Elizabeth Austen | KUOW News and Information

Elizabeth Austen

Producer

Year started with KUOW: 2001

Former 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

Portrait of Mary Elizabeth Bowser, Union spy in the home of Jefferson Davis.
Courtesy of Melinda Mueller

Bill Radke talks with poetry correspondent Elizabeth Austen about Seattle-based poet and science teacher Melinda Mueller’s poem “Covert Acts.”

The three-part poem is set in the American Civil War, and illuminates the lives of Union soldier Private Mary Galloway, field surgeon Mary Edwards Walker, and freedwoman and Union spy Mary Bowser — three women who defied the constraints of their time.

Poet Jamaica Baldwin
Courtesy of Stephen Lestat

In the immediate wake of President Trump's inauguration, Seattle poet Jamaica Baldwin wrote a series of poems, including "Vigilant," excerpted below.  KUOW's poetry correspondent Elizabeth Austen talks with The Record's Bill Radke about the ways the poem gives voice to an emotional reaction that is both larger than that single event and feels freshly relevant with each daily newscast. 

Courtesy of Reema Tuffaha

My daughter asks me to explain
but my words falter.

Think about the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis. The seemingly endless cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Now, if you have kids in your life, think about how you talk to them about war and human suffering.

Brian Weiss

Six years ago Seattle poet Tara Hardy was blindsided by a mysterious chronic illness. It nearly killed her. She talks with KUOW's Elizabeth Austen about what it was like to live with that mystery, what changed once the disease had a name, and why she believes we're all living with a diagnosis of "human frailty."

Poet Jane Wong
Courtesy of Helene Christensen

Bill Radke and KUOW poetry correspondent Elizabeth Austen discuss an excerpt of "Pastoral Power," a sprawling, image-driven poem by local poet Jane Wong. The poem is rooted in a trip Wong took as a teenager to the rural village in southern China where her mother grew up. 

Seattle poet Quenton Baker and Spokane high school student Ben Read have poems published in a new anthology titled 'WA 129.'
Photos courtesy of Helen Peppe and Sophie Carter

Each week during National Poetry Month, we're featuring works by Pacific Northwest poets, curated  by KUOW's Elizabeth Austen. Most are drawn from the new anthology "WA 129." 

Willow Books

Elizabeth Austen and Bill Radke discuss "Self-Portrait," a poetic "selfie" by Seattle poet and educator Quenton Baker. The poem is part of Baker's first full-length collection, "This Glittering Republic." 

A Seattle native, Baker was awarded the 2016 James W. Ray Venture Project Award from Artist Trust. He's a founder of the anti-racism training and consulting group Moral Choice.

Claudia Castro Luna

Bill Radke and Elizabeth Austen mark International Women's Day with a conversation about a poem that echoes across 150 years of activism.

Seattle civic poet Claudia Castro Luna performs Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I A Woman?" It's based on a speech Truth gave at a women's rights convention in 1851. Castro Luna responds with a poem of her own reflecting her perspective as an immigrant from El Salvador in "Am I Not An Immigrant?"  


Tod Marshall, Washington state poet laureate
Amy Sinisterra

Washington state poet laureate Tod Marshall has just completed the first half of his two-year term. KUOW's Elizabeth Austen (Marshall's predecessor in the role) checks in with him about what it's like to travel the state talking poetry in a time of political upheaval.

Marshall reads a brand-new, as-yet-untitled poem that wrestles with, among other things, a persistent double-standard of accountability.

Chin Music Press

Bill Radke talks with KUOW poetry correspondent Elizabeth Austen about the book, "Are You An Echo? The Lost Poetry Of Misuzu Kaneko," illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri with narrative and translation by David Jacobson, Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi. 

Courtesy of James Rudy

Bill Radke talks with former Washington state poet laureate Elizabeth about the life and work of writer Lucia Perillo, who died October 16 at her home in Olympia at the age of 58.  

Karen Finneyfrock gives a contemporary voice to the Statue of Liberty in 'The Newer Colossus.'
Courtesy of Inti St. Clair

In "The Newer Colossus," Seattle performance poet and novelist Karen Finneyfrock gives voice to one of the most recognizable icons of America's immigrant history: the Statue of Liberty.

She told KUOW's Elizabeth Austen that a childhood visit to the Statue of Liberty and Emma Lazarus' 1883 poem "The New Colossus," which is engraved on the statue's pedestal, form part of the background inspiration for her poem.  

Poet Laura Da'
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Elizabeth Austen talks to local poet Laura Da', the author of "Tributaries", about how she uses poetry to tell the story of her ancestors. Her book is the recipient of the American Book Award. 

Jourdan Keith.
KUOW Photo/Amina Al-Sadi

Elizabeth Austen talks to Jourdan Keith, founder and director of the Urban Wilderness Project, about the workshops she's leading for King County's Poetry on Buses program.  

