Stream the podcast below!
WordsWest Reunion - Bringing the Band Back Together Again for a Book Launch - Susan Rich, Katy E. Ellis, and Harold Taw / Emcee Ariadne Taw
On May 25, 2022, WordsWest had a reunion to celebrate the book launch of co-curator Susan Rich’s Gallery of Postcards and Maps: New and Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry 2022). All three WordsWest co-curators read, including Katy E. Ellis, whose debut full-length, prose-poetry-novel Home Water, Home Land (Tolsun Books) is forthcoming in September 2022; and Harold Taw, who read a new short story entitled, "My Polar Summer, an essay by Agatha Lin," in which an eighth-grade girl expresses her frustration over being forced to move to Canada because her father became a polar bear. The evening was emceed by Harold's soon-to-be eighth-grade daughter Ariadne Taw, who also baked her specialty Black Magic Cake to commemorate the evening (that also included a Tres Leche cake and gluten-free cookies).
Stream the podcast below!
WordsWest 45 - Cake in the Garden, A Series Finale / Favorite Poem by WordsWest Co-Curator Harold Taw / Book Sales by Open Books
It was a series-ending finale to remember ... We are eternally grateful to the amazing WordsWest authors and audience that have supported us from our inception in September 2014 to our final, celebratory event in June 2019. WordsWest alums from every year of our existence shared luminous poetry and prose: Elizabeth Austen, Rick Barot, Claudia Castro Luna, Christine Deavel, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, Rachel Kessler, J.W. Marshall, Greg November, Renee Simms, and Ann Teplick ... and Quenton Baker in spirit (get well swiftly!). Thank you Lena Khalaf Tuffaha and Joannie Stangeland for helping to co-create WordsWest Literary as authors, curators, and interns. And thank you to the many WordsWest alums who were and were not able to come celebrate with us ... this has been the finest literary series in the universe because of you!
The readings traveled between kitchens where cigarette ash dangled precariously over stew pots, to the segregated, red-lined neighborhoods of Atlanta and Detroit, to occupied territories where girls carry ladders to clamber over walls to school, to erroneously tripped-upon World War I memorials, and to assisted-living facilities where the carpets are replaced every time someone dies. The series-ending Favorite Poem was delivered by the sole, prose-writing WordsWest Co-Curator Harold Taw: "When My Brother Fell" by Essex Hemphill. We ended with the presentation of a framed copy of an "exquisite corpse" commemorative poem generated by audience members who randomly selected lines drawn from the work of WordsWest authors over the life of the series (you can read it on our home page or at C & P Coffee Company).
The WordsWest Co-Curators Katy E. Ellis, Susan Rich, and Harold Taw want to express deep admiration and gratitude to Cameron and Peter Moores for sponsoring and providing WordsWest Literary Series with a home at C & P Coffee Company. We also want to thank Tracy Record and Patrick Sand (who came to photograph our final event!) of West Seattle Blog for your support over the years and for being the most important news and community discussion forum in West Seattle. And we have been so fortunate to be able to pay our WordsWest authors for their time and talents due to generous grants from Poets & Writers, Inc. and Seattle's Office of Arts and Culture.
Friends of Ford Prefect might end this post by saying, "So long and thanks for all the fish." We shall say simply, "Farewell." For now.
WordsWest 44 - Erica Bauermeister and Alan Chong Lau / Favorite Poem by Peter Moores of C & P Coffee Company / Book Sales by Open Books
In the penultimate event in WordsWest's five-year history, novelist Erica Bauermeister and poet/visual artist Alan Chong Lau created alchemy by "Awakening the Senses" with prose and poetry that spanned a remote location off of Vancouver Island (population: 2) to the bustling produce section in the Chinatown/International District's Uwajimaya. Erica presented the very first, Seattle preview reading of her latest novel The Scent Keeper that moved her heroine Emmeline from safety of her father and the mysterious scents stored in bottles to the fast-paced world of NYC scent-branding. Alan's poetry moved effortlessly from the wandering Hakka people in China to the woman who grows and sells bean sprouts (and her many daughters). The house was full, the audience was rapt, and time expanded.
