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SAL/on air


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. Get tickets to SAL events at

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. Get tickets to SAL events at


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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. Get tickets to SAL events at






Richard Powers

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...


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...


Rita Dove

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...


Adam Zagajewski

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...


Wallace Stegner

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...


Imbolo Mbue

"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...


Maxine Kumin

Maxine Kumin, whom we lost in 2014, once said that, quote, “The garden has to be attended every day, just as the horses have to be tended to. Not just every day, but morning, noon and night. Writing, I think, exerts the same kind of discipline. I think of myself as a Jewish Calvinist. You know: salvation through grace, grace through good works and working is good, just that simple.” In this episode, recorded in April of 2005, we hear poems from across Maxine Kumin’s impressive body of work,...


Soraya Chemaly

As with any condition, until we have language for what we are experiencing, until we can name it, we often feel controlled by it. In January of 2019 Soraya Chemaly renamed and redefined anger for us. In a riveting talk based upon her book, “Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger,” Chemaly puts female anger into its societal context, revealing it as a tool of transformation, an untapped resource for change. Soraya Chemaly is the Executive Director of The Representation Project. An...


Barry Lopez

When Barry Lopez died at the age of 75 this past December, we knew we had lost one of the greats. His writings have frequently been compared to those of Henry David Thoreau, as he brought a depth of erudition to the text by immersing himself in his surroundings, deftly integrating his environmental and humanitarian concerns. In his nonfiction, he examined the relationship between human culture and physical landscape. In his fiction, he addressed issues of intimacy, ethics, and identity. This...


Rick Barot

“Every generation has to reiterate, rewrite what those genres are and what they mean in the vocabulary of the moment. So the elegy is not a set genre, it's not a set form. We each have to re-write that thing when we write. That's our job, in a way.”—Rick Barot On May 15, 2020, Rick Barot—the award-winning author of Chord, Want, and The Darker Fall—joined us for a virtual poetry reading in the midst of the pandemic. His latest book of poems, The Galleons (2020), was long-listed for this...


Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Have you ever had a slice of cake that had been soaked in a sort of syrup? Maybe rose-syrup? Maybe lemon? Dense and rich at the same time—soaked in joy—it’s almost not cake anymore. Every one of Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s poems, read at SAL’s May 2018 Poetry Series reading, was like that for us. Dense and light at the same time. Sweet and yet weighty. Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of a book of nature essays, World of Wonders, recently named a finalist for the Kirkus Prize in non-fiction,...


Ijeoma Oluo

As our annual reading program, Summer Book Bingo wrapped up, we asked readers to reflect on their favorite reading experience of the summer. One of you wrote: “My favorite reading experience was reading So You Want to Talk About Race. It forced me to explore my white privilege and challenged me to really examine the ways I have thought about myself, how I view race.” Ijeoma Oluo, the author of So You Want to Talk About Race, writes that it was: “A grueling, heart wrenching book to write.”...


Jericho Brown

Almost exactly a year ago, on May 21, 2019, we closed our Poetry Series with a reading by Jericho Brown, followed by a conversation with Copper Canyon editor and poet Elaina Ellis. It was a riveting and joy-filled evening in celebration of Jericho’s third book, The Tradition. That book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Here we are, a year later, in a starkly different world. A world where we cannot gather together in the shared space of a theatre to hear poetry. A world where...


Eavan Boland

Four weeks after her passing in her hometown of Dublin, we want to celebrate the ways Eavan Boland drew up a new science of cartography for Irish poetry—one that included women in their everyday lives. One that depicted children, the routines of the suburbs, marriage, and then radically, that laid this map over received ideas about Irish history, about poetic form. Her poems elegantly re-charted the tensions of history, memory and legends, with the unnamed. In this episode of SAL/on air, we...


Ross Gay

In a time like this, where do you look to for joy? In a recent episode of Krista Tippett’s podcast, On Being, poet Ross Gay recently said, “It is joy by which the labor that will make the life that I want, possible. It is not at all puzzling to me that joy is possible in the midst of difficulty.” Besides being a disciple of joy, Ross Gay is a gardener, a painter, a professor, a basketball player, and a founding member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a free-fruit-for-all non-profit...


Valeria Luiselli

What drives storytelling? What is the story—who gets to tell it—and how? In a twist on the American road trip genre, Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive explores these tensions. As an artist couple and their children embark on trip from New York to Arizona, wrestling with their family’s crisis, a bigger one comes to them through the car radio: that of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American and Mexican children arriving in the U.S. without papers. Author Valeria Luiselli...


Adam Davidson

What the 20th century economy typically required of Americans who wanted success was to step away from their passions and embrace sameness. Now, in this new century—amidst concerns about our jobs being stolen by computers, about the middle class vanishing, and about the super-rich getting richer, Adam Davidson sees another narrative. Davidson, who is the founder of NPR’s Planet Money and an economics writer at The New Yorker, argues that living a passionate life and living a financially...


Rachel Maddow

When Rachel Maddow, host of the Emmy Award-winning Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, set out to research her latest book, "Blowout," she wasn’t necessarily looking to write about the oil and gas industry. Instead, the question she was asking was this: At a time when democracy is falling and authoritarianism is rising globally, what do we do? In October of this year, Maddow gave a lecture and had a conversation with multi-media journalist Joni Balter at a packed Benaroya Hall. From man-made...


Wendell Berry

Port Royal in Henry County, Kentucky has a population of less than a hundred. And it’s there that farmer, novelist, poet, and cultural critic Wendell Berry—whose family farmed Kentucky land for 7 generations—has been writing for much of his life. With work like The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, Wendell has functioned as both literary maverick and visionary to Americans for half a century, issuing warnings about industrial farming and the breaking apart of rural...


Barbara Kingsolver

What happens when your world shifts, and you have to come to terms with a whole new reality? Barbara Kingsolver – the bestselling author of The Poisonwood Bible, The Lacuna, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and more – has some idea. In October 2018, SAL’s Executive Director, Ruth Dickey, sat down with Kingsolver to discuss her latest book, Unsheltered, at Benaroya Hall. The novel toggles between a small New Jersey town in 1870 and 2016, exploring both societal and family struggles. Unsheltered is...