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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






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...


Ta-Nehisi Coates

Why write about slavery in 2019? And when you write about, how do you defy the popular conceptions about slavery that readers have in their heads? How do you make the subject new? It took Ta-Nehisi Coates – author of the bestselling nonfiction works The Beautiful Struggle, We Were Eight Years in Power, and Between The World And Me – ten years of writing and meticulous research to produce his first novel, The Water Dancer, and in that time, he unearthed some incredibly powerful answers to...


Madhur Jaffrey

In this episode, we hear from Indian-born food and travel writer Madhur Jaffrey, who joined us in November 2013 for a talk on how we become who we are. At the time of her visit, Jaffrey, who is recognized for bringing Indian cuisine to the western hemisphere, had written nearly 30 cookbooks and won several James Beard Awards, as well as her critically-acclaimed memoir, Climbing the Mango Trees. We learn how Jaffrey evolved to be an ambassador for Indian cuisine through her career as a...


Ada Limón

In this episode, we hear from poet Ada Limón, who joined us in October 2016 at McCaw Hall for a reading from her collection Bright Dead Things. Named a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry and the National Book Critics Circle, Bright Dead Things follows a female speaker’s experiences of love and loss, exploring how we build our identities from place and from human contact. “Ada Limón doesn't write as if she needs us. She writes as if she wants us. Her words reveal, coax, pull,...


Tom Hanks

In our latest episode of SAL/on air, we hear from actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks, who joined us at McCaw Hall in December of 2017. Seattle’s beloved librarian, Nancy Pearl, was in conversation with Hanks, who shared with us how he came to write his first book, the short story collection "Uncommon Type," plus all about his obsession with vintage typewriters and highlights from his prolific career.


Azar Nafisi

In 2003, Azar Nafisi electrified readers worldwide with "Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books," which went on to become a long-running #1 New York Times bestseller. A modest professor of English literature, Nafisi taught at the University of Tehran as the Islamic Revolution raged around her, until she was fired in 1981 for her refusal to wear the mandatory veil. Before leaving the country in 1995, Nafisi spent two years holding secret classes on forbidden Western literature in her...


Jane Hirshfield

In this episode, we hear from poet Jane Hirshfield, who joined us in March 2009 at Benaroya Hall for a reading spanning across her career, and for a discussion on the importance of inviting the intimacies of poetry and finding ways to say “yes” to the difficult. Described by The New Yorker as “radiant and passionate,” Hirshfield is now the author of eight collections of verse, many of which are influenced by her Zen Buddhist practice and her knowledge of classical Japanese verse, and which...


Viet Thanh Nguyen

In this special Thanksgiving episode, we hear from Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees, who joined us at Benaroya Hall in May 2018. He is introduced by Ruth Dickey, SAL Executive Director, and is interviewed after his talk by Jamie Ford, celebrated author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. In Viet Thanh Nguyen’s story “Black Eyed Woman” from The Refugees, the narrator speaks to us about the arrival of stories and of ghosts, saying: “Stories are just things...