Poets Faiza Sultan and Lena Khalaf Tuffaha at the KUOW studio.
KUOW Photo/Amina Al-Sadi

Elizabeth Austen talks to Seattle poet Faiza Sultan and poet and translator Lena Khalaf Tuffaha about how Sultan uses her poetry to bridge cultures.


Flickr Photo/Steven Santiago (CC-BY-NC-ND)/https://flic.kr/p/q4dpg6

Elizabeth Austen talks to Seattle's first civic poet Claudia Castro Luna about how poetry can be used to talk about the changing city. 

She is holding a series of poetry workshops around Seattle called "The Poet Is In."

Poet Quenton Baker
Courtesy of Helen Peppe

Elizabeth Austen talks to Seattle poet Quenton Baker about his mentor, Tim Seibles. 

Poet and activist Lena Khalaf Tuffaha
Courtesy of Ayman Aldahleh

Washington state poet laureate Elizabeth Austen presents two poems by Seattle-based poet Lena Khalaf Tuffaha: "Fragment" and "Running Orders." 

Tuffaha was born in Seattle, but spent her youth in the Middle East, the child of a Palestinian father and a Jordanian-Syrian mother.

Poet Rick Barot reads his poem "After Darwish."
Courtesy of Mara Barot

Washington state poet laureate Elizabeth Austen presents a "darkly beautiful love poem" from Tacoma-based poet Rick Barot.

In his poem "After Darwish," he gives voice to the perennial human longing for a love without conflict, without loss. His poem borrows a line from Palestinian  poet Mahmoud Darwish's "I Want From Love Only the Beginning." 

Tom Zbyszewski
Courtesy of Jesse Michener

Among the three firefighters who lost their lives last month fighting the wildfires in Okanogon was one with a connection to poetry. Tom Zbyszewski, 20, grew up in the Methow Valley.

That got KUOW's literary producer and Washington state poet laureate Elizabeth Austen thinking about how Pacific Northwest poets have responded to wildfires. She talked with Marcie Sillman about poems by Kevin Goodan and Nance Van Winckel.

Poet Quenton Baker
Courtesy of Helen Peppe

Elizabeth Austen talks with Marcie Sillman about a new chapbook from Seattle poet and teacher Quenton Baker.

Baker peels back layers of language to reveal the ways both blackness and whiteness are racialized in "Diglossic in the Second America," just published by Punch Press. 

Poet and registered nurse Martha Kreiner says poetry gives her "a wider container" for reflecting on her work with people who are homeless.
Courtesy of Amy Zimmerman

For the past five years, Martha Kreiner, a registered nurse and a poet, has tended to the medical needs of people living on Seattle's streets through the Healthcare for the Homeless network. The death of a patient lead Kreiner to write an elegy for him, in which she re-imagines his final moments:

James Alred

Over the past couple of decades, Jana Harris  has written a series of poetry collections that blend exhaustive research with "documentary imagination," as she calls it. In these poems, Harris gives voice to 19th century women living in the western United States. 

Her latest collection,  "You Haven't Asked About My Wedding Or What I Wore: Poems of Courtship on the American Frontier," focuses on stories of courting and marriage. 

Writer and performance artist Anastacia Tolbert
Courtesy of Zorn Taylor

Elizabeth Austen presents a piece by poet Anastacia Tolbert, a writer, performance artist and workshop facilitator. She's also a black woman and the mother of two sons.

Her poem "What To Tell My Sons After Trayvon Martin, After Michael Brown, After Medgar Evers, After, After, After, After and Before..." is a fierce assertion that black lives have always mattered. 

Michael Lionstar

Elizabeth Austen speaks with Jane Hirshfield, a fellow poet and long-time practitioner of Zen Buddhism. Hirshfield is the author of eight books of poetry, two collections of essays and several volumes of translations. She reads from her new books: a collection of poems, "The Beauty" and "Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World."

Courtesy of John Blackard

Marcie Sillman speaks with Washington Poet Laureate Elizabeth Austen, who shares two poems about disasters, manmade and natural. 

Tod Marshall is Washington state's new poet laureate.
Courtesy of Amy Sinisterra

In "Three Dreams from the Eastside of the Mountains," a sprawling, rollickingly Whitmanesque love poem, Tod Marshall summons the wildly various landscapes and identities of Washington state. 

"Ask the swirling dirt rising in spirals/from dusty furrows just outside of Ephrata"

Karen Finneyfrock
Courtesy of Inti St. Clair

If you could go back in time, what would you want to say to your teenage self?

Writers Karen Finneyfrock, Rachel McKibbens and Mindy Nettifee decided to gather poems they wished they'd had when they were younger. 

"If we could give [teenage girls] one charm to tuck into their pockets, it would be courage," reads an excerpt from the introduction of their new anthology, "Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls."

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. 

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