Student Poem


by Nathan Cummings

Like syzygy, we collided
in the darkness, ricocheted,
twirled, aligned
(helped along by gravity?)
and were gone when the moon showed its face.

I told you the word at dawn,
and had to write it on a notepad
before you would believe me.
Many things sound impossible
before you put your tongue into them.

Feel it in the roots of your teeth.
Let the zy and gy crackle
like the static on an old TV set,
turning sound galvanic,
making atoms tremble in ecstasy
until they leap skyward,
form rows and hang in the void to hear
the planets sing with one burning voice.

Let consonants carry you away.


Nathan Cummings has been appointed the West Region’s National Student Poet for 2013. This is the highest honor in the United States for youth poets presenting original work. Nathan currently lives in Mercer Island, a community which has afforded him many opportunities in the arts. These include playing the clarinet in marching and concert band and serving as the editor-in-chief of his high school literary magazine, Pegasus. Nathan is also a reader for two national teen literary magazines, Polyphony H.S. and The Adroit Journal. His experiences with Polyphony and Adroit, as well as his time spent at the Iowa Young Writers’ studio, have introduced him to a remarkably close-knit and supportive network of teen writers from across the nation. Nathan also participates in cross country and track and field at his school. Some of his favorite poems originate from ideas that first came to him during long, solitary runs.


Nathan Cummings pictured at the White House with Mrs. Obama (Nathan is just right of her) and his fellow National Student Poets.  Read more about this excellent program here and here.

(This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.)



Poets In The Park from Alliance for Young Artists & Wri on Vimeo.

Linda Bierds


At hand: the rounded shapes—cloud white, the scissors—sharp,
two dozen toothpick pegs, a vial of amber glue.
It’s February, London, 1953,
and he’s at play, James Watson: the cardboard shapes,

two dozen toothpick pegs, a vial of amber glue.
White hexagons, pentagons, peg-pierced at the corners—
he’s at play, James Watson, turning cardboard shapes
this way, that. And where is the star-shot elegance

when hexagons, pentagons, peg-pierced at the corners,
slip into their pliant, spiral-flung alignments?
Where is that star-shot elegance? This way? That?
He slips together lines of slender pegs that quickly

split in two. (Pliant, spiral-flung, one line meant
solitude. But one to one? Pristine redundancy.)
He slips. Together, lines of slender pegs quickly
conjugate. White hexagons, white pentagons:

not solitude but—one, two, one—pristine redundancy.
So close the spiral shape, now. Salt and sugar atoms
congregate: white hexagons, white pentagons.
So close the bud, the egg, the laboratory lamb,

the salt and sugar atoms’ spiral shape. So close—
it’s February, London, 1953—
the blossom, egg, the salutary lamb. So close
at hand, the rounded shapes—cloud white, the scissors—sharp.


“DNA” is reprinted from Virginia Quarterly Review and First Hand (G. P. Putnam and Sons, 2005).

Linda Bierds – DNA from UW College of Arts & Sciences on Vimeo.


Linda Bierds was born in Wilmington, Delaware. Her family settled in Seattle when she was seven. She earned her BA and MA, with an emphasis in fiction, from the University of Washington. Her many collections of poetry include Flights of the Harvest Mare (1985); Heart and Perimeter (1991); The Ghost Trio (1994), which was a Notable Book Selection by the American Library Association; The Profile Makers (1997); The Seconds (2001); First Hand (2005); and Flight: New and Selected Poems (2008). Bierds is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, the Poetry Society of America, and the MacArthur Foundation. She teaches English and writing at the University of Washington, and lives on Bainbridge Island.


Molly Mac



“home, Please.” previously featured on Paperbag’s blog, and was presented as a video installation at TaRLA in Seattle and The Schoolhouse in Brooklyn, NY.


Molly Mac was born in Portland, grew up in Georgia and then came home to Seattle.  She is a multimedia poet and installation artist with an MFA in combined media from Hunter College, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at The Center for Digital Art and Experimental Media at the University of Washington.  She performs her work in multimedia poetry readings and her multimedia installations have been shown across the US and UK.

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!




Poet Spencer Reece will be reading from his forthcoming collection of poems,  The Road to Emmaus, at Richard Hugo House on Monday, March 25.  The title poem recently appeared in Best American Poetry 2012, edited by Mark Doty.

The evening  will include a screening of James Franco’s short film based on Reece’s poem, “The Clerk’s Tale.”  Spencer Reece will also discuss his work at Our Little Roses orphanage for girls in Honduras, where he is currently spending a Fulbright Year. James Franco is producing a documentary about Reece’s work with the girls writing and illustrating poetry.

This event is free and is supported by Poets & Writers, Humanities WA, and ArtsWA.






Mark Anderson

For Connor

This is a poem for Connor
Connor who I have never met,
Connor who I may never know:

For two whole hours I listened to his girlfriend’s mother
as she talked behind me in a strip mall coffee shop
about the boy whose soul she was trying to save.
It was 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning
and this is how I had always needed to learn about holiness.

She says “Connor has a good heart
but he was never taught to use it.”
And I think to myself,
what funny things we overhear
when we are always listening.
From what I gather the problem is this:
her daughter is a meek white lamb
from the land of picket fences
and Connor is what is born out of adrenaline,
reformed and settled at the bottom of his stomach
but still not converted.
And as for myself,
I have been caught sinning so few times in public
that there are fools who have mistaken me for holy.
But at that very moment,
I had been through something
very recently, which was
very similar, and which ended
very badly for me.
So I feel for him,
and I press my ear so far into that lady’s throat
that I can hear her breathing above the espresso machine.

Because Connor and I
are the same shape
of wide eyed wishing wells
who want love
more than any other form of redemption.
But at that moment
love was falling through for the both of us.
So I swallowed my coffee slowly,
and I listened as hard as I could.

Because that morning
the only thing that could save me
was to feel just a little less alone,
which is exactly what his story did for me.
I should mention
if I hadn’t been listening then
I might not still be standing here
to speak to you.
So I wonder what makes an angel.
Does it have nothing to do with wings?
Before they have their wings
do they come with names like Connor?
Do they suffer like the rest of us?

And this is not a poem.
This is just a thank you note
to Connor who I have never met,
Connor who I may never know.


Mark Anderson puts together the Broken Mic poetry open mic (and, according to its Facebook page, “emotional spaceship ride”) each week at Neato Burrito in downtown Spokane. Age 24, the Inlander recently described him as the “grandfather” of Spokane’s poetry scene. That’s because he’s fought to keep performance poetry alive in Spokane through Broken Mic and poetry slam competitions. Recently, he was awarded the Ken Warfel Fellowship, for poets who “have made substantial contributions to their poetry communities.”

Caleb Barber

Beast in Me


When I said I would take you swimming,
I meant we would drive out
to the reservation and I’d say
it was too cold to take our clothes off.

When I said I would take you camping,
I meant I would wait until you went
away to Spain, then go to the hills by myself.

When I said “Yes, I will definitely be
at that show,” I meant I would
show up late, with a can of Rainier
in each of my pants pockets,
then leave once they were empty.

When I said we should maybe just
keep this friendly, I meant
I wouldn’t be calling you again.

And when you reported all this
to my best friend, he agreed with you
I was unkind, and listened
while you complained
two hours on the bar bench.

Honey, I was only a few blocks away,
putting the moves on someone new.


“Beast in Me” is reprinted from Beasts and Violins (Red Hen Press, 2010)

Caleb Barber earned a BA from Western Washington University in English/Creative Writing, and received an MFA in poetry from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, based off of Whidbey Island.  He currently lives in Bellingham, WA, where he works at an aerospace machine shop. His poems have been most recently published in Rattle, Portland Review, Los Angeles Review, Makeout Creek, and New Orleans Review, as well as a feature in Poet Lore. His first book, Beasts and Violins, is available from Red Hen Press. The title poem appeared in Best American Poetry 2009.

Student Poem

Today’s poem is by Rose, age 16, who participated in the Pongo Teen Writing Project in the King County Juvenile Detention system. Her poem is featured in There Had to Have Been Someone, one of 13 print poetry anthologies that Pongo has published over the past 17 years. Please watch a short video by John Sharify, Poetry flows from teens behind bars, featured on KING5 News yesterday, for more information about Pongo’s important work with distressed youth.


Ice Cream Man

I just thought you should know
that sometimes I’m afraid of you.
I don’t mind you rep’ing the gangs,
but sometimes when I look into your eyes,
I see violence against me,
I see violence against your grandma,
and it hurts me inside.

