Whidbey Island Poetry Slams

Submitted by Jim Freeman

We call them
Although they’re
For twenty years
Weaving poetry rugs

Held once monthly
In area pubs
And coffee shops
And classroom rubs

We pick words
At least three
To write in 20 minutes
One’s poetry

Read your poem
Feel the love
Know the comfort
No push or shove

Overcome fear
Overwhelm joy
Poetry slams
Your poetry toy

Mission: To provide a comfortable and welcome setting in which to write poetry.

Where: Pubs, coffeehouses, schools, local fun-raisers, any place where pencil, pen,and paper can gather.

When: As needed, but monthly, on any day, at any time. For twenty years, we have held slams in a two hour time frame, on Wednesday’s, between 6pm-9pm.

Who: Sponsors, if needed, can be as varied as the participants who support the fun; Anyone can have a poetry slam. At the dinner table, around the picnic table, anywhere where words can flow. Our sponsor for twenty years has been the Whidbey Island Arts Council. The WIAC support enables us to compensate the hosts, provide sound, and offer fun prizes and/or prize money to participants.

What & How:
A Poetry Slam, Whidbey Island style, involves the host inviting suggestions of three or more words from the audience, or judges. The suggested words are to be used as a common thread for a spontaneous, free-form creation by those in attendance. Within 20-25 minutes, the poems are written. Then the poems are shared aloud with one another. Competitions can be created, prizes given, or merely classroom instruction for all involved.

So, What’s the Point of a Poetry Slam? : Having had the pleasure of hosting the monthly Whidbey Island Arts Council sponsored poetry slams since 1993, I can share unequivocally that all attending, whether they participate in writing a poem on the spot or not, will have a fun time, will feel comfortable sharing their improvisational creation, and will leave with a positive reminder of the multitudinous joys of poetry.

For more specific information, please contact Jim Freeman by e-mail at fun@whidbey.com or by calling 360-331-2617.


An Example Poem by Drew Kampion, 11/14/12

Poem Awe Dew

The immortals set sail,
a sundowner drifting out in scant wind
towards a gilded horizon.
Their aim – their wish, really –
to bring blessings to the edge of the world.

These immortals – this gathering –
replete with delectable opportunity:
Ulysses taking up a paddle
to do battle with Thor –
ping-pong on the aft deck.
Cyrus and Leandra in a casual game of chess
that quick became a thriller
when Hermes snatched the queen’s rook,
which brought Pele to her feet
to call the flagrant foul.

And so on, they drifted, as the sun
settled towards that crisp edge of horizon
and Hercules did pushups at the bar.

It was Jesus, finally, who prepared the celebratory nectar,
passed it to Gautama to sample,
and when he pronounced it a bit musty but drinkable,
shushed him with a “Ya-sure!”

“Mum’s the Word,” he spaketh
through chaste lips
just as Muhammed’s aardvark let out a squeal
to see the golden orb plunge suddenly
into the darkness of eclipse,
leaving the immortals helpless.


words: eclipse, thriller, awe, musty, sundowner, flagrant, delectable,
ping-pong, gilded, dew, poem, blessings, mum, aardvark, chaste, yasure

Andrew Shattuck McBride



After nightfall an anonymous sculptor
and helpers install a statue below a Fairhaven
bluff. As platform, they choose the jagged
tin boulder surrounded by water at high tide.
They balance the statue perfectly on one foot,
and bolt it in to older metal. The artist calls
the statue Grace. She points one arm to sea,
trails the other to meet leg curling up behind her.
Formed of silver bands wrapped around steel
core and heart, she’s untempered and pure.
Grace is silvery fine and fair, and appears
to be a dancer–her stomach is taut, her limbs
long-muscled and lean. A friend tells me Grace
is in a standing bow pose or dancer’s pose.
To me she seems prepared to leap or soar.
While Grace is lithe and limber, she is caressed
by salt water and air, and her carbon steel
is in certain decline. When the sculptor returns
and takes her from us, he will leave this artistry:
however we choose to picture or embody grace–
in repose, or as a dancer prepared to soar or
leap, reclining, or as an elder walking with
quiet dignity–we rediscover grace. Grace
resides in us, and remains available always.


“Grace” is reprinted from the 2012 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest Chapbook, 2012.

Andrew Shattuck McBride is a Bellingham-based poet and editor. He has poems published or forthcoming in Platte Valley Review, Magnapoets, Caesura, Haibun Today, American Society: What Poets See, Dreams Wander On: Contemporary Poems of Death Awareness, Generations of Poetry, bottle rockets, Mu: An International Haiku Journal, Prune Juice: A Journal of Senryu and Kyoka, Shamrock Haiku Journal, A Hundred Gourds, The Bellingham Herald, and Clover, A Literary Rag. His poem “Grace” won a merit award in the 2012 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest. He has edited poetry collections by Washington poets Cathy Ross, Seren Fargo, and Richard Lee Harris.



