Melting Pot: The Changing City, Strides For Young Poets, and How it All Connects

by Leija Farr

Seattle is a melting pot. ‘Melting pot’ reads like a tour guide statement that has been reiterated for many major cities; bragging rights in some sorts. But all the residents in Western Washington are definitely feeling the heat.

With recent booms in technology and construction, we have carved our name in the list of top cities bringing in incessant cash flows. And although many visitors who come here are told to be intrigued by the architecture and newest gadgets, there is something else within the city continuing to peak to its fullest potential: poetry.

South Seattle (or the Soufend) breeds wordsmiths. Being born and raised in South Seattle and a poet myself, I know the talent that lives here. When newcomers move here, I sometimes hear, “Well what is there to talk about up here? Do you guys go through anything?” After yet another deep sigh, I point to the facts behind the beauty. Seattle’s ability to proclaim itself a ‘melting pot’ simultaneously brings underlying issues of gentrification, cultural appropriation, and gun violence. These are just a few of the topics, unfiltered and raw, that can find their way to a poet’s page.

And the real shit we create has brought real results. Young poets are increasingly becoming able to commodify their art. You see this with programs like Seattle Arts and Lectures, which hosts the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate title, gifting the winning participants a book deal. Another example is The Residency; a teen arts program created by rapper Macklemore and ran through MoPop.

Though The Residency has become known for the rappers they take in, poets can also have their chance at creating a CD that can help garnish more attention to their rising talent. Being taken seriously as a poet in new spaces is refreshing. For a long time throughout history, poets have often been at the short end of profit and business. Poets have often heard, “well this is a favor, right?” Statements like this showed how devalued and disrespected our artistry was taken in certain realms.

The overlooked truth with all this sugarcoating was, like others, we have bills to pay. We have to eat. Giving favors works in some situations, but in the long run, it does nothing to feed the pockets of the people behind the words.  The people who serve as sacrifices to mirror current politics. The artists who shed personal pain, ancestral pain, and a variety of other emotions on stages.

The performers who do it are not looking to be placed on a pedestal, but to leave something there for the ones who will come after. As the poetry scene continues to grow in Seattle, it will always be important to ensure that the city is ascending our artistry to its highest potential. That we are allowed in rooms with executives, having conversations that will help us with further branding ourselves. We proclaim ourselves the melting pot. It’s important we are bringing heat to each aspect, each culture, and each stanza that is contributing to our overall rise.

Leija Farr was the first ever Seattle Youth Poet Laureate, born in Seattle, Washington. Everything the world gives her is up for interpretation. She became more serious about poetry after winning a contest at age 12 with a poem about teens and drug use. Since then, she has expressed herself, growing mentally and physically through open mics across the city. She is a poet that is particular with the words she uses in order to evoke change. Her writing deals with topics of social justice, women’s empowerment, and self-love. She is a graduate of Cleveland High School and attends Seattle Central College. She is the author of the poetry collection Outweigh the Gravity (2016) with Penmanship Books.