Libretto at last

June 22, 2022

Two years ago, almost to the day, we published a guest post by poet Jennifer Bullis, “Honey-Sweet We Sing for You”: A Poetic Collaboration. In the post, Jennifer describes her collaboration with composer Aaron Grad and their work with Early Music Seattle.

The performance of “For All Our Sisters,” much delayed, took place at last earlier in June at Town Hall Seattle. The program features cantatas performed by soprano Danielle Reutter-Harrah and an ensemble of Rachell Ellen Wong, violin; Janet See, flute; Annabeth Shirley, cello; Deborah Fox, theorbo; and Jillon Stoppels Dupree, harpsichord; plus interludes of dance and poetry with Milvia Pacheco, who reads the Invocation and the poem “Bowed Seas,” both by Claudia Castro Luna; and Jennifer Bullis, reading her poem, “Semele’s Letter to Syrinx” (starts at about 22:30). Watch “For All Our Sisters” on YouTube.

You can also watch a June 2020 interview/conversation with Claudia Castro Luna and Jennifer Bullis in which they discuss process and inspiration. The text of “Bowed Seas” appears on the same page.

Recent-past Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna has a new book of poems (her fourth), Cipota Under the Moon, about love, light, and children’s resilience in the face of war. She will be reading from its pages next Thursday, May 19, 2022, at 7:00pm. Co-presented by The Seattle Public Library and Elliott Bay Book Company, the event will be held in person at the Seattle Central Library and will also be live-streamed. Joining Claudia will be poet Leticia Hernández-Linares. The event is free, with registration.

Joined by Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest and other special guests, Claudia Castro Luna will also read from her new book in a special event hosted by Floating Bridge Press. Presented on Friday, June 3, 2022, at 7:00pm, the in-person event will be held at the Nepantla Cultural Arts Gallery in Seattle. Seating is very limited. To attend this free event, RSVP to editor [AT] floatingbridgepress.org.

And finally (for now), head over to YouTube to watch Claudia’s KING 5 interview with Amity Addrisi on New Day NW.

last minute… and more

March 1, 2022

Thanks to his fifteen years as an instructor at the University of Washington (and the auditorium there than bears his name), Theodore Roethke is a poet strongly associated with the Cascadia region. In fact, Roethke was born in Saginaw, Michigan, and his home there is maintained as the Theodore Roethke Museum.

Among its various programs, the Friends of the Museum has organized a 2022 Virtual Speaker Series with twelve evening talks organized into three themes.

Unfortunately, we’ve only just learned about the series and have missed some of the presentations, but the next one is TODAY, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, at 4:00pm Pacific. At that time, Holly J. Hughes, Rena Priest, Jessica Gigot, Alicia Hokanson, Sandra Jane Polzin, Claudia Castro Luna, and Carolyn Servid will read from Keep a Green Bough: Voices from the Heart of Cascadia. The reading is free or by donation, with registration required.

LiTFUSE

April 26, 2021

The LiTFUSE folks have just announced the full faculty lineup for this year’s LiTFUSE gathering. Though they are not yet certain whether the September 24-26, 2021, events will be virtual, face-to-face in Tieton, Washington, or somewhere in between, pre-registration is now open, as are signups for the two master classes, which typically fill up very quickly. You can also view video highlights from last year’s virtual LiTFUSE.

This evening, Wednesday, April 14, 2021, at 6:00pm Pacific, you are invited to celebrate Rena Priest’s appointment by Governor Jay Inslee as Washington State’s 6th Poet Laureate. This very special event is organized and hosted by the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation, Humanities Washington, ArtsWA (the WA State Arts Commission), and the Washington Center for the Book. Past Laureates Claudia Castro Luna, Tod Marshall, Elizabeth Austen, Kathleen Flenniken, and Sam Green (in absentia) will be honored guests as we gather to pass the laurel in an evening of poetry, speech, and song. Produced by Children of the Setting Sun Productions.

Register here.

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

better than flowers

February 8, 2021

Sunday, February 14, 2021, is Valentine’s Day and here are a couple of sweet options.

The League of Canadian Poets presents Poetry in Union. You book a 15-minute time slot (7:00am to 1:00pm Pacific) with a Canadian poet and after a brief conversation you will receive a poem written specially for you and your sweetheart. Advance booking recommended.

From Noon to 3:00pm on Sunday, the Olympia Poetry Network (OPN) and Cultivating Voices LIVE Poetry presents an international celebration of poets laureate: Laureate Lovefest. Poets laureate from Ireland, Canada, and across the U.S. will participate in a three-hour lovefest of readings and conversation, including special video readings by former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser and current U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo. See the lineup (including Claudia Castro Luna, Kim Stafford, and former Youth Poet Laureat of Seattle Azura Tyabji) and register here.

Thank you!

December 22, 2020

Year in and year out, whatever the circumstances, our poets laureate encourage and support the presence of poetry in our lives. If they’re paid, it’s a pittance, though they say the rewards are considerable. Some laureates serve for a year, some for two, some, well, just serve. At the close of this highly irregular year, some of our regional poets laureate are completing their terms, others are continuing behind the scenes to figure out ways to bring poetry into our homes and hearts during 2021. This post is simply an acknowledgment and thank you to this group of creative individuals. You are appreciated!

(pictured from left)
Top row
Claudia Castro Luna (Washington); Susan Landgraf (Auburn); Tia Hudson (Bremerton)
Second row
Gwendolyn Morgan (Clark Co., WA); Sady Sparks (Olympia); Raúl Sánchez (Redmond)
Third row
Jourdan Imani Keith (Seattle Civic Poet); Bitaniya Giday (Seattle Youth Poet Laureate); Chris Cook (Spokane)
Bottom row
Abby E. Murray (Tacoma); Susan Lynch (Vashon); Anis Mojgani (Oregon)

If we’ve missed anyone, apologies, and please let us know in the Comments. Also, we note that Ellensburg, Washington, has recently approved a city poet laureate position, but has not yet named the first poet to serve.

THANK YOU, poets laureate!

Mapping Literary Utah

November 9, 2020

We’ve mentioned various poetry-mapping projects, including Washington Poetry Routes, and here’s another worthwhile addition to the list: Mapping Literary Utah. Created by Paisley Rekdal, Utah’s fifth poet laureate, the archive includes poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction by hundreds of native-born Utahns, current residents, and writers who spent a significant period of their creative life in the state.

Among the writers is Dayna Patterson, who will be teaching a two-hour poetry workshop, “Exploring the Feminine Divine,” this Saturday, November 14, 2020, and will also be one of five featured poets the same evening for SpeakEasy 27: A Spiritual Thread.

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