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News / Life / Clark County Life

Vancouver’s Luna family always at home with poetry

Writing, reading verse central to three in the Luna household

By Monika Spykerman, Columbian staff writer
Published: January 5, 2023, 6:02am
8 Photos
Angelo Luna, from left, Toni Lumbrazo Luna and Christopher Luna display their respective books at home in Hazel Dell. The family members have all authored books of poetry.
Angelo Luna, from left, Toni Lumbrazo Luna and Christopher Luna display their respective books at home in Hazel Dell. The family members have all authored books of poetry. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

When someone says “family fun,” the activities that spring to mind might be board games, mini golf or camping. “Writing poetry” probably isn’t even on the list, but for the Lunas of Vancouver — Christopher Luna, his wife, Toni Lumbrazo Luna, and his son, Angelo Luna — poetry has always occupied a central place in family life.

All three will read their poetry at 7 p.m. Friday at Vancouver’s Birdhouse Books. Christopher Luna will read selections from his recently released volume “Voracity.” Toni Lumbrazo Luna will read selections from “Driven by Hope,” released in 2019. And Angelo Luna will read poetry he contributed to his father’s 2021 book, “Exchanging Wisdom: A Guide for Parents of the Autonomous.”

The event is a culmination of a family affair that began in the early 2000s at the Vancouver Community Library, where Christopher and Toni crossed paths at poetry events.

“We got to know each other by exchanging poems, listening to each other at the readings and sharing our ideas about poetry,” said Toni, whose first book, “Wind Wing,” was released in 2010.

She and Christopher married in 2015. She helped raise Angelo, Christopher’s son from a previous relationship, in a poetry-rich environment.

When Christopher founded Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic Night in November of 2004, he brought 4-year-old Angelo to the monthly readings. Christopher aimed to make poetry a meaningful part of Angelo’s life, so that by the time his son reached adulthood, writing and sharing poetry would be a natural mode of self-expression.

Angelo said he liked hearing how different everyone’s poems were. Audience reactions to his own fledgling poetry provided him motivation to keep writing. He said he discovered “how much reading and writing could influence your life positively, and how much good could come out of it.”

“I’ve talked to people about poetry being like broccoli,” said Christopher, who served as Clark County’s first poet laureate from 2013 to 2017. “If you expose kids to it without being heavy handed, they just learn to like it.”

In 2007, Toni joined her husband as co-host of Ghost Town Poetry Open Mic. They hosted it as a couple until 2019, when Morgan Paige joined as third host. Toni stepped back from Ghost Town in 2021, although the gathering of local poets and distinguished guests continues to meet on the second Thursday of each month at Art at the Cave in downtown Vancouver.

Now retired from social work, Toni and Christopher both focus on writing and poetry full time. They are co-founders of Printed Matter Vancouver, a small press established in 2010 that offers editing, coaching, workshops, manuscript layout, formatting and production services.

“Poetry is our main area that we focus on but we both are accomplished writers. What’s interesting is that we’ve both been writing since about age 10,” Toni said. “I think age 9, 10 and 11 is a pivotal time in which you’re learning more about yourself and gaining more skills in learning to write about yourself. Writing became significant in our own individual development, so we share that.”

They also shared it with Angelo, whose works appear in “Exchanging Wisdom,” a collaborative father-son volume that Christopher began writing when Angelo was a year old and completed when his son was 21. Angelo, now 22 years old, contributed three poems to the book.

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Toni’s poems from “Driven by Hope” are a reflection on her years as a social worker, helping people rebuild their lives while in recovery from addiction.

In “Voracity,” Christopher wrestles with identity and body image. The book contains direct, extremely personal poems exploring what it’s like to live in a larger body and to struggle with emotional eating. Christopher said he was inspired by Alan Ginsberg’s maxim, “Candor ends paranoia.”

“I wanted to see what it looks like if you assemble a book that’s as candid as possible, even if it’s painful to think about or write about and even if it’s embarrassing,” Christopher said. “ ‘Voracity’ talks about the various kinds of hunger but also, if you pronounce it a different way, it sounds like ‘veracity,’ which is trying to be as truthful as possible.”

Christopher said he’s especially excited for the family to read a new, collaborative poem during Friday’s event at Birdhouse Books, which hosts a poetry reading on the first Friday of every month in conjunction with downtown Vancouver’s First Friday Art Walk. In addition, Angelo will share some of his recent independent work.

“To me, poetry is a way to release thoughts and feelings that can’t be released by other means — the innermost, darkest and brightest feelings that wouldn’t be acceptable to share through any other medium,” Angelo said. “It is also a kind of therapy for the writers and the audience to hear that either they are not alone with what they’re feeling, or that their feelings are not as strange as they thought.”