Dana Dickerson

Barcelona, Spring of ’93

He sits in the smallest room of a three bedroom apartment on Carrer de la Garrotxa. He has been left behind by his Brazilian roommates, who could no longer stand the cold Latin stares on the subway. He looks at his body like a machine, nothing more than an object composed of organic systems and chemical reactions. Outside his third floor window, women push their children across the courtyard, they gather under shade trees, smoke cigarettes and gossip in Catalan. He watches alone, aware of his every movement, his every spoken word, as if they were being compiled and documented. He considers the implications of an unspoken conspiracy. “The power of suggestion. Functions so innate, they are taken for granted.” He catches himself, unsure if he’s spoken the words aloud. He imagines Dostoyevsky in the moment before an epileptic seizure, he remembers the electric blue circle which surrounds his rolled back eyes at the moment of orgasm, he wonders at the blissful surrender of self to the dusk between sleep and dream; moments of suspicious clarity and connection with every thread in the web of life. He wants to dream in lucid reality, he wants to verify his isolation tactics, he wants to escape the Christ incinerating machines. His only guide is a map, left in a drawer, from 1963.


Dana Dickerson grew up on the mean streets of Phinney Ridge in Seattle, WA. He spent his summers covered in the fine dust, raw  wit and ancient wonder of the Colville reservation. He graduated from the Creative Writing program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. He also received a scholarship to attend the Naropa Institute summer writing program. In 2001, he graduated from the Evergreen State College. His poetry appears in Volt, microliterature.org and New Poets of the American West. He lives in Olympia with his girlfriend and their three cats.





Nancy Dickeman

Nuclear Reservation


Driving past security my father tipped
his hat at the guard
who waved him on. The badge
on my father’s chest worn
not to name authority but
to measure exposure, the point
at which his daily risk

might trip him up. When he drove the hills
toward home the desert turned
under him, sage and sand
ground to dust, rocks overtaken by a violet glow.
All the while minerals
touched us, particulates
combing the air and marking us

invisibly changed. In the dust storm
the desert stuck to me like silt, a line
drawn around my mouth and nose.
His back to me, his face
pressed into the receiver
my father said the guards had orders
to shoot to kill. What they held

behind them was a question
of life and death:
the rods delicately working
at the purist’s calculations and the tower
casting itself clean across the river, ore
reduced to powder, a golden substance
diffusible as breath.

“Nuclear Reservation” originally appeared in Particles on the Wall.  

Nancy Dickeman grew up in Richland and is a co-founder and co-curator of Particles on the Wall, a multidisciplinary exhibit exploring Hanford history and nuclear issues. Nancy’s poems have appeared in Poetry Northwest, The Seattle Review, River City, the anthology March Hares: The Best of Fine Madness, and in other publications. Her essays appear in The Seattle PI, Common Dreams and OCEAN Magazine. She has recently completed her first novel manuscript, Green Run, White Train. Nancy holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington.


Jenifer Browne Lawrence

Sedna at the Juneau Cold Storage Dock


There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea and she’s afraid
to go swimming. Not that the water is too cold. Not
that the halibut below the dock—the one
that swallowed a scuba diver tank and all—
is real, but she’s afraid not to believe

the myth, how salmon
heads and lungs, tails and ropy innards
fed the halibut until it grew
a mouth like an orca, a cavern
gaping on its flat, two-tone body,

the girl’s body
shivering in the open boat, she can’t
remove her float coat for a swim,
not even for her father.
There’s a hole in the harbor floor

where the water darkens, out
past the jetty. That’s where she would go
if she were real, if she were the fish-woman
whose fingers were chopped off by her father
to make her let go of the boat.


“Sedna at the Juneau Cold Storage Dock” originally appeared in Narrative Magazine.  


Jenifer Browne Lawrence is the author of One Hundred Steps from Shore (Blue Begonia, 2006). She was awarded the 2011 James Hearst Poetry Prize and is a Washington State Artist Trust GAP grant recipient. Recent work appears in Bellevue Literary Review, Caesura, Crab Creek Review, Court Green, Narrative, and the North American Review. Jenifer lives in Poulsbo, Washington, and serves on the Centrum advisory board for the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference.


Kevin Craft

Pigeon Guillemots


Dangle bright red legs
Floating and diving
Like simple sentences
By the ferry terminal—

So close, and closing in—
Their glidepaths trimming
Acrobatic pilings,
Rounding off the long division

Of the tide. Spring: Saturday
opens a beer and passes it
Around. Dear sunlight,
We missed your clean throw rugs

Beating on the bay.
There’s no place to get to
But we’re going anyway.
Guillemot—like guile,

Only less so, a bon-mot
Waiting to lodge itself
In your bailiwick.
Compact. Glossy.

The world still has a thing
Or two to show us,
Much of which passes
For guillemots today.


