Elizabeth Austen

Nominated by Cheap Wine and Poetry

Elizabeth Austen is a poet, performer, teacher and advocate for poetry. She presents poems by Pacific Northwest writers every Monday on KUOW, 94.9 public radio. As the Washington “roadshow” poet for 2007 she gave readings and workshops in rural areas around the state. Elizabeth has worked with students of all ages as a poet in the schools throughout western Washington, and has received grants from 4Culture and Seattle CityArtists. Her poems can be found in journals and anthologies including the Seattle Review, Poets Against the War and Pontoon. Her audio CD, skin prayers, is available at elizabethausten.org.

Cheap Wine and Poetry says of themselves: “[We are] Seattle’s coolest reading series… featuring the city’s best poets, writers and performers… and are the only place you can get wine for a buck.”

They nominated Elizabeth because: “Her poetry melds the thoughtfulness of Anne Sexton, the self-awareness of Sharon Olds and the plain-spoken vigor of Richard Hugo. Her work reflects on the everyday—from the indecisiveness of romance to the semicolon’s identity issues, appraising the emotional, spiritual and political without judgment. Beyond her own writing, Elizabeth is a staunch advocate for poetry. Through her work as a literary programmer for KUOW and the 2007 Washington Road Show Poet, she has spread the love of poetry to people and places that may never have graced the power of the written and spoken word if not for Elizabeth.”

Statement

I read and write poetry because I believe in the value of the interior life—the life that has nothing to do with making money or being fashionable. One audience, one classroom at a time, I share poetry’s capacity to provoke the imagination, to awaken our sense of empathy and reveal the mystery and beauty of daily life. In contrast to a culture that reduces everything to dogma and bumperstickers, poetry cultivates our capacity for ambiguity, and nurtures the individual, idiosyncratic imagination. Reading and writing poetry is my form of political activism—encouraging people to question, speak out and imagine.

Poem

More, One More

I claim I’ll go
full of curiosity.
But darling we both know
I always want one more
kiss, another drag
off the scent of your neck.
No reason to think I’ll die
differently than I live—
hungry for one more mouthful
of honey, craving another
blossom’s cargo of yellow, more,
one more bass note caressing
my sternum, more, one
more saltwater swim.
I’m sure to try
to pull along
some cone or frond,
grain of sand
in my swimsuit,
pistachio stuck in my teeth—
I’ll praise this world
by hauling what I can
into the next.
Darling, sweet pants,
don’t stand
too close
at the end.

Browse through all the nominated poets: