An update on The Far Field:

I will continue to post poets on The Far Field for the next week or two while Poet Laureate Elizabeth Austen plans her new website and prepares to launch.  Keep reading! Elizabeth will give us some details soon about what to expect.  And don’t worry, The Far Field isn’t going anywhere. This site will remain online as a resource and a record of poetry in Washington, 2012 – 2014.


Floating Bridge Press is accepting submissions for their annual Poetry Chapbook Award until March 1, 2014.  The competition is open to residents of Washington State only. The winner receives book publication, a $500 Prize, 15 copies of the chapbook, and a Seattle-area reading. In addition to the chapbook, Floating Bridge Press publishes an annual journal, Floating Bridge Review. All individual poems submitted will be considered for publication in Floating Bridge Review, regardless of whether they are previously published.  Read the complete chapbook guidelines here, under “Submissions.”

Jack Straw announces the 2014 Jack Straw Writers, who will work this year with curator Felicia Gonzalez: Laurel Albina, Claudia Castro Luna, Margot Kahn, Loreen Lilyn Lee, Susan Meyers, John Mullen, Michelle Peñaloza, Gigi Rosenberg, Raúl Sánchez, Anastacia Tolbert, Jane Wong, and Kristen Millares Young.  Congratulations to all!

Elizabeth Austen is our new Washington State Poet Laureate!

The Official Word is out!


OLYMPIA —Elizabeth Austen has been appointed the 2014-16 Washington State Poet Laureate, effective Feb. 1. Austen, a Seattle resident, will be the state’s third poet laureate. Her appointment is sponsored by Humanities Washington and the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA), with the support of Gov. Jay Inslee.
Austen will give her first reading as poet laureate with the 2012-14 Washington State Poet Laureate, Kathleen Flenniken, at Open Books in Seattle Feb. 16. (See below for details.)

As the poet laureate, Austen will build awareness and appreciation of poetry — including the state’s legacy of poetry — through public readings, workshops, lectures and presentations in communities, schools, colleges, universities and other public settings in geographically diverse areas of the state. Austen succeeds the 2012-2014 Washington State Poet Laureate, Kathleen Flenniken.

“We are thrilled with Elizabeth’s appointment as our next Washington State Poet Laureate. She will be an outstanding ambassador for poetry in our state and inspires a deep appreciation for the art in Washingtonians of all ages,” said ArtsWA Executive Director Kris Tucker.

In this role, Austen will serve a two-year term as the primary spokesperson, supporter and promoter of poetry in Washington. She will receive a stipend of $10,000 per year to help cover the cost of providing poetry programs and activities statewide.

“My aim is always to provide a frame that helps the listener ‘step into’ a poem,” said Austen. “I hope to reach people – even people who think they don’t like poetry – by sharing works that are both vivid and relatable.”

Austen is the author of a collection, Every Dress a Decision (Blue Begonia Press, 2011), and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Goes Alone (Floating Bridge Press, 2010) and Where Currents Meet (Toadlily Press, 2010). She produces literary programming for KUOW radio, a Seattle NPR affiliate, and is a communications specialist and educator at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Austen moved to Washington in 1989, at the time a stage actor, avid hiker and occasional writer of poetry. After a transformative trip to the Andes region in her early 30s, Austen focused her efforts on poetry. Her work trends towards the personal, touching on issues such as women’s societal roles, courage and searching for spirituality.

“Elizabeth’s talent and her experience curating the works of local poets will enable her to step immediately into the role of Washington’s poetry ambassador to the general public.” said Julie Ziegler, Humanities Washington’s executive director. “She is a natural teacher, a skilled poet and is committed to sharing the power of poetry.”

