Arts & Entertainment: Tacoma celebrates National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, and in Tacoma there is an impressive line-up of events to celebrate all things poetry and the creative people who write.

Each year T-Town’s participation in the month brings together seasoned writing pros and newbies alike to participate in workshops and readings, attend events by special literary guests, learn from each other and share their works, some of whom may be reading before an audience for the very first time.

National Poetry Month was established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Across the country, cities large and small join in by holding their own readings, festivals, book displays, workshops and other events to honor poetry’s place in American culture.

Here in Tacoma, the month is dedicated to the written word in its myriad forms – classic prose, spoken word, slam poetry, book arts and letterpress, open mics and more. It all officially kicks off on April 5 with a free “Poetry Extravaganza” party hosted by Tacoma writer and designer Maria Gudaitis and former Tacoma poet laureate and author (“The Vicissitudes,” Pearl Publications) Tammy Robacker. Together the two are co-organizing the city’s National Poetry Month events again this year. The party will be held at Anthem Coffee starting at 6 p.m. There will be giveaways, prizes and readings embracing different genres. Gudaitis described it as, “That mix when you have old school and up-and-coming (writers) to see next generation coming up.” Free copies of the Tacoma poetry month anthology for one and all.

Josie Emmons Turner, 2011-2013 Poet Laureate for the City of Tacoma, will be seen at numerous events throughout the month. On April 19 she hosts “Gods, Goddesses and Myths” at Tacoma Community College in conjunction with the exhibit of Greek and Roman mythology currently showing at The Gallery at TCC. On April 23 she joins past Tacoma poet laureates Bill Kupinse and Robacker at Tacoma Public Library to announce the city’s 2013-2015 laureate.

Other events, to name a few, include an open and frank interactive performance on the concept of masculinity led by New York author Carlos Andrés Gómez, an evening with four of the Northwest’s most innovative poets, a celebration of Support Women Artists Now Day (SWAN) and a Wayzgoose print and book art fair. A full listing of all events accompaniest this article.

“Every year we want to do something that’s really outside the box,” Gudaitis said. “With National Poetry Month, our spirit here is very grassroots. For Tammy and me, that’s where our spark is. Why should poetry be written in an ivory tower? We need to fuse with the world.”

The variety of things going on throughout the month reflects not only the multi-facets of the genre, but also the variety of people that populate the city of Tacoma.

“We’re one of the most diverse cities in the nation,” Gudaitis said, and she hopes this will be seen among those who come out to celebrate. “I want to see people from every color, age and neighborhood.”

Saturday, March 30, Writing the City: Poetry Workshop for Youth

FREE / 1-3 p.m. / write@253 center / 1310 MLK Way

Youth ages 12-18, join us for a free poetry workshop! No writing experience needed. We’re going to ask, what does your city look like? How do you write it? What would you change? Join writer Renee Simms and educator Catalina Ocampo for a cool afternoon of words, fun and creativity, and then take our poems out into the streets! Bring comfortable shoes. For more info, or to register, contact Mary Fox, mfox@tacomacc.edu.

Tuesday, April 2, Behind the Masc with Carlos Andrés Gómez

7 p.m. / FREE / Pacific Lutheran University (Chris Knutsen Hall)

A special interactive performance with Carlos Andrés Gómez (author of “Man Up: Cracking the Code of Modern Manhood”) that looks at what it means to be a “good man” in a world where masculinity is too often confined by the narrowest and most limiting of definitions. Carlos engages the audience in a dialogue-focused, high-octane town hall, in which they explore the complex dimensions of how masculinity plays out in the world and, also, reimagine how it might exist for the better. No topic or issue is shied away from in this provocative and riveting program. Free event, but please pre-register.

Thursday, April 4, The Fantastic Four: Four Poets / Four Books

7 p.m. / FREE / King’s Books

Derek Sheffield • Arlene Kim • Marjorie Manwaring • Rebecca Hoogs

Join us at the crossroads of clarity and magic. Four innovators in Northwest poetry will read selections from their new books. Hosted by Allen Braden, Tacoma Community College professor and author of “A Wreath of Down and Drops of Blood” (University of Georgia) and “Elegy in the Passive Voice” (University of Alaska/Fairbanks), winner of the Midnight Sun Chapbook Contest. Poets will sign books afterward.

Friday, April 5, Poetry Extravaganza

6 p.m. / FREE / Anthem Coffee  

Join Tammy Robacker and Maria Gudaitis at the kick-off celebration. Pick up a free copy of the Tacoma poetry month anthology. Win poetry prizes!

Sunday, April 7, SWAN Day Event

2-5 p.m/ FREE / King’s Books

SWAN Day/ Support Women Artists Now Day is an international holiday designed to showcase the power and diversity of women's creativity. The event features poets, creative writers, playwrights, griots, spoken word artists and monologues. The event is free, but 100 percent of all donations will be given to the YWCA of Pierce County's Domestic Violence Program. Guest Speaker is YWCA CEO Miriam Barnett.

Friday, April 12, Distinguished Writer Series – Elizabeth Austen Reading

7 p.m. / FREE / King’s Books

National Poetry Month guest reader is Elizabeth Austen, author of “Every Dress a Decision” (2011) and two chapbooks, “The Girl Who Goes Alone” (2010) and “Where Currents Meet” (2010). In 2006, Austen produced “skin prayers,” an audio CD of her poems. She produces poetry-related programming for KUOW and makes her living as a writer at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where she also offers retreats and journaling workshops for the staff. Following Austen’s reading is an Open Mic, open to all poets, sign-up is at 6:45 p.m. The event occurs monthly the second Friday of every month at King’s Books. Sponsored by the Puget Sound Poetry Connection and the Tacoma Arts Commission.

Friday, April 19, Gods, Goddesses, and Myths

7 p.m. / FREE / Tacoma Community College Gallery

Divinity, humanity, legend and folklore: Tacoma Poet Laureate Josie Emmons Turner has selected South Sound women poets to join her in celebration of the exhibit of Greek and Roman Mythology currently showing at The Gallery at Tacoma Community College. Northwet poets chosen for this National Poetry Month event will be reading work on the theme with Emmons Turner.

Tuesday, April 23, Tacoma Poet Laureate Celebration and Reading

6–7:30 p.m. / FREE / Tacoma Public Library, Main Branch

Please join the Tacoma Arts Commission and current Tacoma Poet Laureate Josie Emmons Turner for a poetry reading event in conjunction with National Poetry Month. The event will include readings by former Tacoma Poet Laureates Bill Kupinse and Tammy Robacker and the winner of the 2013-15 Tacoma Poet Laureate competition will officially be awarded the position. The readings will be followed by light refreshments in the Handforth Gallery of the library.

Sunday, April 28, Wayzgoose—Print and Book Art Fair

11 a.m.to 4 p.m. / FREE / King’s Books

One of the areas first and largest print and book arts extravaganzas! Experience the gathering of art, print media, book arts, letterpress, poetry and literary arts. Meet local printers and view their wares! Print your own keepsake! Make paper! Make paper creations! Create letterpress magnetic poetry. And, returning for the sixth year…steamroller printing!!! We’ll be creating 3’ x 3’ prints designed by local artists, some of which will be raffled off at the Wayzgoose! The Tacoma Wayzgoose is a collaboration between King’s Books and letterpress printer Jessica Spring.

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