opportunity to be a part of an unusual revival project. All over the country, phone booths have become dilapidated, seemingly pointless structures once the phones are removed. Working in partnership with artist Christen Mattix, and poet Summer Starr, the team refurbished a phone booth to beautifully house poetry. The Poem Booth can be spotted outside the downtown Community Co-op on North Forest Street. Today, the booth stands as a bright, clean, and inspiring art installation, hosting a new poem on a quarterly basis. Poems can be submitted to email@example.com. Winners receive $25 cash and a $25 gift certificate to the Community Co-op.
Anderson Park | 7802 168th Ave NE | Redmond, Washington
Featuring Washington State Poet Laureate Tod Marshall and many other guests!
Poets in the Park in 2017 celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Redmond Association of Spokenword. Readings for 2017 will once again feature groups and organizations, with 25-minute reading slots. We also have 55-minute workshops, our book fair, vendors, open-mic readings, and more—and it’s all free! Visit the website to see the schedule.
Enjoy poetry readings and performances on our Café and Picnic Shelter stages, workshops in our workshop cabin, and activities, installations, and vendors throughout the park, plus our poetry book fair (coordinated by Rebecca Willow, with no commission taken)—all FREE! Bring your own lunch to enjoy on the lawn or in our café area. Poetry putt-putt (mini-golf), chalk poetry, hula hoops, Haiku on Sticks, art/craft activities for kids and adults (sponsored by VALA Art Center and Jim Teeters), RASP poetry anthology poems on sticks, and more!
Such a joy to feature again at Zippy’s. Great poetry-loving crowd. Duane is a wonderful host. Zippy’s offers yummy sandwiches. It’s a win, win, win. I’ll be reading for the first time from my new book, “Fallen” with FRESHLY PRINTED copies on hand to take home.
I’m carpooling down to Everett. Message me if you’d like to join us, there are two spaces left.
Last evening I received my second Mayor’s Arts Award. Allow a moment of confession, just to help the editor in me get back to sleep. You see I woke up at 2 a.m. bothered. I prepared a speech expecting a five-six minute read time. Excited to share a bit of WHO I am and WHAT I do. However, twenty minutes prior to the event I was told I would be the first person up, please keep it to a sharp 3 minutes.
As I type a “Breaking News” alert on BBC Radio announces that Prince Philip, 96, Queen Elizabeth’s husband, is retiring from public service. Perhaps I should take some pointers from Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His speeches were known to be short and to the point. In Canada one time he said, “I declare this thing open, whatever it is.” Short. Sweet.
For completely personal reasons, which this whole website is up for completely personal reasons, I need to post my complete speech. RED is what was removed to accommodate the schedule. -SPL
Thank you Mayor Linville and the Bellingham Arts Commission for awarding “Bellingham Art Beat” the Mayor’s Arts Award, it is a great honor.
I am the producer of the program. Boosie, the host, couldn’t be here tonight. She sends her thanks. She is on assignment on a sandy beach off the coast of Cuba. Poor girl.
I’d like to also extend a special thank you to the many dedicated listeners to the program and the 60 plus guests who have appeared on “Bellingham Art Beat “over the last two seasons, especially three previous guests who are also receiving awards tonight, Mary Gillilan, Fredrick Dent and Lisa Spicer. A town is only as great as its’ people. The people of Bellingham are extraordinary!
I’m in the story collecting and sharing business. I particularly love biographies. It is my belief that testimonies have a sort of power. A person’s story when shared can alert a listener to the possibilities toward their own solution.
I’m mesmerized at the properties of storytelling in general, whether shared around a campfire, read in a book, presented on stage, or projected in IMAX. Telling a story is human. Our society has punishments for people who tell false stories with intent to harm. We value words, tales, history and truth, even embellished truth.
Stories are all around us. In 2010 I went looking for my own story. After my dissolved 21 year marriage, I moved to Bellingham to be closer to my family. But that is not where my story starts.
