Karen Finneyfrock

Nominated by Arts Corps

Karen Finneyfrock is a veteran of the spoken word movement who was honored as a “Legend” at the National Poetry Slam in Austin, 2006. She returned to the stage to represent Seattle as a member of our 2008 National Slam Team. A recent alumna of the Hedgebrook writers colony, Karen is the author of two books of poetry and is completing her first book of young adult fiction. Karen is a Teaching Artist for Arts Corps, Seattle Arts & Lectures’ WITS program and the Richard Hugo House. She is a resident of the Cooper School Artist Studios in West Seattle.

Arts Corps is the largest arts education organization in Washington State offering free classes, in all artistic disciplines, to K-12 youth.

They nominated Karen because: “We are inspired by, and grateful for Karen Finneyfrock and want all of Seattle to know and celebrate her. Karen teaches All-City Spoken Word for Arts Corps, helping teens to express their voices. Her amazing talent, lack of ego and generosity of spirit make her a perfect role model for our students, faculty and staff alike. Additionally, Karen believes in Arts Corps’ guiding principal, that all children should have equal access to arts education, so much so that she lent her considerable auction skills (her secret talent) to our annual fundraiser and helped us raise over $150,000 this year.”


As Poet Populist, I vow not to sleep until every man, woman and child living within the city limits thinks of himself as a poet. I will not eat, drink or make love until each citizen has heard words reflecting her own daydreams back to her and has delighted in it. I will rest only to pray until each of us feels our own true song bubble to the surface of ourselves and break on the water of our lips, howling out of us like the voice of God, telling each of us the story of our birth.



Walk into the living room of my rib cage,
I will hold your tongue for you while you scream.

You have lived too long under the caterwauling sky.
Everything is ruckus.
My mouth is a sound proof room.
It is so quiet inside my ankles that the tiny bones
sound like clock hands moving. It is so silent in my knee
that even the cartilage grinding sounds like
someone saying “shhhhh.” Pick up a conch shell and listen
to the sound of my kidneys. Crawl inside the library of my
writing arm where it is hospital quiet, as quiet as the
moments the monitor is not beeping.

If you holler into my nose, it will echo its way out
of my ear canal. Go ahead—blood curdle. There is
a little ocean inside of you and its tides beat
against your eyes until your eyes become beaches.

You feel like a marching band is traveling
the length of your muscles. You feel like a lumberjack
is eying up your spine, chainsaw running. Like an army
has barracked in your lower back. Every organ inside
of you seems to want out. That is how
death feels the first time.

Don’t worry. Your body will quiet into comfortable
living quarters for grief. She will walk your veins
like hallways until one day, you invite her to sit with you.

She and I have drawn a bath for you in my chest.
We will serve you tea in my kneecaps.
We will all die again and again,
But we don’t have to do it alone.

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