What: The Passing of the Laurel: A Reading with Elizabeth Austen & Kathleen Flenniken
When: Feb. 16, 2014 at 3 p.m.
Where: Open Books: A Poem Emporium, 2414 N 45th St, Seattle, WA 98103
Cost: Free

On the Web: Humanities Washington’s events calendar [Details] or
Questions? Contact Abby Rhinehart at or (206) 682-1770 x108

The Washington State Poet Laureate program is sponsored by Humanities Washington and ArtsWA and funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In April 2007, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill that established the Washington State Poet Laureate position and recognized the value of poetry to the culture and heritage of the state. Kathleen Flenniken served as the Washington State Poet Laureate for a two-year term beginning January 2012; Sam Green served as the first Washington State Poet Laureate from 2008-10. More about the activities of the Washington State Poet Laureate can be found on the Humanities Washington website.

Established in 1961, ArtsWA collaborates with artists and arts organizations statewide to conserve, promote and develop artistic resources. For more about ArtsWA, visit

Celebrating its 40th anniversary of serving the state this year, Humanities Washington sparks conversation and critical thinking using story as a catalyst, nurturing thoughtful and engaged communities across our state. Through a wide network of partner organizations, Humanities Washington serves more than 500,000 Washingtonians each year with speakers, reading and discussion programs, traveling exhibits, grant support and more. For more about Humanities Washington, including a calendar of upcoming events, visit


And a little personal word:  I am delighted that Elizabeth Austen is taking over this role, which has been the most exciting and gratifying of my working life.  She is so beautifully equipped to take the job in new directions to an ever-growing state-wide audience. Elizabeth is a wonderfully accomplished poet. For years she has demonstrated her gift for building an audience for poets and poetry. It’s only fitting that she should carry on her excellent work in this very visible and official capacity.

Congratulations, Elizabeth! You’re going to be amazing.

Kerry Ruef


Poetry, “Planet Hand,” and The Private Eye

On a hot summer day many years ago, I’d been thinking about the enormous power of the metaphor mind, the mind that sees the world through the lens and network of analogy. The doors of my studio were open and bees sometimes swept in and began banging their heads against the skylight. The bamboo outside was rustling like taffeta skirts and it was an altogether lovely day to be thinking.

 I glanced, by chance, at my bookshelves and saw an eye loupe sitting there, next to the clay alligator. (An eye loupe — or jeweler’s loupe — is a magnification tool that looks like a tiny top hat. You hold it so the flared end cups one of your eyes, while an object of study is held about two inches away.) A friend, the architect Fred Bassetti, had given it to me. He’d shown me seedpods that he kept in a box. Strange and exotic seed pods from Africa and Latin America. He’d drawn lessons for architecture from those pods.

 I picked up the loupe and wondered. Everything has an unlocked secret. What was the secret of the loupe? I’d been a classroom teacher in San Diego, but in Seattle I’d thrown myself into “the writing life”. Both worlds ticked like dueling, sometimes rhyming, clocks inside me. What secret did the loupe hold that perhaps kids, or even adults, could use?

 I had nothing exotic to explore, so I looked at the closest thing: my hand. It was like another planet… dry as a desert, folded and rumpled like the earth seen from an airplane. It was like a quilt and reminded me of chicken tracks in the mud and of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome and the lines made me think of expansion joints in the facades of buildings. I had really never seen my hand before! Since I was in the habit of writing poetry, a poem about my hand bubbled up. It was so easy and so much fun. But what was the question that drove the lines of my poem? Ah. “What else does it remind me of? What else does it look like? What else? What else? What else?” With the loupe and that first question, kids could generate all sorts of writing! Then I went outside. I slid down the throat of a foxglove, traipsed across a furry leaf, and took a walk on the back of a beetle. Poems came tumbling out, but also scientific questions and mathematical inquiries. I practiced drawing a flower through a loupe.

 That afternoon The Private Eye program was born.

 The Private Eye Project, originally grant-funded and piloted in the Seattle Public Schools, has grown into a national program. It brings out the poet, scientist, and artist in anyone. With the help of the loupe — which smashes stereotypes — and four simple questions, students and adults easily generate “the bones-for-poems”, the bones for stories, essays, reflections, then move into hypothesizing, theorizing, inventing, designing.

