Washington State Poet Laureate

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Idaho’s Writer-in-Residence, Diane Raptosh: Elliott Bay Books, March 14


Poet Diane Raptosh: “everyone I’ll have to live without / I must help to find a place within”


I’m delighted to welcome Diane Raptosh, a poet who is currently serving as Idaho’s Writer-in-Residence, to Seattle. We’ll be reading together at Elliott Bay Books on Sat., March 14 at 7p.  To whet your appetite, here’s an untitled poem from her most recent collection, American Amnesiac:

The self is a thousand localities

like a small nation—assembly required: borders and roads,


armies, farms, small and large pieces of parchment. I stand by

all the territories I have ever been, even as I can’t


remember them. I am a locum—ear to the emperor penguin, a banner ad

blinking to the hoi polloi. Since I’ve become John Doe, I swear


I can feel most objects with sixty digits

instead of five. This makes me think


of Lisette. Makes me miss her left collar bone. Her hips’ wingtips.

A train moans from a far hummock.


Which reminds me that everyone I’ll have to live without

I must help to find a place within. Which is an act


of granite will. A strain. A ditty.

An exercise in utmost beautility.


from American Amnesiac, by Diane Raptosh

                             (Etruscan Press, 2013)


Watch Diane’s TEDxBoise talk: Poetry, Democracy and the Hope of Sounds.


Reading with Rick Barot at the Federal Way Library, March 2 at 7p

This Monday, March 2, I’ll have the pleasure of reading with Rick Barot at the Federal Way Library at 7p.

Rick Barot

Here’s a brief excerpt from his marvelous poem “Tarp,” (you can hear him read the whole thing online at poetryfoundation.org.)

I could go on
this way until the end of the page, even though
what I have in my mind isn’t the thing
itself, but the category of   belief that sees the thing
as a shelter for what is beneath it.

Rick is the author of three collections of poems; the most recent is CHORD, which will be published by Sarabande Books this July. He’s also the poetry editor of New England Review. Read more about Rick and his work.

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Late February/early March readings and workshops

Here are a few of the places you’ll find me in the next few weeks. Please feel free to share this information with friends in the area who might be interested in joining me for a reading or workshop. See my whole schedule.

Feb. 23:  “Poetry for All” generative writing workshop, Poulsbo Library, 2:30 to 4:30p. Call the library at 360-779-2915 to register.

Feb. 23: Reading with Michelle Peñaloza at Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, 7p.

Feb. 27: Reading at Cathlamet Public Library, 2p

Feb. 27: Guest speaker at the “Bundle Up and Write,” retreat at the Tokeland Hotel. 7p. $10.

March 2: Reading with Rick Barot at the Federal Way Library, 7p.

March 4: Poetry Northwest reading at Phinney Books, 7:30p. With Suzanne Bottelli, Jessica Gigot, Laura Shoemaker and Kary Wayson.

March 14: Reading with Diane Raptosh, Idaho Writer-in-Residence, at Elliott Bay Books. 7p.

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Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Work Still Undone

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It seems impossible to think of Dr. King, and to celebrate his achievements and his legacy, without also thinking of the ways his dream has not yet been fully realized. I want to recommend a few articles and books that have helped me think and feel more complexly about the moment we are living in, regarding racial justice.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (This piece in the New Yorker gives an excellent summation of why this book is an urgent, essential read.) Personally, I’ll just say that one of the (many) astonishing things about Citizen is the way it made me feel how exhausting it must be to resist the casual, thoughtless racial bias that still permeates our culture.

Mosaic” by Tim Seibles. A little taste here (the whole poem is online in Poetry):

In America skin was
where you belonged,     a who
you were     with, a reason

someone might: how — at the

parties     of hands unknown —

astonishing deaths
could meet you.

I’ve been a fan of Seibles’ work for a long time, this poem gathers together all his powers. (I also highly recommend his collection Fast Animal, which, like Citizen, was a finalist for the National Book Award. No one’s voice is quite like Seibles.)

The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I suspect that much of the history in this long essay in The Atlantic is far too familiar to African-Americans. I knew a little about discriminatory housing practices, but I didn’t know how flagrantly and persistently the U.S. government had perpetuated these.

Finally, I’m listening to the audio book of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings while I drive around the state. It’s so potent, so mesmerizing, so unbelievably beautifully written, I sometimes have to turn it off so I can wrest my attention back to the road. She, of course, has (I can’t quite make myself use the past tense) a gorgeously expressive reading style, and to have Angelou’s company on the road in this way is a gift.


Poetry for All: Generative Writing Workshops in a Community Near You?

"Poetry for All" at Aunties Bookstore in Spokane

“Poetry for All” at Aunties Bookstore in Spokane

Here we are in a new year. Perhaps one of your intentions for 2015 is to write more, to return to writing, or to try writing poetry for the first time? I’m offering generative writing workshops many times and places in the coming months, and would love to see you there.

Here’s where I’ll offer free “Poetry for All” workshops in January (click on the blue text for location info).

Jan. 16: Mount Vernon Library. 4:30 to 6p.

Jan. 21: Northwest Indian College – Nisqually campus (Walker building). 1to 3p.

Jan. 28:  Port Angeles Library. 3:30 to 5p. (This workshop is FULL.)

Poetry for All

Join Washington State Poet Laureate Elizabeth Austen for a free, hands-on poetry workshop designed to engage participants’ imaginations, life histories and sense of empathy through language. The class includes close reading of a few contemporary poems, then using one as a model for writing our own first draft. No previous writing experience needed, and all are welcome. Maximum 20 participants.

And here’s a list of some of the model poems we’ll read and discuss:

“The Gate” by Marie Howe

“Restoration” by Mary Cornish

“Twenty Years After His Passing, My Father Appears to Us in Chicago, at Bobby Chin’s Crab and Oyster House, in the Guise of Our Waiter, Ramon” by Peter Pereira

“memory” by Lucille Clifton

“Eating Together” by Li-Young Lee


Lines from Mark Strand

I’ve just learned that poet Mark Strand passed away. Here’s one of his remarkable poems, which seems perfect for the day, the season, the political climate:

Lines for Winter


for Ros Krauss

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

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