Five Washington state poets laureate—Sam Green, Kathleen Flenniken, Elizabeth Austen, Tod Marshall, and the current poet laureate, Claudia Castro Luna were featured at Laureatefest 2019 on Sept. 21. This event was a wonderful example of what it means to be a liberal arts institution that seeks to integrate the power of the arts to education and the development of the whole person.
Samuel Green is a poet and bookbinder. He was appointed as the first poet laureate of Washington in 2007. Green is the author of 10 poetry collections, including “The Grace of Necessity”, which won the 2008 Washington State Book Award for poetry. In 2009, he was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry. His work has appeared in Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and Prairie Schooner, among others. Green and his wife Sally live off the grid on Waldron Island, where they have run Brooding Heron Press for over 30 years.
Kathleen Flenniken is a writer, poet, editor, and educator. In 2012, she was named the second poet laureate of Washington. She has been awarded with a 2012 Pushcart Prize, as well as fellowships with Artist Trust (Washington State Arts Commission), and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her collection of poetry, titled “Famous”, received the 2005 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Her next work, “Plume”, was honored with the 2019 Washington State Book Award. She lives and works in Seattle.
Elizabeth Austen is a Seattle based poet, performer, and teacher. She served as the third Washington State Poet Laureate from 2014-2016, and as KUOW public radio’s poetry commentator for nearly 20 years. She is the author of “Every Dress a Decision” (Blue Begonia Press, 2011) and two chapbooks, “The Girl Who Goes Alone” (Floating Bridge Press, 2010) and “Where Currents Meet”, part of the 2010 Toadly Press quartet. She makes her living as a content strategist at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where she offers a staff poetry and journaling workshop.
Tod Marshall studied English and Philosophy at Siena Heights University, earned a Master of Fine Arts from Eastern Washington University, and graduated with his Ph.D from the University of Kansas. He directs the writing concentration and coordinates the Visiting Writers series at Gonzaga University. From 2016-2018, he served as the fourth Washington State Poet Laureate. His work has been published in many journals, including Narrative, The Southern Review, Shenandoh, and Boulevard.
Claudia Castro Luna is the fifth and current Washington poet laureate. She served as Seattle’s Civic Poet from 2015-2017 and is the author of the Pushcart nominated “Killing Marias”, and “This City”. She is also the creator of Seattle Poetic Grid. Castro Luna is a Hedgebrook and VONA alumna, a 2014 Jack Straw fellow, the recipient of individual artist from King County 4Culture and the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture. Born in El Salvador, her poems have appeared in Poetry Northwest, La Bloga, Dialogo, and Psychological Perspectives, among others.
Sady Sparks is from Indianapolis, Ind, and moved to Olympia in 2013 to attend The Evergreen State College. She loves writing prose poems, lists, letters, and thank you notes. Her work questions and tells stories about bugs, speciesism, love, seasons, and pain. Sady is currently developing more interactive poetry games for children and adults. She was appointed as Olympia’s second poet laureate in January, 2019 for a two-year term.