For the final event in WordsWest's "standard" format, C & P Coffee Company's owner Peter Moores presented a Favorite Poem: "Gratitude" by Norah Tunney. The wonder team of Abi Pollokoff and Gabrielle Bates of Open Books offered pre-release copies of The Scent Keeper and beautiful, hardback editions of Alan's poetry collection Blues and Greens: A Produce Worker's Journal. Gratitude is certainly what we felt for these wonderful authors and this amazing community.
WordsWest 43 - Ilya Kaminsky and Mark Doty / Favorite Poem by Abi Pollokoff of Open Books
WordsWest was thrilled beyond measure to have internationally recognized poets Ilya Kaminsky and Mark Doty read together for National Poetry Month at C&P Coffee Company. After a warm introduction by Susan Rich, Ilya was first to take the stage, reading from Deaf Republic. The audience followed along, sharing copies of the book generously loaned out by Open Books (the independent bookstore selling books for us this night). Ilya flowed his powerful poems together, barely stopping between pages filled with horrifying crescendos and romantic snapshots. Mark followed with powerful poems born from his observances of his dear dogs, his connection with a certain barber shop in Brooklyn, and a poem about Tamir Rice, the 12 year old boy who was shot by Cleveland police while playing with a plastic toy gun.
After a short intermission, we heard a Favorite Poem by Abi Pollokoff of Open Books. All of us were enchanted to hear another (memorized!) installment from "Alphabet" by Inger Christensen. This time it was the letter "I" full of ice and intensity. The applause was deafening!
To end the evening, we enjoyed a short question/answer period with the writers.
WordsWest 42 - Catherine Barnett and Renee Simms / Favorite Poem by Gabrielle Bates of Open Books
Although Catherine Barnett and Renee Simms had never met before, Catherine had specifically asked if they could share the stage at WordsWest. And consequently, a literary friendship was born on a Wednesday night at C & P Coffee Company. The braiding of the two writers' work together was brilliant as many in the audience mentioned to the curators after the show. The night centered on a "living anthology" where both authors explored different notions of time. Catherine (who flew in from the East Coast for the reading) began with poems from her new book Human Hours (Graywolf Press) and offered the audience a definition of lyric time (time outside of the clock) and narrative time (time of the schedule, or her college-age son's time). Barnett's deadpan humor and poetic generosity was moving and the crowd felt it. Renee Simms (driving up from Tacoma) read from her short story collection Meet Behind Mars (Made in Michigan Writers Series). Was a father's wife was poisoning him? Had a writer's family been killed off literally or only figuratively? How does one leave the midwest? Gabrielle Bates of Open Books joined us to share a show-stopping Favorite Poem, Richard Siken's "Scheherazade" from his collection Crush; Open Books sold books for the evening; and Abi Pollokoff (also of Open Books) and former Washington State Poet Laureate Elizabeth Austen took up Catherine's challenge to create spontaneous poetry out of questions. The evening was alchemical: the spring equinox changed into a time out of time where high caliber literature was all that mattered.
WordsWest 41 - Michele Bombardier and Natasha Kochicheril Moni / Favorite Poem by West Seattle High School student Mihna Born
In the wake of Seattle's two back-to-back snow storms, WordsWest #41: What We Do, What We Say, was a breath of fresh air for a city of folks finally able to roam the streets and sidewalks freely. Michele Bombardier and Natasha Moni read in a "braided" reading style on the themes of work, death and nature.
For the West Seattle Favorite Poem Project we welcomed our first ever youth reader, Mihna Born, a West Seattle high school student who read an untitled poem by Rupi Kaur that began with the line “i want to apologize to all the women i have called pretty…” The poem reminded us that beauty is not as important as intelligence, kindness or bravery, which is why Mihna told us she chose this poem as a favorite. Also noteworthy is the fact that Mihha, her mother Reya and her father Maketa have all three read their favorite poems at WordsWest!
Floating Bridge Press’s Michael Schmeltzer attended the event and offered some incredible poetry giveaways! Not only that, but 2019 is Floating Bridge Press's 25th anniversary! Writers note: Floating Bridge's chapbook contest is open until March 15, 2019.
Podcast excerpts are below.
WordsWest 40 - E. J. Koh and Juan Carlos Reyes / Favorite Poem by Fawn Coussens, MSPT. of Kinetic Physical Therapy
A magical WordsWest evening with E. J. Koh and Juan Carlos Reyes, musing on the vulnerabilities, fears, and aspirations of "Past and Future Selves." Juan Carlos read from his novel-in-progress that touched upon life, death, and hidden parental anxieties. E. J.'s poetry and letters in translation ranged across the terrain of jeong (love), han (sorrow), and indescribable beauty. In the words of a regular WordsWest audience member, "My favorite WordsWest ever!"
Fawn Coussens, MSPT, kept us all grounded with her Favorite Poem: "Love After Love" by Derek Walcott.
Podcast excerpts are below.
WordsWest 39 - Bruce Beasley, Carol Guess, and Susanne Paola / Favorite Poem by and Dessert Benefit for West Seattle Food Bank
Bellingham brought it to West Seattle! And it was a feast of words that the WordsWest crowd will chew on for a long time. Carol Guess read from her latest book True Ash where we met Elvis, a microchip coder living in the booming Amazonian neighborhood of South Lake Union. Suzanne Paola shared an unforgettable creative non-fiction piece about commensal rats (commensal meaning "a companion at meals"). Last to read was Bruce Beasley, who shared three longer poems beginning with "A Study in Hallelujah" in which he kneaded the process of finding things to be grateful for as so many disheartening events unfold around us.
A volunteer from the West Seattle Food Bank read her favorite poem as part of the West Seattle Favorite Poem project and it was a special moment. Maggie Dieringer read A.A. Milne's "The More It Snows" from Winnie the Pooh, asking the audience to chime in "tiddley pom." Maggie mentioned how this poem connected with her as she thought about the people in need in our community and how cold their feet may be in the growing snow.
And, of course, it was the WordsWest annual dessert benefit for West Seattle Food Bank. May we always have a place and people to turn to in our time of need.
The podcast excerpts are below.
WordsWest 38 - Stacey Levine & Anca L. Szilágyi / Favorite Poem by Hannah Tyne of Reading Partners Seattle
On October 17, 2018, WordsWest Literary Series was thrilled to host Stacey Levine and Anca L. Szilágyi, who read passages from their novels that touched on the theme of "Girls and Daughters" (and sisters). From a runaway teen and Argentina's Dirty War to a party in which the Charlie the egg man may or may not be dead, Anca and Stacey ranged across terrain in turns harrowing, mundane, and surreal.
Did you know that 3 out of 4 fourth-graders in Washington state are reading below grade level? Hannah Tyne, Volunteer Coordinator for Reading Partners Seattle, wants our community to come together to change that. It all begins with kindness, which is why Hannah presented her Favorite Poem "Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye. Volunteering an hour a week could change someone's life.
The audio from Stacey and Anca's presentation and Q & A is below.
WordsWest 37 - Greg November and Joannie Stangeland / Favorite Poem by Heidi Seaborn
WordsWest Year 5 kicked off with a bang as short-story writer Greg November and poet Joannie Stangeland joined us to muse about "New Beginnings." While Greg left the audience with a cliffhanger in a short story called "Show Me the River" about a high-school boy growing up in the rural Northeast, Joannie read poetic diptychs, collages, and sketches from her newest book The Scene You See as well as poems never before heard in public ... including what she deemed to be one of less-common "happy" poems ("Sketch in Yellow Whether the Sky Looks Blue") and Susan's favorite poem ("In the Country Called Marriage"). Heidi Seaborn shared a Favorite Poem: "Letter to Peterson from the Pike Place Market" by Richard Hugo.
WordsWest Literary Series
Here's where you'll find information about our past events. For a complete list of past featured writers, favorite poems, and sponsors, consult our "About" page.