Kevin Craft is the editor of Poetry Northwest. He lives in Seattle, and directs both the Written Arts Program at Everett Community College and the University of Washington’s Creative Writing in Rome Program. His books include Solar Prominence (Cloudbank Books, 2005) and five volumes of the anthology Mare Nostrum, an annual collection of Italian translation and Mediterranean-inspired writing (Writ in Water Press). He has been awarded fellowships by the MacDowell Colony, Bogliasco Foundation, Camargo Foundation, 4Culture, and Artist Trust. His poems, reviews, and essays have appeared widely in such places as Poetry, AGNI, Verse, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Stranger, Poetry Daily, and Kenyon Review.

Tammy Robacker



Your quiet breaks me apart like whitecaps
collapse before coursing a shore. The water
that eddies you floats a shapeless gray
around this bay, over this day; ebbing
grief in the horizon’s haze. Here,
where your timber boom went bust,
now you just rust craggy stumps
along an emptied dock and austere pier.

You hang an ash-splashed canvas for miles
at this beach. A comber cannot read
where stone cold sky meets gun metal sea,
as they bumble down your one dead,
bone-jumbled jetty finger anchored
by blanched boulders and uprooted trees.

The rotund tourists straggle in and wag
tongues stuck full of green salt water
taffy and old fashion donuts. Their throats
close shut around pulpy oyster shooters
quaffed starboard off spitting bottomfish
charters rented out on the cheap.

The world ends here. Where longitude crosses itself
with latitude to no absolution. Where waves genuflect
then crumble rather than crash. The sand
dollars you’ve strewn townside are cracked
to halves. Their lost flock of peace doves,
once housed in a holy shell hollow, now worthless
debris to those who divine the beachhead.

Here your gulls swoon restless and hover
above the sea’s ennui. They dip and drone
mid-air: Scavengers perpetually hung
there—aimless and leering. They swing
back and forth, steering ghost-shaped waves
in the grimy brine sky above your grave.


Winner of a Hedgebrook writer-in-residence award in 2011, and awarded the 2010-2011 Poet Laureate of Tacoma title, Tammy Robacker promotes the art of poetry in the South Sound community by writing, teaching and guest speaking locally. In 2009, she was the recipient of a TAIP grant award and published her first book of poetry, The Vicissitudes. In addition, she co-edited a Tacoma poetry anthology, with former Poet Laureate of Tacoma, Bill Kupinse, titled: In Tahoma’s Shadow: Poems from the City of Destiny. Ms. Robacker studied Creative Writing and Poetry at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and graduated with a B.A. degree. Now, actively involved in Washington State’s South Sound as a poet, a freelance writer, and a volunteer, Robacker also serves as secretary of the board for Puget Sound Poetry Connection.

Tammy’s poetry has appeared in Columbia Magazine, Plazm, Floating Bridge Review: Pontoon, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Word Salad, Pens on Fire, and the Allegheny Review. Ms. Robacker’s poetry manuscript, We Ate Our Mothers, Girls, was selected as a finalist in the 2009 Floating Bridge Press chapbook contest in Seattle, WA. Tammy Robacker runs her own freelance writing company called, Pearle Publications. Her editorials have appeared in SHOWCASE Magazine, CITY ARTS Magazine, and the Weekly Volcano.

Sibyl James

Twisp, Washington


Back east, they’d call these foothills mountain,
but you learn to map a different scale here
where the road west of you keeps rising
into a pass closed Thanksgiving to April,
where yards of rusted Ford bodies
and wringer washers aren’t lack of pride
but history to people that don’t read books,
a comfort of real things to talk
and tinker about, drawing off the restlessness
that comes between Saturday nights.

You could live a good winter here,
rent rooms in any grey weathered house
and watch the snow shift on porch chairs
left out ready for spring. Eat venison
and brown gravy at the Branding Iron
every Sunday, and walk it off
on the ridge behind the old copper mine
with that pack of scavenger horses and mules
snorting at your heels, and your own breath clouds
frozen at your lips like cartoon speech.
You won’t need much talk here
where the names of things get crystal
and definite as that frozen air, something to exchange
hand to mittened hand on the morning bridge.
“Neighbor” is the guy who takes your shift
the day the baby’s born. “Love”’s the years
of Saturday nights she’s held your head above the john.

When the sawmill shuts down, the quiet
goes sharp and ebony behind a fine mesh of stars.
The creek runs louder than the road then, a sound
drawing you out to walk until the frost patterns your eyes,
and the cold burns in your blood like a hunger
for coffee and wood smoke, turning you back to town.

In one good winter, you could get so solitary here
that you’d forget the name for lonely,
until the spring came, surprised you
like the sound of ice breaking under the bridge.
It would be the day you swept the snow from porch chairs,
the night you stayed past closing in the Branding Iron
while the waitress shared Wild Turkey on the house,
let you talk until she turned the empty bottle over,
smiling, handing you the news the pass was open,
like a word she’d dusted off that morning
and knew you’d just turned foreign enough to use.



Sibyl James has published nine books, including The Adventures of Stout Mama (fiction), China Beats (poetry) and, most recently, The Last Woro Woro to Treichville: A West African Memoir. She has taught in the US, China, Mexico, and–as Fulbright professor–Tunisia and Cote d’Ivoire.