Washington names first Indigenous state poet laureate

Seattle Times

On the first day of National Poetry Month, Washington state’s new poet laureate has been announced: Bellingham resident Rena Priest, whose debut poetry collection “Patriarchy Blues” won an American Book Award in 2018.

Priest, a member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation, is the first Indigenous poet to hold the position. Her term will begin April 15. Previous state poet laureates are Claudia Castro Luna (2018-present), Tod Marshall (2016-2018), Elizabeth Austen (2014-2016), Kathleen Flenniken (2012-2014), and Sam Green (2007-2009).

A graduate of Western Washington University (B.A. in English) and Sarah Lawrence College (M.F.A. in writing), Priest has received the Allied Arts Foundation 2020 Professional Poets Award and fellowships from Hawthornden Castle, Hedgebrook, Mineral School and the Vadon Foundation. Her work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Pontoon Poetry, Verse Daily, Poem-a-Day at Poets.org and elsewhere, and she has taught cultural studies and Native American literature at Western Washington University and Northwest Indian College. Her most recent poetry collection is “Sublime Subliminal.”

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