Bumbershoot Arts Festival 1998


We have three major summer festivals in Seattle: FolkLife, over the Memorial Day Weekend, kicks off summer with a celebration of ethnic arts, crafts and music from all over the world; Seafair makes the most intolerable hot stretch of August even more intolerable with a great deal of inanity; and Bumbershoot gives a big arts & literature sendoff to summer over Labor Day weekend.

BTW, the name "Bumbershoot" is supposed to be the British word for umbrella, and be a frendly joke about Seattle weather. In truth, the "bumber" is the larval form of the street musician. We dearly love our street musicians, but if we didn't have a yearly Shoot we would be overrun.

For the last three years WHEEL, a homeless woman's organization in Seattle, has had a table at Bumbershoot to sell our poetry anthology and promote our activities. In return for helping out at the table several hours a day, I get to see Bumbershoot almost for free. Except for buying food, and books, and drinks, and books, and food and books and such ...

This year Bumbershoot even provided a Vendor's Hospitality room with some free softdrinks and munchies, so I got to spend more money on books. My Bumbershoot discoveries, 1998:

Mike Helm of Rainy Day Press, who had the table next to ours, has compiled a series of entertaining books on Oregon history and folklore. Four of them were edited from the collections of an early 1900's Oregon Journal columnist named Fred Lockley. His latest is a work of creative journalism called Tracking Down Coyote, in which he treks through Oregon's wild places connecting his experiences with Oregon history and folklore. I've put up a webpage for Mike at /mikehelm/ if you want to see more.

I got to perform on stage at Bumbershoot! For at least a minute and a half. I attended the Bumberslam (a poetry slam sponsored by Bumbershoot) to cheer on some of my friends, and when they had a slot open for one more woman poet, I leaped into it. I performed "Mother Escapes".

The way a Slam works, each performance is rated from 1-10 by three judges drawn randomly from the audience. The lowest scores drop out each round until one poet is left standing. This was a short, hard contest with the top poets from our area and only three rounds. I got eliminated early, but I was in very good company -- I tied with one of the members of the 1997 Seattle Slam Team. I got a very heartwarming reception from the audience. And I got invited to a "Literary Soiree" -- a literary participants party.

At the party I met a playwright named Drew Hayden Taylor who had a delightful sense of humor. I looked him up on the web that night and went back the next day to purchase one of his books. Unfortunately, the ones I really want to read are only performed in theatre, and aren't published yet -- like what he calls the "Native American soap operas", and the one about the Ojibway science-fiction writer, and the Native American vampire -- this guy is massacre on stereotypes.

While searching for more info on Drew I discovered some excellent websites on Native American authors. (updated 2002)

Other web references on Drew Hayden Taylor:

A review of both Drew Hayden Taylor and Sherman Alexie:
Literascape - The New Reader: Fall 1996

Sherman Alexie, by the way, is one of Real Change's favorite authors. He is doing (did) a benefit on September 30th (1997) for Real Change and the StreetWrites workshop -- with the StreetWrites poets. We get to perform on stage with Sherman Alexie!

So I went to what seemed to be a Sherman Alexie reading at Bumbershoot, and it turned out to be far far more than that. It was a book release of a wondrous compilation called First Fish, First People from University of Washington Press, with fourteen representatives from indigenous tribes of Japan, Siberia and the Pacific Northwest reading poems and stories of the salmon and its relationship with their people. This is a wonderful work of love, and it was a memorable experience to hear all of these people.

Some links for First Fish, First People:

Sherman Alexie' Official Site

And for a complete change of pace: Sister Spit, a very ballsy group of women poets out of San Francisco. Not to everyone's taste, but I found them challenging and often amusing. Some links for those interested and brave souls:

Anitra's Bumbershoot 1997

The Official Bumbershoot Site

Anitra L. Freeman, Dances With Books