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Elizabeth Austen Named 2014 Washington State Poet Laureate

Courtesy of Fat Yeti Photography
Washington state's new poet laureate Elizabeth Austen.

Elizabeth Austen has been bringing poetry to KUOW listeners since 2001. Now, her audience is going to get even bigger.

Austen was recently named Washington’s next poet laureate. An accomplished poet herself, her goal in the new role is to reach out to all 39 counties in the state with workshops, readings and poet interviews: to “celebrate and highlight” the wealth of resources available in Washington to writers and readers alike.

She said much of her focus will be reaching out to adults who may be intimidated to cross the genre boundary into poetry. “All poetry asks of us is that we give it our attention. You already are everything you need to be to respond to the poem. Now it’s true: Some poems are more difficult and evasive than others,” Austen said on KUOW’s The Record. “Some of them are going to make you work for it really hard."

She said that the best poems reward that work. “Poetry can get to us in ways that we can’t defend ourselves from – that’s the power of metaphor,” Austen said. “If a poem has powerful enough, concise enough language, it gets to us somewhere below the level of the rational, and we are connecting with it and responding to it before we’ve been able to put up walls to it."