Born in Seattle, and raised in the sleepy and slightly odd truck stop town of Federal Way. A town that, at the time, had the distinct problem of too many trees and not enough strip malls.
As I shared in my BTV interview, I discovered television broadcasting and field production in my junior year of high school. It was my first career love. I worked in field and studio production for about four years, then a decade later I returned to a related field of cable commercial insertion.
Moving to Bellingham I landed a job with the beloved KVOS TV, up there on Ellis. Since the sale of KVOS in 2012, I have worked at a variety of temporary jobs doing what I can to stay in Bellingham.
When I first moved here I asked my brother what is the best way to learn the town and meet new people, he said “Volunteer.” I tried volunteering at a few places before I found a perfect fit as a radio producer and host broadcasting on KMRE 102.3 Spark Radio in 2011-2015. In 2016 I decided to offer a fresh radio program for air at the new station KZAX 94.9 Make.Shift Radio.
Producing my radio program reminds me of my television days. Radio and television are cousins. This work keeps me connected to the original passion. I do it for free. I simply love it, and I will continue to do it until it stops being fun.
By this summer Bellingham Art Beat will rotate on a total of three stations in the Northwest, online and over the airwaves.
Often people approach me with an idea for a radio program. You can see the fever in their eyes! There are many good ideas out there, but most things “good” take time to make.
People think this is easy to do. It’s not easy. It’s [Radio] a craft as much as any art form, and it takes time to learn. It takes time to research a guest, compile questions that will spur stimulating conversation for the audience. It takes time to edit the work. I’m talking, for example, editing 30 minutes of an interview down to ten. That persons story needs to be represented well. Their words respected. Bellingham Art Beat is a half-hour weekly radio show; each show takes at least four hours to produce, so that is about 16-20 hours a month volunteered.
If there is one common denominator with the artists I have interviewed over the years it’s perseverance. They fight for their idea, roll up their sleeves and work to make their business, class, band, play, collaboration, project a reality.
I’d like to close with the reading of a poem that came to me at the right time, and seeded hope in my heart when it was very tender. And I’d like to read this as a “Thank You” to the guests who have shared their story with me, and allowed me to share it with you, the listeners.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
For two years I have been working on my third poetry book “Fallen”. It’s 85 pages long and has 47 select poems written between the years 2014-2016. The book block is finished, the cover is designed, one print copy in hand. The book was set to release Spring 2017. However, I was laid off from work mid-December 2016 and the funds to get it printed are no longer available. I am asking for the printing costs $280. This will cover the KICKSTARTER fees, tax and the printing of 25 books from a local press. My first reading feature is scheduled for June 29th in Everett, WA. I need to have books to sell at this reading. Please consider a donation. Every little bit will help.
The Kickstarter ends May 31, 2017
I’ve been writing poetry since 2009. I paid for the printing of the previous two books, “Madrona Grove” 2012, “Odd Little Things” 2014, at an independent press. Both were released with moderate fanfare. What makes “Fallen” special is that in 2016 I challenged myself to write about the loss of my daughter. She would have turned 25 in 2016. Poetry is a good friend to me. It helps me to define emotion, understand a complex system, helps me to view the world. I asked myself, “WHY haven’t you written any poetry about THAT night?” So, I started writing.
My mother, a retired counselor, teachers a “Loss and Grief” class at her church located a half hour south of Seattle, WA. She has shared a handful of my poetry as an aide to her mourning students. Her students are encouraged to use the poems as an example to start their own poems or prose. This gives voice to their lamentations, which is an important step in the grieving process.
