Faces of WITS: Arianne True
October 28, 2020
Our next featured WITS Writer-in-Residence for the “Faces of WITS” series is Arianne True. Not only does Arianne teach at Hamilton International Middle School, Licton Springs K-8 School, and Nathan Hale High School, Arianne is also one of the Youth Poet Laureate (YPL) program mentors—check out this interview for more info. This fall, Arianne is also running Hugo House’s young writers cohort for high school students. Dedicated, a phenomenal teacher, and mentor are just a few words you could use to describe Arianne.
Arianne’s experience goes beyond teaching for WITS. She works with youth of all ages and has taught and performed everywhere, from the temperate rainforest canopy to under Seattle’s streets; from the intertidal zone to the deck of a tall ship. Arianne is a proud alum of Hedgebrook and of the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts.
Read on to learn some of Arianne’s favorite texts to teach, what she’s reading right now, and the best advice she’s ever received.
What is text that you love to teach?
I like teaching experimental works (to middle and high schoolers) and the students do awesome with them. I give classes a lot of Layli Long Soldier’s poems and also M. NourbeSe Philip’s “Zong!” and they have such amazing conversations and write really cool poems in response. It’s a thrill to facilitate and they always see new things, so I learn more about the texts from them too and that’s extra fun.
What do you do when you’re not teaching for WITS?
Folklore and folk in general! I dance with an Appalachian clogging group and sing traditional ballads with people and play banjo (that one just for me). I also get to work with a really amazing arts company that does performative mythology and works to keep old stories and old knowings alive through live performance. That’s The Cabiri and I can’t say enough good things about the company and the work. I love getting to be part of that and of my clogging group and other folk communities.
Which SAL event of the coming season are you most looking forward to and why?
Robin Wall Kimmerer! I’ve loved her work for years and am always soothed/spirited by listening to her read the audiobook of Braiding Sweetgrass, so I can’t wait to hear her work live. I’m not a plant biologist but I am a naturalist, and I love the holding of multiple knowledges together, especially as an indigenous person.
What are you reading right now? Or, tell us about a recent favorite read.
Mostly I keep reading books by people I know, friends and mentors. It makes me feel closer to my community and helps stand in a little for gathering in person, even for folks who live far away who I wouldn’t see often anyway. So recently I’ve been reading Joaquin Zihuatanejo’s Arsonist and Sherwin Bitsui’s Floodsong and it’s really lovely, both because the writing is so good and gives me more writing/teaching ideas, and because it’s comforting to read words written by people I care about.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I have two best pieces of advice, and they both came from Roberto Ascalon when I was a teenager. One is, “All writing is good writing because the act of writing is fundamentally good,” which I don’t think I understood until I started teaching writing. I wasn’t able to hold that for myself until I learned it by working with my students and reading their work all the time. The other piece is, “Stop trying to do it all before you can do it all,” which I’m still working on but have definitely gotten better at over the years. Both of these advices are things I did not get at the time but have sunk in slowly to knowings, and I come back to them constantly.