Josie Emmons Turner is ready to take on Tacoma’s poetic side.
As the city’s new poet laureate – Tacoma’s fourth – Turner feels honored, humbled and excited to continue the work her predecessors set before her.
“One of the really interesting pieces about Tacoma’s poet laureate program is that each poet has had a very distinctive voice, and have brought very distinct components to it, and I really have admired what the three poet laureates have accomplished in the post,” she said.
Her goal for her time as the go-to poetry guru is to bring the art of verse off the top shelf and into the hands of everyday people, all over Tacoma.
“I’m interested in seeing poetry really become relevant and meaningful in the everyday life of people. A lot of times people think of poetry as the old dead poets, but it’s really alive, and it can speak to people in a lot of different ways.“
Turner will be officially given the title for her two-year term on April 28. The free, public event will be held from 7-8:30 p. m. at Bellaballs Studio in downtown Tacoma at 747 S. Fawcett St.
As a creative writing and humanities teacher at Clover Park High School, Turner plans to have some of her students present their work during the event as well. “If I could make poetry seem less daunting, that would be great. I’m saying that because I’m hearing that so often from my students,” she said. “Often people think of poetry as this big, lofty, convoluted thing. Poetry to me is very ordinary, and it’s most enjoyable when you find it in the everyday.”
Making poetry more accessible is Turner’s mission. She will do this through sharing her own works, helping others craft theirs, and bringing more awareness to local poetry groups and connections that people may not be aware of.
“I want to expand upon what is already there, and build up on that existing culture.”
One idea of Turner’s is to create more collaboration between artists and poets, possibly during Art at Work Month. She also plans on creating a body of work rooted in local historical events.
Turner is a life-long writer who was given her first poetry book by her father when she was 6.
“I remember my dad reading to me ‘Paul Revere’s Ride’ over and over and over again…
I’m interested in how other people learned about poetry as well.”
Turner began writing poetry in her youth, and began studying it seriously during college. She received her Masters of Fine Arts through the Rainier Writers Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. Turner spent 25 years working in arts administration while always writing in her spare time.
Three years ago, she began teaching.
Turner describes her writing style as narrative poetry, and is inspired by more modern poets and writers.
“A friend of mine once said I look at life through a camera lens. I like to create images and feelings for someone to actually be in that space and time of whatever I’m writing about.”
Recently, Turner’s work has been included in “20/20 Tacoma in Images and Verse,” “2010 Floating Bridge Review Number 3,” “In Tahoma’s Shadow,” “California Quarterly” and “Backstreet Review.”
“The big picture would be having Tacoma be recognized as a center of poetry. There’s a lot of wonderful writers in Tacoma. There’s a lot of hidden gems even in Tacoma’s public art.
“I really want to encourage that kind of literary community.”