 Here’s an example of a child’s poem using the process:

My Hand

I sat on a brown miniature rock
Looking at all the big rocks above me
I looked farther out
I saw the cracks that ruined the light skinned road
As they dried up, weeds blew along with short scars
The blue waters made continuous ripples

Natasha, 6th grade, Mercer Middle School, Seattle Public Schools

For 25 years now, kids and adults have been using The Private Eye approach to write, draw and theorize across subjects. What’s the larger purpose? It’s to build the habits of mind of writer, artist and scientist — in one fluid motion.


 NOTE: Some elements of the above article are adapted from the introduction to The Private Eye — (5X) Looking / Thinking by Analogy: A Guide to Developing the Interdisciplinary Mind, by Kerry Ruef (The Private Eye Project, 1992, 1998, 2003).


Kerry Ruef is founder and director of The Private Eye Project, a hands-on program to spark creativity and critical thinking that fuses poetry, science, and art, K-16 through life. The recipient of numerous grants and awards, in 1979, on a year-long writer-in-residency with the Seattle Arts Commission, Kerry created “The Floating Poetry Gallery”, one of the first efforts nationwide to bring poetry into public places. Artists created works based on juried poetry integrated into the art. The results rotated through Seattle public buildings. Kerry’s poems and essays have appeared in Harpur Palate, Prism Review, Whole Terrain, and other literary journals. She won the Prism Review Poetry prize and was a finalist for the Milton Kessler Memorial Poetry Prize (Harpur Palate), the New Letters’, and the Third Coast poetry prize.  She lives in Lyle, Washington.

Kim-An Lieberman, 1974 – 2013


Kim-An Lieberman has left us too early. On the few occasions I met Kim-An in person or heard her read, I wished to know her better–warm, funny, and so so smart, kind, down to earth, generous. I knew her through her poems, especially her gorgeous first book, Breaking the Map (Blue Begonia Press, 2008).

I think most of us come to writing, at least initially, to sort out our own identities, and I felt that was so with Kim-An’s first book. Here were the two sides of herself–her Vietnamese heritage, her Jewish heritage, and the split between. She found rich material, for example, in her grandmother’s sudden and epic relocation to California from Saigon in 1975She writes about this in the introduction to her wonderful poem, “Water Buffalo Tale” on the Poetry Northwest site. The surreal sometimes appeared in Kim-An’s poetry, surprising but perfectly at home, and seemed to grow up out of that split in her identity like a flower in a sidewalk crack.

I’m eagerly anticipating Kim-An’s forthcoming collection, In Orbit, which will appear from Blue Begonia Press early in 2014.  Jack Straw Studios will be hosting a reading from In Orbit sometime this spring.  Please keep an eye out for a date and help us celebrate her abiding talent and voice.  Find a beautiful tribute to her in The Seattle Times here, and another by poet Alan Chong Lau in the International Examiner here, and a third by local literary critic Paul Constant here.

A memorial will be held on December 30th at 3:00 p.m. in the Seattle Asian Art Museum. In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the Kim-An Lieberman Memorial fund at The Evergreen School to offer financial aid for students in need.

Here is Kim-An’s beautiful and unexpected poem, “Wings,” from Breaking the Map.


It had been three years, maybe longer, and the map of his body
……….was etched
in her palms.  The stretch of his legs. The stiff, clean-shaven line of
……….his jaw.
His left ring finger, curved slightly inward.  So of course she made
……….the discovery.

The first feathers appeared in a pair.  She was facing him in the grey
……….wash of morning,
stroking the knoll of his shoulder blade, when twin quills broke
……….suddenly through the skin.
He locked himself in the bathroom for hours, cursing blankly
……….at the mirror.

They grew quickly, eclipsing his back like snowfall.  In the moonlight they
……….were lustrous.
she would brush them gently with a damp washcloth, gather loose
……….feathers in a basket.
Under their spreading canopy his muscles formed tight knots, pulsing
……….like fists.

He complained about their aching weight, how they poked holes in his
……….favorite sweater
and sometimes, of their own accord, began to flap and pull his feet
……….from the ground.
Just think of all the usefulness, she said, fan on a flaming night or extra
……….warmth in winter.