Earlier this year when my editor Mary Gillilan and I were working on the cover, I sent an advanced reading to a few established Northwest poets for cover blurbs. Here is what they had to share:
“With Fallen, Shannon Laws has evolved into someone that readers in the northwest should pay attention to. Like a complex pantomime, Laws’ charming, conversational lyric style hides poems that are personal yet complex, dark, intense, deep, heartbreaking, and at times hilarious. Each of them also have a subtle grit and seriousness to them. Like all poets worth their salt, she doesn’t the dichotomy of being particular and speaking to many audiences. Highly, highly recommended.” –Robert Lashley, author of The Homeboy Songs
Shannon Laws has been, in many ways, an asset to her community. This book demonstrates that “there’s a revelation flowing…along the ridges of her galaxy.” She employs “footholds of green” to “take our minds to another place.” Shannon Laws is top-niche. –James Bertolino, author of Ravenous Bliss: New & Selected Love Poems
“Shannon Laws’ poems are ventures, many journeys of the mind and imagination and others literal walks, day and night, to and from home, work, and school; they render fresh observations of the routine and familiar: interactions in kitchen and living quarters, fields of local plants and critters, the hum of machinery. They also probe the mysteries of the human condition, posing elemental issues: love and death and loss, the aching solitariness of human experience, the straining for meaning, clarity and confirmation, the yearning for contact and connection, and the guises humans adopt in the consequent interchange.” —Ron Leatherbarrow, Professor of Literature, Whatcom Community College
“Shannon Law’s poetry entices the reader along a windy path of shared emotion, at times tiptoeing gently toward the topic, at others racing headlong toward it, and at times inviting humor in. The mix is wonderful. From that girl in school who builds forts, to the new owner of a used mattress who sleeps in the body-shaped dip left by its prior occupant, to a three-timing lover, to the loss of a child, these poems circumscribe a relatable life and invite introspection. It is nearly impossible to pick just one favorite from this gem of a book.” —Laurel Leigh, author of the blog Dear Writers
“In “ Fallen”, Shannon Laws has written polished and evocative poetry that intrigues the reader page after page, often demanding one backs-up and re-reads. Her metaphorical language is usually of common words that she newly loads with much information…
I challenge you to find our own favourite poems with lines that you will remember in admiration and repeat to others. She is a master of bringing significant life changes alive with pain or passion in a few well chosen words! ” —Bernice Lever, “Small Acts”, Black Moss Press, Windsor, ON, Canada
This poetry is not camera-shy. Full of imagery and emotion, it ranges across the days with bursts of action and reflection. Laws writes of quiet eroticism, as well as memory and humor from the north Pacific region, where she has lived most of her life. Shannon P. Laws has gifts of observation, humanity, and powerful expression. A valuable choice for poetry lovers, who will find it natural to read and understand.
——Denise DuMaurier, author of Follow Me Down
I’d like to take my book on tour, share, listen, laugh, cry and hug folks along the way. After I print the initial 25 books and test it on a small local tour, I’m going to transfer the book to a print-on-demand site offered through a well-known independent bookstore located in the historic district of Fairhaven in Bellingham, Washington.
Help me do it!
Earlier this month Rena Priest, a poet, writer, producer and community activist, interviewed me for her new radio program “Writer’s Shout Out”. Her one-hour interview program takes a look at the life of a writer and the things that inspire them.
This program aired on the non-profit, community station KZAX-LP FM 94.9 last week.
It was a fun time!
Entering the last week of the year I can’t help but get a little reflective. This year was tough for me personally, and the unrest throughout our nation added more frustrations.
I really wanted to start this letter with the sentence, “What a suck-ass year 2016 was, right?”, but I suppose some people had a good year, we know Beyoncé and “Hamilton” aren’t complaining.
So many stories, headlines, deaths moved me in 2016. Please allow me to vent a bit and share a few moments that stirred me. Major news stories from 2016 read like a murder mystery. There were more unprovoked shootings of Black Americans by police prompting nationwide protest and adding strength to the “Black Lives Matter” campaign. Meanwhile, a large group of conservative, white ranchers in Oregon had an armed standoff at a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon. The confrontation lasted over a month. Only one man was killed and the whole group was acquitted. If the protestors in Oregon were Black, there is no question in my mind that a much different, more violent, situation would have unfolded.
