Elizabeth Austen: Your dynamic service throughout our state impacted many people in positive ways. Few of us can claim that we have spent a fraction of the hours that you have spent working to enrich the lives of others: you can make that claim–but I know that you are as modest as you are generous with your time, and so I felt compelled to make the assertion for you. Let me write this again: thank you.
Each of the three previous poets to serve in this position spent time bringing the arts to many people–through sharing poems and talking about poetry, through helping to stimulate the creation of new poems by writers both well-practiced at the art and writers new to the joys and challenges of writing. I will continue this meaningful work through projects both similar to their efforts and also, I hope, marked by my own enthusiasms.
I am grateful to Humanities Washington and The Washington State Arts Commission for this opportunity. Although looking back at the fine work of Sam and Kathleen and Elizabeth fills me with anxiety, I am also excited at the chance to advocate for an art that has meant so much to me for so long. I’ll take energy, too, from Walt Whitman and other poets. Here’s some robust and optimistic poetry from “Song of the Open Road” to launch this journey: