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

live on Vashon

July 20, 2021

Join Vashon Island poets and poetry fans live and in person at Snapdragon Bakery & Cafe on Friday, July 23, 2021, at 7:00pm, to welcome the new Vashon Island Poet Laureate, Sandra Noel. There will be readings, ceremony, and cake!

meanwhile, in Oregon

June 18, 2021

Oregon poet laureate Anis Mojgani seated on caramel colored couch wearing a coral colored shirt

Nice article this week in Oregon Live about how Oregon poet laureate Anis Mojgani plans to use the proceeds of a $50,000 fellowship funded by the Academy of American Poets with support from the Mellon Foundation. His plans include a quarterly print newspaper, a poetry telephone line, and a postcard campaign. Read all about it.

more from Spokane

April 27, 2021

Back in January, we mentioned Browne’s Addition, a Spokane neighborhood, and how it figured into a city-centric project of Spokane Poet Laureate Chris Cook. Since that time, Cook’s project, In the Neighborhood, has taken on a life of its own, inspiring poetry from neighborhoods throughout the city and yielding a video as well.

Good work, Chris Cook and Spokane poets!

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.

meanwhile in Spokane…

January 16, 2021

Browne’s Addition is Spokane’s oldest neighborhood. Chris Cook is Spokane’s Poet Laureate. Where the two meet is one of Cook’s current projects: #onlyinbrownes.

As Cook walks through the neighborhood, he snaps photos of sights that strike him as quirky or unusual and posts them to #onlyinbrownes on Facebook. Now (through February 12, 2021) he’s inviting current or former residents of Spokane and the Spokane area to submit poems paying tribute to Spokane’s neighborhoods. See the guidelines for In the Neighborhood Poetry Project and read more about the project in The Inlander.

Each year, poets in Oregon and elsewhere celebrate the prolific poet William Stafford to mark his January 17 birthday. There seem to be fewer readings than usual this year, but we’ve found these three free online events:

  • Saturday, January 9, 2021, 2:00pm – Milwaukie Poetry Series and the Ledding Library present a William Stafford Birthday Celebration with featured readings and an open mic.
  • Thursday, January 14, 2021, 7:00pm – Southern Oregon University presents the 26th Annual William Stafford Poetry Celebration with featured poets Angela Decker, Barry Vitcov, Susan DuMond, Pepper Trail, Tiel Aisha Ansari, and Michael Dylan Welch, followed by a special presentation by James Armstrong on “William Stafford and Popular Modernism” as well as an open mic.
  • Sunday, January 17, 2021, 3:00pm – Oregon City Public Library presents a William Stafford Poetry Reading by members of the Third Monday Authors Group, plus an open mic.

If you know of other 2021 Stafford celebrations, please feel free to note them in the Comments.

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!

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