Shin Yu Pai | Creative City

Shin YuPai

poet, artist, events curator

Shin Yu Pai

From the moment you set foot in Seattle, you can feel it: art is everywhere.

The thriving arts scene is a priority in this city—in fact, Seattle has been recognized for having more arts-related businesses and organizations per capita than any other metropolitan area in the U.S., according to Americans for the Arts. Poet, artist and events curator Shin Yu Pai is one of the contributors to this creative city. Read on for a look at the city through her artistic lens.

Q&A with Shin Yu Pai

What parts of the city do you like to explore with your son?

I’m really fond of Ballard—my son was born in my old apartment there. We’d often go to Sunset Hill Park, which faces the Olympic Mountains and overlooks Shilshole Marina. Sometimes you can hear the sea lions singing. I also love going to Golden Gardens, especially in the summer when the beach naturalists from the Seattle Aquarium come out and talk about the tidepools. And the Ballard Locks are really fun! Also: Carkeek Park, with its historic Piper Orchards. Another great spot is the Beacon Hill Food Forest—seven acres of edible forest, free for the picking, and right next to the world-class kids park, Jefferson Park.

What are some great literary places?

I’ve lived in a lot of cities, and Seattle has a very strong book culture. Open Books is one of the only poetry bookstores in the nation, so that’s a must for poetry fans. Elliott Bay Books, of course. Secret Garden Books, in Ballard, has a great kids selection. Also, Kinokuniya, the bookstore next to Uwajimaya grocery, has an incredible collection of Asian literature and J-pop magazines. And Fantagraphics, for graphic novels.

Where do you like to take out-of-towners?

I like to show people the International District—it has such a long and preserved history. I take them to the Panama Hotel and tea house (featured in Jamie Ford’s book, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet), and the Wing Luke Asian Museum, where you can tour the actual bachelor’s quarters where young immigrants lived (and find good books in the gift shop too). I like visiting Kobe Terrace Park and the Danny Woo International Garden, and shopping at KOBO and MOMO. (Ed note: we’re so sad that MOMO closed in 2020, but we’ve left the link live for good neighborhood information!)

Any favorite spots you’ve visited as head of Seattle’s Atlas Obscura Society?

There are a couple of great cemeteries here—both rich places to learn about Seattle history. Mount Pleasant cemetery, on Queen Anne, houses many people who were involved in the founding of the city, in civil rights and labor struggles. Lakeview, on Capitol Hill, is more of a “celebrity” cemetery, with the graves of martial artist Bruce Lee and his son Brandon Lee, poet Denise Levertov, sculptor George Tsutakawa, John Nordstrom, and Mother Damnable, madam of Seattle’s first brothel.


Interview by Brangien Davis.  Photo taken at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.


Shin Yu Pai reads her poem “Requiescat” from her collection Adamantine at the University of Washington’s Red Square on the Seattle Channel’s Art Zone.



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