But he became sullen, took long walks alone after dinner, absolutely
……….refused to see a doctor.
He would not go to the beach anymore, even when she promised
……….a three-color sunset.
Can’t trust these things, he told her, and I’m not stupid.  I know
……….my mythology.

When he asked her to leave, it was another grey morning. He lay
……….sprawled on his stomach
at the opposite end of the bed. He gave no reason, but she knew it was
……….another woman
because their beauty was blinding. Even fully clothed he leaked
……….gallons of light.

In time she moved on, ripped up his pictures and set the ridiculous
……….basket of feathers on fire.
But some mornings she woke drenched in jealousy. Half-believing
……….she heard a rustle,
she would stare at her husband’s empty back and wonder if anything
……….would change.



Submissions are due November 8, 2013

My appointment as Washington State Poet Laureate will conclude in February 2014. They’ve been the most gratifying two years of my working life.  My most wonderful sponsoring organizations, Humanities Washington and Arts WA, have just announced they are accepting applications for 2014 – 2016 Poet Laureate.

Please help me get the world out to interested and qualified poets in our state?  And quickly, as the deadline for submission is November 8! We have only just started to explore the possibilities of this role in our state’s poetry community. With each successive laureate we can stretch and redefine the position and expand public interest. Do you have a vision and meet the qualifications? Please consider applying! I am happy to answer any questions you have about the position: feel free to drop me a line at  Kathleen Flenniken


Library Club

by Craig Seasholes, Librarian at Sanislo Elementary in West Seattle


Cynta-Liyah has the touch.

Last year, early in second grade, Cynta-Liyah started stoppin’ by the library as others headed to the playground. She’d ask if this was a time she could stay inside to write a poem.

15 minutes later, as other kids were streaming in from recess, she’d quietly hand me a short piece she’d written.  Just picked. Fresh. Ready to be added to our poetry anthology. She’d smile, then slip ’round the corner and back to class for the final hour of the day.

Remarkable. And that was before she started bringing in the boys.

Boys whose names were heard as teachers raised their voices “Cut-that out-and-stoppit-NOW” levels. Boys who tied teachers in knots of frustration and sent them over the line and down the hall to the principal’s office. Boys who would look up from the chair outside the principal’s office while classmates went out to lunch recess and their teachers headed to the lounge to flush their frustrations with “I can’t believe he did it again” conversations over lunch.

But later at the start of our  short afternoon recess,  I’d see these boys with Cynta-Liyah. Coming into the library for recess, asking for permission to write another poem.  “Please?”  She’d plead, “He’s my cousin,” or “He wants to try.”  “OK?”

That’s how our Poetry Club began.
Cynta-Liyah taking boys under her wing.
Working together on a little poem.
Finding something good inside; going and growing from there.

This year other second graders saw what was happening and asked to stay in, too. Our poetry club was formally announced. Girls writing friendship poems to one another. Others began writing love notes, birthday wishes, Valentines and “things I love”  lists that capture perfectly their precious aspirations and emotions, preserved on paper against the amnesia of adolescence yet to come.

April arrived bringing National Poetry Month and Elliott Bay Books offered an opportunity for our poetry club to recite a few “Poems to Learn By Heart” for Caroline Kennedy’s public appearance in Seattle.  I spotted Janet Wong’s “Liberty” as a perfect group recitation, following the cadence and updating the sentiments of The Pledge of Allegience we recite at the start of each school day.

I pledge acceptence of the views
So different that make us America.
To listen, to look
To think and to learn.

One people, sharing the earth
For liberty and justice for all.

Our poetry club kids took to it immediately, their faces and names reflecting beautifully the sentiments of the poem: Wang, Vu, Nguyen, Martinez.

I also spotted this as an opportunity for special students to shine before a large public audience. It was easy to choose two by Langston Hughes, including “The Dreamkeeper” for Quinton:

Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamer,
Bring me all your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

and “Dream Variations” for Cynta-Liyah:

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me-
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening…
A tall, slim tree…
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

A week before the event, I was informed that Ms Kennedy would like to visit our school, to bring media attention to the role of school libraries and to meet our student poets. Ms. Tsuboi’s first grade class came into the library with their classroom poetry notebooks in hand, and read several poems.

