poetry | KUOW News and Information


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.  

Poet Rachel Zucker
Courtesy of Rachel Zucker

Several years ago, poet Rachel Zucker was asked to write a lecture about poetry. That process led her, in part, to question what it is that poets do — and why.

She recently presented that lecture, “The Poetics of Wrongness,” as part of the Seattle Arts & Lectures Poetry Series.

Poet Lucia Perillo
Courtesy of James Rudy

The accolade "local treasure" is not easily awarded. Poet Lucia Perillo earned that and many other awards, including a MacArthur Genius Grant. 

Perillo died in Olympia on October 16 at the age of 58. She had lived with multiple sclerosis since her diagnosis in 1988.

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.  

John O'Brien

In this talk and reading, poet Matthew Dickman speaks eloquently about the often taboo subject of suicide. He says he can’t offer an answer to the question, why do people commit suicide?

Instead, he shares what he has learned from the suicides of his brother Darin and close friends, what he has learned from research and what other poets have written.

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.

Photo: Brie Ripley

A recent poetry reading at Folio, The Seattle Athenaeum, featured three renowned Northwest poets: Heather McHugh, Lucia Perillo and Washington poet laureate Tod Marshall. What’s an Athenaeum? Listen in. All will be revealed.

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."

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

Tod Marshall grew up in the Midwest, but Eastern Washington’s high desert is the place that inspires his poetry.

Marshall, the newly appointed Washington state poet laureate, teaches at Gonzaga University in Spokane. He’s an avid outdoorsman, and he spends much of his free time exploring the nearby vast open spaces.

Poet Quenton Baker
Courtesy of Helen Peppe

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

Open Books, Seattle's only poetry-only bookstore.
Flickr Photo/Curtis Cronn (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/aw6Tyc

Bill Radke talks with former Washington state poet laureate Elizabeth Austin about Open Books, a poetry-only bookstore in Seattle. The owners of Open Books are looking to sell the store to a new owner.

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.

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. 

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."

Seattle Is Getting A Poetic New Post

Jun 9, 2015

Marcie Sillman speaks with Elizabeth Austen, Washington state poet laureate, about a new poetry post in Seattle. The city will name a civic poet for Seattle by early August.

Terrance Hayes won the National Book Award for Poetry for his volume “Lighthead” and in 2014 won a "genius grant" from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
Courtesy of John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (CC-BY)

Seattle Arts & Lectures finished its most recent poetry series with a visit from multiple award-winning poet Terrance Hayes.

Fellow poet Cornelius Eady said of Hayes' work: “First you’ll marvel at his skill, his near-perfect pitch, his disarming humor, his brilliant turns of phrase. Then you’ll notice the grace, the tenderness, the unblinking truth-telling just beneath his lines, the open and generous way he takes in our world.”