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Kathleen Flenniken On Coming To Terms With Hanford

In childhood, our allegiances, our loves, are often black and white, simplistic. One of the difficult parts of becoming an adult is reconciling ourselves to the failings and flaws in what we have loved and admired. Sometimes the task involves recognizing our own complicity in those failings.

Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken's most recent collection, “Plume” (University of Washington Press, 2012) reckons with her own childhood allegiances. She grew up in Richland, Wash., a town next to the Hanford nuclear site. Both she and her father worked at Hanford. She writes from an insider’s perspective, and uses all the poetic means at her disposal to express the complexity of her adult perspective in “Museum of a Lost America” and “Deposition.”

From “Museum of a Lost America,” by Kathleen Flenniken:

Country of short memory,

glass surfaces,

and fingerprints easily wiped off.

Flenniken’s first book, "Famous" (University of Nebraska, 2006), won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association and a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. She has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Artist Trust, a Pushcart Prize, and grants from Artist Trust and the Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs. Flenniken is one of Seattle Magazine's 2012 Spotlight Award winners.

Her reading was recorded in the KUOW Studios on March 23, 2012.

As the Washington poet laureate, she promotes the work of the state’s poets on her blog, The Far Field.

Hear Flenniken reading poems about the effects of Hanford on the Columbia River, and on families including her own.

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