Elizabeth Austen

Producer, The Record

Washington State Poet Laureate Elizabeth Austen has been interviewing poets and producing poetry segments for KUOW since 2001. She began as an intern while in graduate school for an MFA in creative writing (poetry) at Antioch University, Los Angeles. Once she discovered the joy of blending her early background as an actor and director (Book–It Repertory Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Festival) with her passion for poetry as a spoken art form, she was hooked. She's been producing poetry for radio audiences ever since.

Her collection, "Every Dress a Decision" (Blue Begonia Press, 2011), was a finalist for the 2012 Washington State Book Award in poetry. She is also the author of two poetry chapbooks, "The Girl Who Goes Alone" (Floating Bridge Press, 2010) and "Where Currents Meet," winner of the Toadlily Press Chapbook Award and part of the quartet "Sightline," published in 2010.

Elizabeth's poems have been featured on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac and online at Verse Daily, the Bellingham Review and DMQ Review.  You'll find Elizabeth's poems in anthologies including "What to Read in the Rain" and "Poets Against the War" and in literary journals.

She's performed at venues including Poets House in New York City, The Loft in Minneapolis, the Austin ArtSpark Festival, and locally at the Richard Hugo House Literary Series, Bumbershoot, and the Seattle and Skagit River Poetry Festivals. An audio CD, "skin prayers," featuring 26 original poems recorded with a live audience in the KUOW studios, is available on her website, www.elizabethausten.org.

Elizabeth was the 2007 Roadshow poet, bringing poetry to underserved rural communities in Washington state under the auspices of the Washington State Arts Commission, Humanities Washington, and the Washington Poets Association.  She is committed to fostering a broader understanding and appreciation of the literary arts in general and poetry in particular. She teaches frequently at Richard Hugo House, a literary arts center in Seattle, and she has been a visiting artist for western Washington school districts and colleges.

Ways To Connect

Courtesy of Sam Green

Waldron Island poet Sam Green reads two poems from his newest book, "All That Might Be Done." Each in its own way offers the gift of perspective.

"Constellations" tells the story of an outsider ("We knew he was different,") who prompts a group of boys playing baseball to see themselves -- momentarily -- as "stars in a field / of sky, said we should imagine each of us /a billion miles apart." 

Spencer Reece
Rosanne Olson

Aylin Barbieri made an impression on Father Spencer Reece, who also happens to be an award-winning poet. Abandoned by her family, Barbieri is one of more than 70 girls living at  Our Little Roses Home for Girls in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where Reece taught poetry and English in 2012. 

Susan Rich
Kelli Russell Agodon

Seattle-based poet and human rights activist Susan Rich reads two poems concerning the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The first is "The Wall" from her 2000 collection "The Cartographer's Tongue," winner of the PEN USA Award for Poetry. 

The second is "What We Were Taught / What We Have Lost," written in response to the most recent violence.

Poet Michelle Peñaloza
Dawn Tyler

Ever since she moved to Seattle from Eugene a little over a year ago, poet Michelle Peñaloza has been inviting volunteers to walk with her from Hugo House in Capitol Hill to a place in the city where their hearts were broken. 

Along the walk, each person tells Peñaloza the story of the heartbreak. She records and maps the conversation using her phone’s GPS system, and transforms some of the walks and conversations into poems.

Book cover Reckless Lovely
Saturnalia Books

Seattle poet Martha Silano found inspiration in an NPR story, "An Alien View of Earth," about an image of our planet taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft. The poem she wrote in response to the news story, "Pale Blue Dot," not only became part of her newest collection, "Reckless Lovely," but led her work in a new direction.

Poet Christine Deavel
Rebecca Hoogs

Poet Christine Deavel trains her empathetic eye on two familiar places: North Seattle's Thornton Creek ("In Your Care") and the grocery store checkout line ("Each Day on the Verge").  

As she transforms these places through unexpected language and imagery, she also holds open questions about what it means to be whole, to be a neighbor, to be in one another's care. 

Courtesy of Rebecca Hoogs

In "50th & Sunnyside" and "Poem of Our Good Fortune," poet and Seattle native J.W. Marshall  proves that getting out of your car — whether to become a pedestrian or a bus rider — changes everything.

About Face cover
Floating Bridge Press

Poet Ann Gerike combined years of research with an empathetic imagination to write "About Face: World War I Facial Injury and Reconstruction." Her poems bring to life the stories of terribly disfigured soldiers and surgeon Major Harold Gillies, whose wartime innovations helped restore their faces.

The gravitational pull of one generation on another resounds throughout Kim-An Lieberman's second collection of poetry, "In Orbit." As in her first collection, "Breaking the Map," Lieberman mines the complexities of her Vietnamese and Jewish heritage to evoke a multi-layered identity.

Michelle Obama and 2013 National Student Poets
Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Elizabeth Austen features Nathan Cummings, a senior at Mercer Island High School, as he reads his poem "Proteus" and describes what being named as one of five National Student Poets in 2013 has meant to him.

This year marks the centennial of the birth of William Stafford, a much beloved poet and lifelong pacifist who taught at Lewis and Clark College in Portland for nearly 40 years. To celebrate the occasion, Graywolf Press has released a collection of his poems titled, "Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems."

Poet Kate Lebo
Courtesy of Shawn Arntz

Poet Kate Lebo's newest collection, "A Commonplace Book of Pie," opens with an epigraph from Carl Sagan: "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." 

Courtesy of Jack Straw Productions/Sherwin Eng

It seems every family has at least one "wild card" relative — that person who is reliably unreliable, in one way or another.  Seattle writer Anne McDuffie's poem "Conditions" tells the wryly comical story of trying to prepare her young children to meet one such relative.

Portrait of Peter Munro
John Rand

"I don't really distinguish between science and poetry; they're kind of like two different languages," said Peter Munro, a fisheries scientist and writer.

"Hard Weather Prayers" reveals his fluency in both languages. The 15-section poetic sequence finds a metaphor for spiritual alienation in the harsh weather of southeast Alaska, an area Munro knows first-hand from growing up in Sitka, as well as his field work at sea.

Portrait of poet Jennifer Maier
Keith Brofsky

In Jennifer Maier's poem, "Responsible Person," a young boy practices constructing a self by building a paper version of the man he hopes to be in the future.

His father and the poem's speaker, "not his mother, the woman after his mother" look on, noting that he looks "like someone // you could count on, one of the numbered / good on which the world depends."

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