I just thought you should know,
I want to work in here someday,
helping kids that went through what I went through,
help them understand why I ran away from home,
because my parents beat me,
because the stress in my life
made me do something stupid.
I was the girl who stopped going to school,
I was the girl who stopped listening to her parents,
who started drinking and smoking.

I just thought you should know
that one side of me wants to be with you
and one side of me does not,
and the side that does not is confused,
feels like a lost sheep.

I just thought you should know,
I see myself with a happy family
in a park, Oakland, CA, eating barbequed lamb
next to the swimming pool while dads play tennis
and moms talk and serve food
and all the Tongan people speak to the ice cream man.

I just thought you should know
I’m tired of seeing what people do on the streets,
and I’m tired of being part of it.

I just thought you should know,
I want to say hello again to the ice cream man.

Dedicated to Z


“Ice Cream Man” previously appeared in There Had to Have Been Someone, 2011.


Rose, age 16, wrote “Ice Cream Man” with the Pongo Teen Writing Project, which teaches and mentors personal poetry by distressed teens all over King County, especially those who have a hard time expressing themselves. Pongo is the brainchild of poet Richard Gold, who has worked tirelessly to create, maintain, and promote this program that helps  youth understand their feelings, build self-esteem, and take better control of their lives. Pongo’s trained volunteers establish writing projects inside juvenile detention centers, psychiatric hospitals, and other sites.  The Pongo web site provides writing opportunities and invites youth to write poetry on the web site.  They also happily share resources and teaching methods with counselors and teachers, all for free. The program was featured on KING5 News in Seattle yesterday.

Pongo Teen Writing Project from Richard Gold on Vimeo.

Karen Entrantt

Baby Girle


Baby Girle,
Sit down
Take off ur too-high designer shoes.
Put ur Coach/designer x bag down.
Rub ur hurting feet.
pull them up til the heels can feel the cushion in the chair.
Or Stretch them out on the coffee table–
I know it’s beautiful/fav stuff on it
but juss thys once, push it aside,
Stretch ur feet out & close ur eyes!
And juss be still for a minute.
No music. No ipod. no x-box.
Juss u & ur long loss/neglected friend–
No thoughts about ray-ray/nae/niqua/or the dude u really like;
but he don’t know it!
Juss U & Silence.
Silence will guide u, 2
Go upstairs.
Take off all ur
Pull ur hair back.
Wash all the make-up off ur face, body.
Run a hot bubble bath.
Like u used to do back n the day.
No fancy label, juss somethin w/ good bubbles.
Get in & juss submerge all of u
Into the mystery of lathering/soothin/bubbles…
U close ur eyes, surrendering 2 the comfort of the bubbles…
U seemed to have drifted between the wurlds…
U hear a soft soothin voice

But Baby Girle, there are many around u
who never died.
There’s the Ancestral Governing Council
led by Mother Matriarche herself…
The Chief Elders & the Scrybes–
They are where u really came from,
that’s ur tribe!
Scrybes choose to live a different life than most
Becuz they know the real deal–more than most!
Go back 2 letting Simplicity be ur guide also.
She can show u how to look good & not be almost nekit;
she can help u save $ cuz u don’t have 2 buy the new
thing soon as it comes on the market.
She can remind u of ur own inner integrity & that u don’t
have to compromise urself or ur values, juss so ur not alone
or juss so u can have a man hold you through the nite.
She’ll remind u ur worthy of man that’ll be around
in the day-lite 2.
Ur house ain’t on fire, u don’t need a rescue.
In the Silence u will Always be guides what to
U’ll see u no longer have to sacrifice ur Self-esteem..for—you know what!
U Baby Girle are Worthy of the Best…
U wake up..feelin as though tyme has stood still…
And evry bubble is still in place…
Until u realize those aren’t bubbles, but tears on ur face



Dr. Karen Entrantt, Ph.D,  is an author, poet-performer, and creative writing instructor. She has been writing poetry and short stories since the 4th grade.  Her style of writing and poetry performances leave audiences sitting on the edge of their seats in anticipation of more!  She has performed at The ACT Theater, Town Hall  with Poetry + Motion.  Her first book is I Found My Voice! (also available on Amazon and various Seattle book stores). Her second book, The Amplification of My Voice: Another level of Expression! will be out August 2012. She lives in Seattle.



PM5 – Baby Girle from Poetry+Motion on Vimeo.