your turn?

October 24, 2020

Applications are now being accepted for the position of Washington State Poet Laureate.

The position serves to build awareness and appreciation of poetry through public readings, workshops, and presentations in communities throughout the state.

The new laureate will serve from April 15, 2021-April 14, 2023. The position is sponsored by the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA) and Humanities Washington, with the support of Governor Jay Inslee.

To be considered, applicants must meet all eligibility requirements and submit an application online. Applications must be submitted electronically by 5:00 p.m. on December 4, 2020.

Those wishing to apply are encouraged to attend a webinar on Tuesday, October 27, 2020, at 3:00 p.m. or Wednesday, October 28 at 5:00 p.m.

The current poet laureate is the wonderful Claudia Castro Luna (a hard act to follow, as were her predecessors). A Washington State Book Award-nominated poet and creator of Washington Poetic Routes and One River, Many Voices series of readings along the Columbia River, Castro Luna has held hundreds of poetry workshops and readings across Washington State since February 2018. See more on the Washington State Poet Laureate blog.

Is it your turn?

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!

laureate lore

June 30, 2018

If you visit the Washington Poet Laureate website, you’ll find a profile of the current PL, Claudia Castro Luna, and a list of the state’s previous poets laureate: Samuel Green (2007 – 2009), Kathleen Flenniken (2012 – 2014), Elizabeth Austen (2014 – 2016), and Tod Marshall (2016-2018).

Western Washington University professor Laura Laffrado is, pretty much single-handedly, working to correct a very significant omission from that list: Washington’s first poet laureate, Ella Rhoads Higginson.

An article by Ron Judd in the Sunday, June 24, 2018, PacificNW magazine section of The Seattle Times details Laffrado’s monumental task and the passion she shares with her WWU students. If you missed it in print, you can still read it online.

remembering Ella

February 11, 2018

We’ve written before about Ella Rhoads Higginson, the first Poet Laureate of Washington State. Now, Laura Laffrado, WWU professor and author of Selected Writings of Ella Higginson: Inventing Pacific Northwest Literature, has initiated a campaign to celebrate this important figure in Washington State poetry with the creation of a bronze bust to be placed in the Reading Room in Wilson Library. Robert McDermott, whose sculpture of Dirty Dan Harris on Fairhaven Green will be familiar to many, has been chosen as the artist.

To learn more or to contribute to the campaign, visit the Western Washington University VikingFunder Ella Higginson project page.

poetry film in the making

September 22, 2017

We’ve mentioned the poet Ella Higginson before, and we’ve certainly mentioned poetry on film on many occasions. Here’s a place where the twain shall meet: Just Like the Men.

Just Like the Men is a screenplay written by Ella Higginson in the era of silent film. In essence, it is a romantic comedy depicting the first woman (Frances C. Axtell) elected into legislative office in Washington State, in 1913, and her clever campaign manager.

The community-focused team of filmmakers and multimedia artists known as Talking to Crows has now picked up where Ella left off and is adapting Just Like the Men in the spirit in which it was written.

Read more about the “Ella” project on Talking to Crows, like Just Like the Men on Facebook, and, most important, pitch in a couple bucks to help this piece of Washington literary and political history make its way to the big screen by supporting Just Like the Men on Seed & Spark.

finding Ella Higginson…

November 6, 2014

words by Ella Higginson

This is a guest post by Laura Laffrado.

Though Ella Rhoads Higginson is little known today, over a century ago she was the most influential Pacific Northwest literary writer in the United States. People across the nation and around the world were first introduced to the Pacific Northwest when they read Higginson’s award-winning poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Higginson’s descriptions of the majestic mountains, vast forests, and scenic waters of the Puget Sound presented the then-remote, unfamiliar Pacific Northwest to eager readers. Her celebrated writings were the very first to prominently place the Pacific Northwest on the literary map of the United States.

In addition to works of fiction and nonfiction, Higginson was the author of four books of poetry (which contained over three hundred poems). Her poems appeared regularly in leading periodicals of the day alongside works by other renowned authors. Many of her poems were set to music and performed internationally by celebrated dramatic singers such as Enrico Caruso. And in 1931, Higginson was chosen to be the first Poet Laureate of Washington State.

In her day, Higginson and her writing attracted international literary attention to the Pacific Northwest. However, by the time she died, in 1940, both she and her work were almost completely forgotten. They remain virtually forgotten today. It is my project to reintroduce Higginson’s engaging writings to a new audience of appreciative readers and to begin to reestablish her once-celebrated literary reputation.

To whet your poetry appetite, I offer a sonnet by Higginson that pays homage to our corner of the world:

Semiahmoo Spit

     One long, low, narrow strip of glistening sands
     Flung out into the Georgian Gulf; one wide,
     Blue sweep of sunlit waves on every side.
     Around it reach the hills, like emerald bands,
     And farther, higher, more majestic, stands
     Mount Baker, chaste and white—the ocean’s bride.
     With noiseless feet the pearl-topped waters glide,
     Pushing each other up the black tide-lands;
     Here wild, sweet roses, like an amethyst cloud,
     Make pink the air and scent the languorous breeze
     That wantons over these far western seas;
     And when the sun drops downward, flaming, proud,
     This stretch of water, petaled fold on fold,
     Seems one great crimson poppy, fleck’d with gold.

. . . . .

To learn more, read Dean Kahn’s article, WWU professor hopes to resurrect Ella Higginson’s legacy, in the Bellingham Herald, visit The Ella Higginson Project and watch this C-SPAN Interview with Dr. Laura Laffrado about The Ella Higginson Recovery Project.

On Thursday, November 13, 2014, 10:00am-Noon, in Old City Hall (Bellingham, WA), the Whatcom Museum will present Laura Laffrado discussing Ella Higginson’s rise to international acclaim and championship of literacy in her home of Bellingham in the early 20th century. The talk is free to the public.

. . . . .

Laura LaffradoLaura Laffrado, award-winning Professor of English at Western Washington University, has published widely on American literature. Her latest book, Selected Writings of Ella Higginson, will be published in spring 2015.

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