Washington State Poet Laureate
Poet Laureate Supports and Promotes Poetry Throughout the State
The Washington State Poet Laureate serves to build awareness and appreciation of poetry — including the state’s legacy of poetry — through public readings, workshops, lectures and presentations in communities, schools, colleges, universities, and other public settings in geographically diverse areas of the state. The appointed poet laureate serves a two-year term.
In April 2007, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill that recognized the value of poetry to the culture and heritage of the state by establishing the Washington State Poet Laureate. Washington joined several other states in appointing an official state poet laureate position.
The poet laureate is sponsored by Humanities Washington and ArtsWA, with the support of Gov. Jay Inslee. The position is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities Washington. Poets can self-nominate every two years through an application process.
Washington State Poet Laureate 2014-16
The current poet laureate is Elizabeth Austen, who assumed the role February 1, 2014. (Press release: | Image: 936).
Austen is the author of a collection, Every Dress a Decision (Blue Begonia Press, 2011), and two chapbooks, The Girl Who Goes Alone (Floating Bridge Press, 2010) and Where Currents Meet (Toadlily Press, 2010). She produces literary programming for KUOW radio, a Seattle NPR affiliate, and is a communications specialist and educator at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Austen moved to Washington in 1989, at the time a stage actor, avid hiker and occasional writer of poetry. After a transformative trip to the Andes region in her early 30s, Austen focused her efforts on poetry. Her work trends towards the personal, touching on issues such as women’s societal roles, courage and searching for spirituality.
Past Poets Laureate
For more about the first Washington State Poet Laureate, visit out Past Poets Laureate page.