It may be the Inland Northwest’s best kept secret that Spokane is a poetry town. We have multiple nationally-renowned, award-winning poets here in the Lilac City, including Brooke Matson, Kathryn Smith, Maya Jewell Zeller, Tod Marshall, Laura Read, and many more. We’ve had active and engaged poet laureates like Chris Cook and Mark Anderson uplifting writers of all ages and backgrounds with online poetry collections about our neighborhoods and literary pub crawls. We have exciting book projects galore, including the April 20th release of Spark Central’s and The Salish School’s collaboration, Sn̓ilíʔtn̓: Writing About Home, an anthology presenting Salish language with thematically-linked poetry and prose, culled from writing workshops taught by LaRae Wiley and Laura Read. (Yes, Laura Read will be mentioned four times in this blog post AND she will be celebrating a new poetry collection release with us at the Central Library next month!).
It’s worth nothing that Spokane recently became home to one of the nation’s most respected poetry presses, Lost Horse Press. Lost Horse’s publisher, Christine Holbert, moved to the Spokane area from Sandpoint. Holbert’s Ukrainian parents met in Nazi concentration camps; she, herself, is a first generation American. Lost Horse Press has been a venerable literary institution for well over two decades, publishing regional, national, and global writers, with a series featuring contemporary Ukrainian poets that has garnered numerous international translation accolades, including being a finalist for a PEN Literary Award (wow!). Holbert was also one of the two founders, alongside poet and EWU professor Christopher Howell, of the Get Lit! Festival, which this month is celebrating its 25th birthday.
And on Saturday, April 22nd, the Get Lit! Festival will host an event with our new national poet laureate, Ada Limón, who will be on stage with Laura Read (yes, mention #4) and Seattle poet Gabrielle Bates.
We also can’t forget the amazing slam poetry scene here, embodied by Broken Mic and 3 Minute Mic, the latter celebrating its 10-year anniversary at Auntie’s Bookstore on April 7th. The Spokane County Library District puts on an amazing slam for teenagers each year, too, with the Annual Northern Slam, Annual Valley Slam, and the Grand Slam, where winners of the first two slams meet.
So why do I say that our poetic existence here is a secret? Mainly because poetry, to the larger reading public, remains neglected. For being among the least marketed of genres, it is by far the most visceral, the most immediately transformative, the most abruptly life-changing. As Emily Dickinson would say, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”
Here are some poetry collections from near and far to enjoy during National Poetry Month:
In Accelerated Silence by Brooke Matson
Such Color: New and Selected Poems by Tracy K. Smith
Self-Portrait with Cephalopod by Kathryn Smith
Alchemy for Cells and Other Beasts by Maya Jewell Zeller
Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners by Naomi Shihab Nye
Punks: New and Selected Poems by John Keene
Bugle by Tod Marshall
Weaving Sundown in a Scarlet Light: Fifty Poems for Fifty Years by Joy Harjo
Dresses for the Old Country by Laura Read
The Hurting Kind by Ada Limón
Scarecrow Oracle by Mark Anderson
Poetry Unbound: 50 Poems to Open Your World by Pádraig Ó Tuama
Judas Goat by Gabrielle Bates
Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong
A New Orthography by Serhiy Zhadan, Translated from Ukrainian by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin
Balladz by Sharon Olds