Thursday, September 20, 2012


Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken read at the Gig Harbor Library this evening.  It was a refreshing reading due to the fact that not only did she read from her own work, but she likewise highlighted a few of her current favorite Washington poets by reading a poem from each of them—"A Moment in My Rented Room" by Koon Woon (Seattle); "Crimson Hat" by Jean Musser (Tacoma); "Needle" by Joseph Green (Longview); and "Bonaparte Gulls" by Dorothy Trogdan (Orcas Island).


Her own work was divided into three distinct "sets" of material—
(1) new music-themed poems that she is working into a collection
-"The Recital"
-"En modo di (In the manner of)"
-"Let Me Sleep Twenty More Minuets" (pun intended)

(2) poems from her first book Famous
-"The League of Minor Characters"
-"Lost Coat, Please Call"
-"Life and Art"
-"The Minor Celebrities")

(3) poems from her most recent book Plume
-"Mosquito Truck"
-"Whole Body Counter, Marcus Whitman Elementary"


Flenniken's reading was perfect.  Her voice was soothing and inviting.  She provided enough background on each poem without drowning it in such.  She was a commanding presence with a large and welcoming personality in evidence.  I could have sat and listened to her voice for a couple more hours.  I think she could make anyone's poems come to life in her own reading of them.


I also liked her two goals for her stint as Washington State Poet Laureate.  The first is to hold readings in each of Washington's thirty-nine counties, especially since she herself felt cheated growing up in Richland and saw Eastern Washington often passed over for literary events, with even Spokane usually losing out to Seattle and/or Tacoma.  The second is to focus poetry workshops on third, fourth, and fifth graders—a group that is just learning how to really utilize metaphors, without all the encumbrances of adolescence and adulthood.


I highly recommend the poetry of Kathleen Flenniken to you, especially as I've read Plume many times over, discovering new passages that sing to me on each reading, and, now, having heard her voice illuminate her poems (and those of other poets) in ways that make them sing even bolder.

(If you live in Washington state, then keep your eyes open for a reading near you! )


Kathleen Flenniken's blog.

The Far Field, focusing on Washington poets.

Washington State Poet Laureate at Humanities Washington.

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