2016 saw the end of “Bradgelina”, Nobel laureate Bob Dylan, #Oscarssowhite, El Chapo, the world’s most sought-after drug lord and commander of a vast narcotics empire that stretches across continents is captured, the lead in Flint Michigan’s water and the fight for clean water in North Dakota and Canada. The massive surge of refugees, primarily from Syria and Afghanistan, into Europe continued, estimated over 300,000 people, dodging war conflict. Was it this surge that prompted the “Brexit” vote?
AND if 2016 wasn’t freaking bad enough, we lost David Bowie, Prince and Alan Rickman, and the nation lost it’s ‘effin mind during the presidential election. Election years are always exhausting but this one proved to be even more so. My viewpoint of it, in metaphor, of course, is well illustrated in our animated Christmas card (link at the top of the post) acted out by the SPL Staff, Brad, Vince, Chris, Benedict and myself;
In January I got the fever to start a new radio show. After leaving KMRE a few months prior, I looked to a new station starting up just a few blocks over, broadcasting out of the Make.Shift Art Space on Flora in downtown Bellingham. Bellingham Art Beat was born! Featuring a half hour format, two interviews and music, the goal of the program is to inspire and inform the listener. The first season I interviewed 36 people for 18 shows. The second season started December 19th.
February featured at Kings Book Store in Tacoma, Washington. Felt good. Made a goal to read outside of Whatcom County in ’16, so goal accomplished. The folks at the reading were very kind, buying my dinner. My mom and her friend were able to attend.
In May I coordinated and hosted the Mother’s Day Big Rock Garden poetry reading. The sun was out and the podium brilliant.
July and August World Peace Poets collaborated with the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center sponsoring writing workshops by local teachers.
September included two events. The 4th annual “World Peace Poets Read-In for Peace” was held on September 24th. A great event, always fresh new poetry shared, good food, good company.
Then on the September 30th, I performed fifteen minutes worth of Sea inspired poetry for the first annual Bellingham SeaFeast. Two stages were active with “Fisherpoets” throughout the day at Boundary Bay Brewery off Railroad Avenue in Bellingham.
By October I had the makings for my third poetry book “Fallen”. It’s set to release spring 2017. I am very excited to work with “Clover: a Literary Rag” coordinator/editor Mary Gillilan. The theme for my new book is loss. This year,2016, marks the 25th birthday of my daughter Meaghan. Meaghan passed away at the age of three. It was a tragic and sudden death. Although the entire collection is not about death and loss, it is a thought-provoking assortment. I hope the words may comfort others and create the space necessary for healing.
November was Poem Booth Kickstarter month! Back in September Christen Mattix contacted Summer Star and me to help transform a derelict phone booth into a POEM BOOTH. Probably the most ambitious project, next to the new radio show, for me this year. Thanks to 20 backers we met the $300 goal, above and beyond! You can learn more about this project at the TAB “Poem Booth”
This year was not too productive for poetry or projects, but the ones I was involved with were stimulating. One item that hampered much artist work was a temporary job in aerospace for nine months. Working 40-50 hour weeks on the night shift puts a big dent in the social life. I expect to work many long hours again in 2017 to stabilize my finances and rebuild what was lost over the last year and a half. I had to stop working on my transfer degree, sell my car, and borrow from Peter to pay Paul. Where’s my Trump Money? –don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath.
2016 was such a burnout. I still have hope, hope and a sense of humor, toss in a good red from Spain and NOW we got something. However, I am determined to be more flamboyant than ever with my projects, radio show, book release and poetry readings going forward. I’m marching and making signs for the Woman March on Bellingham in January 2017, joining millions of others across the nation, marching for equal rights and justice for ALL. What the hell can I do besides that? I’m so frustrated. We need art and voice now more than ever!
Thank you for supporting the arts, being artistic, standing up for what you believe in, encouraging others, inspiring who you can, those people in your circle of influence, your home, your neighborhood, your city.
Best wishes to you and yours this holiday and a Happy New Year.