one contest closes…

March 31, 2021

Today is the last day for Whatcom County residents to submit poems to the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest. But fear not, there’s another contest hot on its heels (no matter where you live).

The Skagit County Historical Museum invites writers of all ages to submit work to its first Essay and Poetry Writing Contest. The theme is “The Great Hunt for Magic Skagit Stories” and the contest is open through the month of April 2021.

Find a link to the complete guidelines (PDF) on the Skagit County Historical Museum page and send in your essays or poems about the Skagit past or present.

busy times

March 30, 2021

As we navigate into National Poetry Month, the calendar gets busier and busier. This is just a reminder that The Poetry Department maintains a 12-month CALENDAR of events throughout Cascadia.

While many of our favorite reading series have gone dark in the last year, we’ve held on to their weekly and monthly calendar listings if there is still a website available and hope they may eventually be revived. Many programs have moved onto Facebook and we include those links where available.

The information provided is very limited: a date, brief description, time (Pacific unless otherwise noted), and, importantly, a link where you’ll find more information.

To add your local event, leave a Comment on any post or send a note to thepoetrydepartment AT

Check back often; the calendar is updated almost every day.

the face of poetry

March 29, 2021

To publish your first book of poetry (well, any book of poetry, but especially the first) is cause for celebration. To do so at age 80 is a triumph.

This week we have learned about two newly published poets: Carol Seitchik (above left) and Sylvia Byrne Pollack.

Seitchik, a long-time visual artist, started writing 20 years ago. Her book, The Distance to Odessa (Atmosphere Press) explores an intensely personal four-generation story of immigration and emigration.

Pollack, a scientist, poet, and 2019 Jack Straw writer who lives in Seattle, has been writing all of her life. Her collection, Risking It (Red Mountain Press) uses persona poems to explore risk and reinvention.

Seitchik and Pollack are certainly not the only poets to publish later-than-usual first books. Dorothy A. Regal was 90 when Other Mind Press published A Measure of Strength and Sarah Yerkes was 101 when Days of Blue and Flame was published by Passager Books.

No doubt there are others, but as we wrap up Women’s History Month 2021, it seems particularly auspicious to salute these two poets. Read more about Carol Seitchik and her book in The Odessa Journal. And learn more of Sylvia Byrne Pollack’s story in The Seattle Times.

Ocean waves*

March 28, 2021

2020 Walk Award
By Katen Van Harmelen, Grade 6

I am standing on the beach of the ocean,
The cool water reaching out
Just barely washing my toes.
The hot sun is warming my back,
The damp sand is cooling my feet,
I feel remarkably calm.
The sparkling waves are calling to me,
But I don’t go.
The water is dancing at my feet,
Daring me to chase them
As they retreat back to the ocean.
I can’t help it any longer,
As the waves wash up to taunt me again,
I splash into them.
I chase them all the way until I am knee deep,
And then they start building up,
I run back to shore,
And turn around just as the wave crashes,
And becomes a ripple,
Washing over my feet once more.

*Copyright 2020 by Katen Van Harmelen. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

a new laureate

March 27, 2021

It’s poet laureate season and congratulations are in order to the following new poets laureate, who will serve their communities from 2021 to 2023.

Armin Tolentino has been selected as Poet Laureate for Clark County, Washington. He will take over from Gwendolyn Morgan on April 1, 2021. Read the story in Clark County Today.
In Auburn, Washington, James Rodgers is the new Poet Laureate, taking over from Susan Landgraf.
Meanwhile, in Tacoma, Lydia K. Valentine has accepted the laurels from Abby E. Murray. More about Lydia here.
We are likely to hear additional announcements soon, including the identity of the much-anticipated Washington State Poet Laureate, who will take over from the beloved and long-serving Claudia Castro Luna.

. . . . .
Tolentino photo
Rodgers photo
Valentine photo

on poetry

March 26, 2021

“I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew. Writing a poem is discovering.”
Robert Frost
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)

. . . . .
quoted in The New York Times (Nov. 7, 1955)

the new old Howl

March 25, 2021

If you happen to have a spare $425,000 to spend on your poetry collection, hasten over to Type Punch Matrix, where a “Previously unknown original carbon typescript” of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is on offer. In “Very good overall” condition, the 11-page copy “was discovered among the papers of bohemian and arts benefactor Annie Ruff, and is the exact carbon struck on Ginsberg’s own typewriter from the top ribbon copy now housed at Stanford among Ginsberg’s papers.” Read the story.

If publishers are distressed at the thought of online book launches, you’d never know it by the number of spring titles rolling off the presses. Here’s the latest selection of reviews and recommendations:

Happy reading!


March 23, 2021

A quick reminder to Whatcom County poets:

Submissions to the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest close on Wednesday, March 31, 2021, and in-person submissions (delivered to Film is Truth) end a day earlier because the venue is closed on Wednesdays. Read (and follow!) the guidelines and send in your poem!

SpeakEasy 27: A Spiritual Thread engaged five poets in what turned out to be a nine-month poetic conversation. The resulting series of linked poems was presented in five Zoom readings.

To complete SpeakEasy 27, audience members were invited to submit their own poems inspired by and directly linked to specific ideas or language in the 25-poem series. Round 6, on Sunday, March 28, 2021, at 7:00pm Pacific, will feature response poems by Sarah Brownsberger, Lauren Camp, Nancy Canyon, Bev Darnall, J.I. Kleinberg, Eric Kosarot, Rachel Mehl, Peter Messinger, Jory Mickelson, Don Mitchell, Kevin Murphy, Bethany Reid, Sheila Rosen, Paul Sarvasy, Betty Scott, Carla Shafer, Sheila Sondik, Allie Spikes, and Nik Warren.

Additional information and video of the previous readings is available on the Other Mind Press SpeakEasy 27 page. The reading is free on Zoom (Zoom link available from the participating poets or by sending an email to othermindpress AT Please join us!

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