Elizabeth Austen

Producer

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

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.


Seattle skyline
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"

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