Elizabeth Austen

Producer, The Record

Year started with KUOW: 2001

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 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.

Kim-An Lieberman
Matt Corddry

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.

Cover of Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems from William Stafford
William Stafford's collection "Ask Me."

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."

Portrait of poet Kelly Davio
Amy Carlson

What can you tell about people based on what they've chosen to have inked on their body? Poet Kelly Davio takes that question in a provocative direction in "One in Four of Us Is Marked" from her new poetry collection "Burn This House" (Red Hen Press, 2013).

Poet Rebecca Hoogs
Rebecca Hoogs

Local poet Rebecca Hoogs' new collection, "Self-Storage" (Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2013), is full of witty and surprising verbal self-portraits. "Honeymoon" turns the mirror outward, looking at two friends' relationship. Hoogs says the poem was prompted by the fact that she knew one very important fact about the couple before they wed.

Hoogs is the curator of the Seattle Arts and Lectures Poetry Series, SAL U and the Literary Arts Series. She's the author of the chapbook "Grenade" and has been awarded fellowships from ArtistTrust and the MacDowell Colony. 

Read more of Hoogs' poems online at The Monarch Review.

Maga Barzallo Sockemtickem portrait
Maga Barzallo Sockemtickem

Like thousands of other local students, Maga Barzallo Sockemtickem has had the benefit of working with a professional writer in the classroom through Writers in the Schools, a program from Seattle Arts and Lectures

But for Barzallo Sockemtickem, now 17, that "classroom" happened to be her room at Seattle Children's Hospital. She has spent many months at Children's, being treated for cancer and working with WITS poet Sierra Nelson.

Barzallo Sockemtickem's poem "Where I'm From" is defiant and tender, and challenges her listener to understand that she won't let her disease define her: "I am from stubbornness / and spitfire. / I am from refuse to give up. / I am not just cancerous." 

Her poem was awarded the "Origins" prize from Seattle Arts and Lectures.

Barzallo Sockemtickem was recorded in the KUOW Studios on August 2.

Marjorie Manwaring's first full-length poetry collection "Search for a Velvet-Lined Cape."

"Summer hearts buzz like sapphire dragonflies," writes Marjorie Manwaring in "Church Camp-out, 1978," a poem that captures the particularly adolescent ability to conflate the sexual and the spiritual. The poem is part of Manwaring's collection, "Search for a Velvet-Lined Cape."

Poet David Wagoner
Courtesy of David Wagoner, Photo by Robin Seyfried

One of the most profound duties of child to parent is to honor their last wishes, as best we can. In "Their Bodies," poet David Wagoner addresses the students of the anatomy lab at Indiana University, where his parents donated their bodies.

Peter Munro
John Rand

Poet Peter Munro recounts the complex mix of blessing and burden in caring for a dying parent in his multi-part poem, "Ketogenesis Apocalypse."  In this section, "Reading My Father's Bible," Munro finds a metaphor for his preacher father's decline in the image of his Bible worn to the point of falling apart.

Munro spends much of his time in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska, working as a fisheries scientist. His poems have been featured in Poetry magazine and the Beloit Poetry Journal.  He lives in Seattle, and is a frequent reader at the open mics hosted by the North End Forum.

Munro's reading was recorded by Jack Straw Productions, as part of the 2013 Jack Straw Writers Program.