poetry

Washington state's fourth poet laureate Tod Marshall.
Gonzaga University

If you want to be Washington State’s poet laureate, you have to apply for the job, the same way you’d apply to be a teacher or a bookkeeper.

Elizabeth Austen, Washington state's outgoing poet laureate.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Elizabeth Austen hadn't given much thought to the state poet laureate job until a few years ago.

That changed after several friends urged Austen, a poet and KUOW's literary producer, to seek the post. She found out quickly she could make the position her own.

For Black Boys: 'You Are Beautiful'

Dec 30, 2015
KUOW Photo / RadioActive Staff

“Black boys bleed every month.”

Those words came to Leija Farr as she saw her dad, enraged, watching the news of another police shooting of a black man.

Farr wrote the poem “For Black Boys” in response to this moment, and it won her the title of Seattle’s first youth poet laureate.

Her work is an ode to black men and boys. In this segment, Farr reads her powerful poem and interviews black men in her life about how they practice loving themselves.

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." 

Nancy Pearl
KUOW Photo

Marcie Sillman talks with librarian Nancy Pearl about a unique way of transmitting history: through poetry of the era. Pearl's reading recommendation this week is a new anthology from Michael Hulse and Simon Rae called "The 20th Century in Poetry."

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.

Composer Wayne Horvitz.
Courtesy of Nica Horvitz

Seattle’s Richard Hugo House is a literary center in a large wood-frame house, just east of Cal Anderson Park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

The center’s namesake, the late poet Richard Hugo, might be taken aback by the trendy restaurants and modern condo buildings that now vie for space in one of the city’s hippest and most expensive neighborhoods.

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. 

Claudia Castro Luna
Courtesy Claudia Castro Luna

Seattle’s first-ever civic poet sees fertile ground for verse in this city’s “time of transition” amid rapid growth.

Claudia Castro Luna, appointed Monday by Mayor Ed Murray, told KUOW’s Ross Reynolds that something specific about the role called to her.  

Madeline DeFrees in 1967. The poet, formerly a nun, would tuck an envelope and pencil into the deep pockets of her habit to write when she had time.
Lee Nye via MadelineDeFrees.com

Madeline DeFrees published her first poem at the age of 12.

It was called “Sympathy,” written for a Portland newspaper poetry contest.

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:

Leija Farr, Seattle's new youth poet laureate, calls poetry a form of "self-healing."
KUOW photo/RadioActive staff

Seattleites love their poetry. The city is home to one of the nation's few poetry-only bookstores, Open Books, in the Wallingford neighborhood.

The Washington state poet laureate, Elizabeth Austen, is a Seattle resident. And the city recently decided to create a Seattle poet laureate position.

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. 

Poetry readers, prepare yourselves for a passing of the laurels. The Library of Congress announced in the wee hours Wednesday that the next U.S. poet laureate will be California writer Juan Felipe Herrera. He will be the first Latino poet to be appointed to the position.

"This is a mega-honor for me," Herrera said in the announcement, "for my family and my parents who came up north before and after the Mexican Revolution of 1910 — the honor is bigger than me."

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