A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

Faces of SAL: Colleen Rain

Gratitude and admiration are the two words that come to mind when we think of our amazing volunteers—they provide endless hours to ensure our events run smoothly, our mailings go out on time, and a million other behind-the-scenes tasks. But, they do more than help us out at SAL, so we’re launching a regular feature to learn about their bookshelves, their hidden talents, and to help you get to know the faces at our events.

Colleen Rain and her husband, Neil Tennyson, have volunteered for SAL for over five years, arriving at our events by boat. (They’re not pirates—they live on Bainbridge!) Here, Colleen gives us a peek behind the curtain, including dancing with Lucie Brock-Broido, the cranky email that started it all, and her hidden hula talent. . .

What’s been your favorite SAL event?

My most cherished SAL experience will always be my Master’s Class with Lucie Brock-Broido. Her presence as a teacher for a two-hour class with amateur poets was a model of generosity and passion. Afterward, we walked around Pioneer Square in search of a tuna sandwich, danced with a man who was shining shoes, and discussed her cats, her Saturday Salon, and poetry. Pure magic.

Why did you decide to volunteer for SAL?

We lived overseas for a long time in a culture that has no volunteer tradition. I realized when I moved back to the U.S., it was an important part of community for me, and I started working with other organizations. I began volunteering for SAL after complaining about a venue change as a subscriber. Ruth and Rebecca graciously invited me to coffee, ignored my cranky email, and listened to my suggestions on venues and writers and then asked if I would consider getting involved. They were so receptive and representative of the values of the organization it impresses me, still. Plus, it’s always fun to be involved and the SAL staff truly go out of their way to make our efforts feel necessary and appreciated; we’ve felt valued since our very first event.

The continuing draw (we just started our 5th season volunteering!) is that SAL keeps expanding its vision by inviting a broad range of writers and thinkers to the table. We love that they are dedicated to providing Seattle access to a full spectrum of conversation. From the WITS poets to Tommy Orange, Janet Mock, Ijeoma Oluo, and the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate program, our work at SAL helps us feel we are supporting voices that might get drowned out in the white noise of popular culture.

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I’m reading Jill Lepore’s These Truths: A History of the United States. There is always poetry on my desk, too, and right now, it’s In the House of My Father by Hiwot Adlow, an Ethopian-American woman and the winner of this year’s Two Sylvias Press chapbook contest, chosen by Kaveh Akbar.

What’s your hidden talent?

I was a competition hula dancer, member of Halau Kea’li l O Nalani in Japan and Hawai’i for five years, I’ve studied Hawai’ian, and my dancing name is Kau’a Noe (Misty Rain).

Aloha Hui Ho (until we meet again!)

Posted in SAL Volunteers