Window on Rena Priest

August 2, 2021

There’s a nice article by Frances Badgett on Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest in the new issue of Window, the magazine of Western Washington University. Have a look at “Ending the Plague with Poetry.”

. . . . .
thanks to Nancy Pagh for the lead

today in Chimacum!

July 14, 2021

The Madrona Project, published twice a year for a total of seven issues, by Empty Bowl, features the best work by poets and writers who are “outsiders” — who write in and of this world: outside of self, outside the mainstream, or simply outdoors.

Today, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, at 6:00pm, at Finnriver Farm & Cidery in Chimacum, Washington, Empty Bowl will celebrate the publication of The Madrona Project, Volume II Number 1, Keep A Green Bough: Voices From The Heart Of Cascadia, edited By Holly J. Hughes.

For this issue, Hughes invited 64 women writers and artists from Alaska to Oregon to reflect on what it means to live and write in the Cascadian bioregion at the end of 2020, a year that challenged resilience on every level. Reaching out to national and regionally acclaimed poets and essayists as well as new and emerging writers, she brings together a diverse chorus, including Indigenous voices and those who work the land or sea. “The voices gathered here remind us that our lives in Cascadia are still interwoven with fir and cedar, salmon and kingfisher, heron and eagle, raven and crow — perhaps even more so as we face an uncertain future together, turning to the natural world for signs of resilience and hope.”

There will be a reception, followed by readings by ten authors, including Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest, who will read from her preface to the volume. Four artists will also be showing their work.

Echology Poetry Walk

July 10, 2021

poem by DL Fowler on blue plaque staked alongside a walking trail

This summer (well, actually now through November), take a poetry walk in Gig Harbor. ECHOLOGY, a project by Jennifer Preston Chushcoff funded by the Gig Harbor Arts Commission, honors the return of chum salmon to the ancient spawning grounds of Donkey Creek.

Poems by Elijah Brambila, Jennifer Preston Chushcoff, DL Fowler, Brett Marlo, Rena Priest, Justin Teerlinck, Josie Emmons Turner, Lydia K. Valentine, and Cathy Warner are staked on placards along the Donkey Creek trail. Additional informative placards are placed in the Harbor History Museum and Austin Estuary Park.

ECHOLOGY culminates at the Donkey Creek Chum Festival in November, where selected poets will read their poems.

. . . . .
Thanks to Rena Priest for the heads up!

Poetry Club Talks

July 1, 2021

photo of darkened old bookstore with open book floating in the middle and the words Poetry Club Talks...

We have mentioned a LOT of poetry podcasts, but somehow overlooked Poetry Club Talks, a weekly, public discussion group and podcast produced in Bellingham and hosted by Ron Leatherbarrow and other Poetry Club members. There are 25 episodes available for listening and download, including May 15 and May 23, 2021, conversations with Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest. More Poetry Club on Facebook. Have a listen!

6:00 p.m. today!

June 24, 2021

Sorry for the last-minute notice, but just learned about this free online reading at 6:00pm today, Thursday, June 24, 2021. Writers with work in the Submergence: Going Below the Surface with Orca and Salmon exhibition will present a live-on-Facebook reading of writing on the orca-salmon co/recovery theme.

Readers include Rena Priest, Christianne Balk, Sarah DeWeerdt, Sandra Noel, Orin Melvin, Jayne Marek, Alicia Hokanson, Gloria Vando, Sheila Dearden, Fredda Jaffe, Ching-In Chen, and Sophia McLain. Sophia McLain will also speak about the process of creating letterpress broadsides for the exhibition.

Submergence is the culmination of a workshop and event series co-created by Endangered Species Coalition and Creature Conserve, with support from Jack Straw Cultural Center.

You can visit the exhibition at Jack Straw Cultural Center until July 2, 2021. Schedule an appointment Monday-Friday between 10:00am-5:30pm by calling the gallery at (206) 634-0919 or emailing jsp@jackstraw.org.

If your late-spring and summer plans haven’t quite taken shape, this might be a good time to browse the many offerings at Hugo House. The Summer 2021 catalog is now online and registration is open. There are also loads of events, including a free, every-Thursday-in-June Quarantine Write-In with Rena Priest and a free one-hour lunchtime writing Q&A with Rick Barot. The summer write-in events continue in July with Sierra Nelson and August with Jaimie Li. And that’s just a taste of what’s coming up.

The SpeakEasy poetry series is honored to feature Rena Priest, the new Washington State Poet Laureate, at SpeakEasy 28: Homecoming. Presented on Zoom on Saturday, April 24, 2021, at 7:00pm Pacific, the reading will also include Rena’s poet/mentors James Bertolino, Anita K. Boyle, Nancy Pagh, and Jeanne Yeasting. For a Zoom link, please send an email to othermindpress AT gmail.com.

sale on classes!

April 15, 2021

If you were thinking about taking a class at Hugo House this spring but hadn’t quite gotten around to signing up, now’s your big chance. Hugo House is having a flash sale, today, April 15, through Sunday, April 18, 2021, (11:59pm Pacific). Sign up now and all classes will be 15% off with the code SPRING21.

There are wonderful courses on offer, including, for example, a single-session course with Kim Stafford (April 16) and another with our new state poet laureate, Rena Priest (April 17).

View the catalog and sign up now with the code SPRING21.

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.”

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