Then the poetry club kids came in, with “Liberty” followed by Quinton and Cynta-Liyah sparkling with irrepressible joy.

And when Caroline Kennedy asked, “Why do you like the library?” it was Quinton who busted out with the quotable quote, “I like the library because there is never someone mad here. Books make people happy!”

Photo Credit:  David Rosen, West Seattle Herald

Washington State Poetry Presses in the NY Times

Today New York TImes blogger Dana Jennings reviews four “micro presses” from Washington State:  Sally and Sam Green’s Brooding Heron Press, Paul Hunter’s WoodWorks Press, the late C. Christopher Stern and Jules Remedios Faye’s Grey Spider Press, and Copper Canyon Press (wonderful, yes, but beyond micro!).  Here is the link to a longer appreciation that includes excerpts from some lovely poems.

Poetry Out Loud

ArtsWA joins other state arts agencies in partnering with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Poetry Foundation to support Poetry Out Loud, a poetry recitation competition that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and performance. By participating in the program, students also master public speaking skills and build self confidence. Each state hosts a competition annually, culminating in a national competition among the state winners.

Langston Ward of Mead High School, in Spokane, won the Washington State Poetry Out Loud finals on March 9 and has moved on to the national finals this coming Monday and Tuesday, April 29 and 30, in Washington D.C.  He will recite “The Gift” by Li-Young Lee, “The Bad Old Days” by Kenneth Rexroth, and “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” by Walt Whitman. Watch a video of Langston’s performance of the Whitman poem below.  This is the second state championship for Ward, who represented Washington state in the 2012 national finals. He placed in the top nine students nationally last year.


Langston Ward recites  “A March in the Ranks Hard-Prest, and the Road Unknown” by Walt Whitman:


More than 23,000 students from 76 schools in Washington state participated in Poetry Out Loud this year. Following classroom-level and then school-wide competitions, top students from the schools continued on to one of seven regional finals, held in Northwest Washington, Southwest Washington, Central Washington, Eastern Washington, Southeast Washington, and the Puget Sound region.Thirteen students advanced to the state finals, which took place Saturday, March 9, at Theatre on the Square, in Tacoma. Through three rounds of poetry recitations the students performed works selected from an
anthology of more than 600 classic and contemporary poems. Participantswere judged by a panel of experts in poetry and performance. The panelists scored each student based on presence, level of difficulty, evidence of understanding, accuracy, and other criteria.
Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the Washington State Arts Commission, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the Poetry Foundation. This is the eighth year that high school students in Washington state took part in Poetry Out Loud, a national arts education program that encourages the study of great poetry. This year, the Poetry Out Loud National Finals will award a total of $50,000 in scholarships and school stipends, with a $20,000 college scholarship for the National Champion.

(from the press release from ArtsWA)

Poetry Out Loud goes multimedia with a live webcast and viewing parties

You can watch the entire semifinals and finals through a live, one-time only webcast at Or make plans now to gather fellow poetry fans and host a Poetry Out Loud Webcast Viewing PartyRegister here and find tips on hosting your party, promotional materials, and details on other viewing parties around the country.

The NEA is taking Poetry Out Loud online on Twitter at @PoetryOutLoud and @NEAarts, hashtag #POL13. For more information on the event, webcast, or viewing parties, visit or call 202-682-5606.

Good Luck, Langston!


Student Poem

Queen’s Room
by Katie

the queen’s room like
parking in a sea of China

the silver tin on a table
opening memories

the small tinge on the pillow
is like a useful unnoticed
antidote being stored away

I smell solid gold in the queen’s

is the queen home? because
I’m snooping in her room

I’m not supposed to
be here. See me wiggling out


Katie wrote this poem as a third grader at View Ridge Elementary. She recited it last night for Caroline Kennedy and a sold-out audience at the Seattle First Baptist Church. The members of the Sanislo Elementary School Poetry Club and a Seattle University student also recited.  The event was sponsored by the Seattle Public Library and Elliott Bay Books for National Poetry Month. What, you didn’t know it was poetry month?