new poets laureate

September 5, 2021

Our poets laureate, whether representing city, state, or nation, play an important role in bringing poetry to communities and classrooms. Through their own words and those of others, they offer unique insights into current events, concerns, and emotions. The role is both creative and demanding. Here are a number of recently appointed (or not previously mentioned) Cascadia-region poets laureate:

 
Olympia, Washington
ASHLY McBUNCH
(2021-2023)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Montana
MARK GIBBONS
(2021-2022)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
Nanaimo, BC, Canada
KAMAL PARMAR
(2021-2023)
photo by Dirk Heydemann
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
Victoria, BC, Canada
JOHN BARTON
(2019 – 2022)
photo by John Preston

Amidst plenty of gloomy financial news, the Academy of American Poets has announced awards of $50,000 each to 23 Poets Laureate of states, cities, counties, and the Navajo Nation. Funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program is in its second year, with expanded coverage and a change in focus, as poets are subject to travel restrictions and other distancing requirements. You may recall that Claudia Castro Luna’s One River, A Thousand Names project was funded last year.

Cascadia’s sole winner this year is Susan Landgraf, Poet Laureate of Auburn, Washington. A poet and journalist, Landgraf is the author of What We Bury Changes the Ground (Tebot Bach, 2017). She will partner with the Muckleshoot Tribe and Reservation and the City of Auburn to offer poetry workshops at the Tribal School and in the Auburn Public Schools Tribal Programs, as well as for adults and children at the Tribal Center. The project will culminate in a book of participants’ poems, as well as a series of readings on the Reservation, in the City of Auburn, and at the State Capitol.

Congratulations to Susan and all of this year’s grantees!

poets laureate

May 2, 2020

Congratulations to Anis Mojgani, who has just accepted an appointment as the 10th Poet Laureate of Oregon. Watch Anis Mojgani on Button Poetry “To Where the Trees Grow Tall” or his TEDxEmory talk, “The music of growing up down south.”

Congratulations also to Joy Harjo, who has just been appointed to a second term as U.S. Poet Laureate.

Poetry is especially important right now and it’s good to have such capable and creative poets as guides.

. . . . .
Photo by Hilde Franzsen

meet some laureates

June 13, 2022

Marie Marchand
photo by Sami Jo

Laura Da’
photo by Dean Davis

Sah Pham

CMarie Fuhrman
photo by Dean Davis

Stacy Boe Miller

Fiona Tinwei Lam
photo by Holly Hoffman

Louise Bernice Halfe / Sky Dancer
photo: Library of Parliament


Appointments for the poets laureate of cities, states, and nations do not run on a single schedule. Terms of service vary and some terms have been extended thanks to recent disruptions.

Here are a number of recent-ish appointments in the Cascadia region (for more, see additional poets laureate posts):

Marie Marchand began her one-year term (renewable for up to three years) as the first Poet Laureate of Ellensburg, Washington, in April 2022.

Laura Da’ is the 2022-2023 Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington.

Sah Pham is the 2022/23 Seattle Youth Poet Laureate.

Appointed in 2021, CMarie Fuhrman is the Idaho State Poet Laureate and Writer in Residence.

Stacy Boe Miller is the 2021-2024 Poet Laureate of Moscow, Idaho.

Fiona Tinwei Lam is the 2022-2024 Poet Laureate of Vancouver, British Columbia.

And last, but not least, Louise Bernice Halfe — Sky Dancer became Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate on January 1, 2021, and will serve a two-year term.

We congratulate these poets and thank them for bringing the voice and spirit of poetry into communities across the country.

On Saturday, January 29, 2022, 10:00am – Noon Pacific, Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest will offer an online (Zoom) workshop: Pulling Poems from the Ends of Our Pens.

Here’s Rena’s description of the workshop:

“Where do your poems come from?” This question is often asked in Q & A sessions and interviews. I think it’s a great question. Where do poems come from? We’ll have a discussion about where our poems come from and if you have a favorite poem you’ve written, I invite you to bring it along and share it, along with a few words about your process. People will also often ask “How do you start a poem?” In this workshop we’ll begin by sharing our strategies for getting started, and we’ll respond to a series of prompts. By the end of our time together you’ll have a fresh set of ideas on which to build new poems.

Rena Priest is a Poet and an enrolled member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. She has been appointed to serve as the Washington State Poet Laureate for the term of April 2021-2023. She is a Vadon Foundation Fellow, and recipient of an Allied Arts Foundation Professional Poets Award. Her debut collection, Patriarchy Blues, was published in 2017 by MoonPath Press and received an American Book Award. She is a National Geographic Explorer (2018-2020) and a Jack Straw Writer (2019). She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.

Registration is required and all fees benefit the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest: $30 per workshop. Zoom links will be provided after registration.

TO REGISTER, please submit your payment of $30 via Venmo (www.venmo.com/SueC-BoyntonContest ) OR by check (made out to Sue C. Boynton Contest) mailed to PO Box 5442, Bellingham, WA 98227-5442. Please be sure to include your name, email, phone, and the title/date of the workshop(s) you wish to attend. If you have questions, please contact Jay, our workshop coordinator by email: jsnahani AT gmail.com.

See the full lineup of winter 2022 workshops on the Workshops page.

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Rena Priest has been appointed 2021-2023 Washington State Poet Laureate by Governor Jay Inslee.

