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Centennial Poetry Reading Brings Redmond's 100-Year History to Life

Local poets and literary arts enthusiasts gathered at SoulFood Books on Saturday to celebrate the city's centennial with spoken word.

Seven local poets animated the voices of Redmond's history Saturday at a public reading of the city's Centennial Poetry Anthology at .

The poets drew inspiration from handpicked, historic photographs and shared their renditions of the past on stage. Organized by the City of Redmond Arts Commission and , the event packed a full house at the eclectic cafe, with more than 50 people in attendance.

The commemorative anthology has been months in the making. With support from the commission and the , Meredith directed the project to fruition, choosing evocative photos from the archives and literary talent from the community back in February. Together, she and the volunteer poets set out to “create the bridge between the real and the imagined life of Redmond, a blend of yesterday and today.”

Aptly named 10X10, the book celebrates 100 years of history in 10 images.

The evening was as much a culmination of the contributors' work as a general celebration of Redmond's vibrant arts scene. The event also celebrated SoulFood's sixth anniversary and Meredith's last day as the city's poet laureate.

Spotlights illuminated the stage as the poets transitioned from one tale to another, with the photo that served as their muse projected on a screen behind them. The images were arranged chronologically, starting with a capture of two Snoqualmie tribe girls petting a fawn back in the 1880s and ending with a snapshot of the Sammamish slough races at Marymoor in 1956. Multiple poems accompanied each photo, delivered by different authors and offering varied perspectives on the town's day-to-day life.

Allison Ohlinger spoke and sang of laundry days and sisterhood while a 1900s photo of two women in a logging camp glowed behind her. —one of the two 14-year-old participants—mused about the workings of a “shoe hospital,” spotted in the background of the first Derby Days bike race.

“Redmond has this beautiful history I never knew about,” said Maya Ganesan, a participating poet and Interlake High School student. “The project was a really cool way to learn about where I grew up.”

Each performance was greeted with applause and awes of recognition as black and white storefronts were revealed to be familiar locales. The poetry commanded an emotional spectrum, from humorous schoolboy woes to the real pains of war and frontier sickness.

“Talking to one another and sharing stories is what creates community, Meredith said. "That can happen across time as well as between two people."

Many in the audience lingered after the reading to have their anthologies autographed. Proceeds from the book sales will fund other arts commission projects throughout the centennial year.

, chair of the commission and co-owner of SoulFood Books, was pleased with the event's success.

“(We want) the commission to be the catalyst for Redmond's creative arts scene,” he said. “(Events like this) are a chance for the people to meet the city and the city to meet the people.” 

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Editor's note: A video recording of the poetry reading is available on SoulFood Books' website. Limited-edition copies of the anthology can be ordered by calling (425) 556-2305 or sending an email to tcsinclair@redmond.gov. Cost is $5 plus shipping and handling.

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