A member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation, Priest will be the first Indigenous poet to assume the role. Priest’s literary debut, Patriarchy Blues, was honored with the 2018 American Book Award, and her most recent work is Sublime Subliminal.

The two-year term officially begins April 15, 2021. She will succeed Claudia Castro Luna, the current poet laureate. Prior to Castro Luna the position was held by Tod Marshall (2016-2018), Elizabeth Austen (2014–2016), Kathleen Flenniken (2012–2014), and Sam Green (2007–2009).

“I am incredibly excited and honored to take on this role,” said Priest. “I’m fascinated by the way people come together around poetry. I am always delighted by how they gather in quiet rooms and let themselves be drawn in, lit up, and transformed by the words of other people. It’s a powerful way of connecting.”

The Washington State Poet Laureate program is jointly sponsored by Humanities Washington and the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA). Poets laureate work to build awareness and appreciation of poetry — including the state’s legacy of poetry — through public readings, workshops, lectures, and presentations in communities throughout the state.

“The position of Poet Laureate in our state is so much more than ceremonial,” said Humanities Washington CEO Julie Ziegler. “It’s a dedicated outreach position where you meet with thousands of people each year, using poetry and language as a starting point for connection.”

Laureates are selected through an application and panel review process that evaluates candidates’ writing acumen, commitment to reaching diverse communities, and experience promoting poetry.

“The panel was impressed by Rena’s skill and compelling nature of her poetry and work,” said ArtsWA Executive Director Karen Hanan. “She was also chosen for the depth and breadth of her connections to communities and her capacity to further extend those connections through her role as State Poet Laureate.”

Each laureate puts their own unique focus on the position, and Priest will focus on two primary goals during her term: celebrating poetry in Washington’s tribal communities; and using poetry to increase appreciation of the natural world and the threats facing it.

“There are 29 federally recognized tribes in Washington, composed of 140,714 tribal citizens,” said Priest. “I’m sad to say that in the hundreds of poetry readings I’ve attended over the years, I’ve only met a handful of Native poets. I know that this is not because we don’t exist, but because we don’t have the same access to writing communities as people living in cities and towns.”

For the environmental piece, she “hopes to use poetry and story to invite readers to engage in contemplation of how they can help protect the natural world.”

“We are in an important historical moment when science has given us a deadline to make significant changes to heal our planet,” she said. “I want to use poetry as a tool to offer new perspectives and generate enthusiasm for the idea that we can slow and reverse the effects of ecological destruction simply by loving the Earth.”

Priest was drawn to poetry from an early age. Her grandmother published a small chapbook of poetry, and she cites that and Shel Silverstein’s book Where the Sidewalk Ends as “among the finest gifts I’ve ever been given.” And as a child, Priest would lie in bed at night and “whisper pleasing word combinations. It was the best thing I knew how to do. It’s still the best thing I know how to do.”

In addition to winning the American Book Award for Patriarchy Blues, Priest’s latest book is Sublime Subliminal. She has received the Allied Arts Foundation 2020 Professional Poets Award, and residency fellowships from Hawthornden Castle, Hedgebrook, and Mineral School. She is also the recipient of the 2020 Vadon Foundation Fellowship. She is a National Geographic Explorer and a 2019 Jack Straw Writer. Priest’s work can be found in Poetry Northwest, Pontoon Poetry, Verse Daily, Poem-a-Day at Poets.org, and elsewhere. She has taught Comparative Cultural Studies and Contemporary American Issues at Western Washington University and Native American Literature at Northwest Indian College. Priest holds a BA in English from Western Washington University and an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Bellingham, Washington.

“Poetry is a gift,” said Priest. “This is my approach to it and my belief about it: I’m very lucky to have it. We all are.”

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

poets, historically

December 16, 2019

Four of the 11 articles in the 2019 Journal of the Whatcom County Historical Society discuss poets with local ties.

Marielle Stockton, an English literature student at Western Washington University, wrote “To Lie There Forever, on the Silver Crest of the World.” The article details Washington Poet Laureate Ella Higginson’s memorial poems written in response to three deadly local tragedies — a shipwreck, a mining accident, and an avalanche.

Dean Kahn, a retired Bellingham Herald staff member, contributed profiles on the following three poets:

  • Charles Edward Butler, a librarian at Western who wrote a memorial poem about the same 1939 avalanche, which killed six people associated with the college.
  • Naomi Reimer, who published a collection of poems about her extended family’s Mennonite odyssey.
  • Elizabeth Watts Henley, the daughter of a prominent Bellingham family who became well known in Oregon poetry circles despite a lifetime of personal challenges.

Copies of the annual publication are available for $10 at Village Books and online at WCHS.

. . . . .
Thanks to Dean Kahn for the update!

Spokane Arts has announced that Chris Cook will assume the title of Spokane Poet Laureate in November, when Mark Anderson completes his two-year term. Read more in The Spokesman-Review and learn more about Chris Cook and listen to some poems on Pictures of Poets.

. . . . .
photo by Dean Davis

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden today, June 19, 2019, announced the appointment of Joy Harjo as the nation’s Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry for 2019-2020. Harjo is the first Native American poet to serve in the position — she is an enrolled member of the Muscogee Creek Nation.

Joy Harjo will take up her position in the fall and succeeds Tracy K. Smith, who served two terms as laureate.

Read the full story on the Library of Congress website, and view a recent Q & A with the poet here.

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