The Tacoma Arts Commission has announced the selection of Kellie Richardson as Tacoma’s 2017-2019 Poet Laureate.
Over the next two years, Richardson will participate in and host public poetry readings, workshops and other community events. She will also participate in Tacoma Arts Month each October, and help produce the 2019 Tacoma Poet Laureate Ceremony to announce the next Poet Laureate.
“As Poet Laureate, my priority will be to support the creation of bold spaces that mirror our citizenry,” said Richardson. “I strongly believe in the power of storytelling as a means of healing and, ultimately, a way in which individuals and community find resolution despite trauma, and common ground among bitter rivals.”
As a wrap-up of National Poetry Month, the Tacoma Arts Commission and Tacoma’s current Poet Laureate, Cathy Nguyễn, will host Pass the Torch, a poetry and music event at which Richardson will officially be awarded the title. The free, public event will be held April 29, from 5 – 8 p.m., at the Tacoma Community College Auditorium (Building 2, accessed from South 12th Street and Whitman Street). Free parking is available in Lot G off South 12th Street.
Light refreshments are available from 5 – 6 p.m., with an opportunity for attendees to participate in a hands-on project led by artist Saiyare Refaei. Attendees can also record a poem for inclusion in the Laureate Listening Project reflecting on the personal importance of a particular place in Tacoma. Limited recording spots are available, and can be reserved through Naomi Strom-Avila at (253) 591-5191 or email@example.com.
The main program begins at 6 p.m. and will feature poets Richardson, Nguyễn, Miriam McBride, PaQ’Jon Dickerson, Marquis McCrary, Marcel Augustin, and Baiyinnah Muhammad. These poets will be joined by DJ Smokey Wonder.
The Tacoma Poet Laureate program is sponsored by Click! Cable TV. Pass the Torch is sponsored by Tacoma Community College’s Office of Student Engagement.
Another free, public event focusing on poetry in Tacoma, the Louder Than a Bomb Tacoma Teen Poetry Slam, takes place at 2 p.m. that same day at the Tacoma Community College Student Center (Building 11).
About Kellie Richardson
Kellie Richardson is a writer, artist and educator born and raised in Tacoma, Wash. Her work explores the intersection of race, class and gender with specific emphasis on themes of love, loss and longing. She employs both classical poetic forms as well as contemporary mediums such as spoken word. Her work is provocative yet accessible, powerful yet vulnerable. In addition to publishing original work, she created the blog, Brown Betty, in 2012. Brown Betty exists to provide armor and inspiration for real life; a place where commerce and community intersect to cultivate healing. The blog explores the complexities of navigating the human experience, and calls its readers to continue to be inspired to endure and overcome barriers to their happiness.
Richardson is particularly inspired and called to explore the experiences of women of color, and the intersectionality of identities. In addition to teaching courses at Pacific Lutheran University, she has provided poetry and writing workshops to students from Bryant Montessori to Tacoma Community College. She has performed pieces for the Tacoma Art Museum, The People’s Assembly, University of Washington Tacoma, Drunken Telegraph, The Tacoma Round, COLORED2017, and many others.
Richardson’s relationship with Tacoma is defined by transitions and metamorphosis as she has moved from student to professor, child to parent, and, the most critical progression, from onlooker to loving actor. She enters this process as a loving actor looking to continue to give to Tacoma through poetry and the gift of storytelling. As Poet Laureate, she will persist in her desire to ensure literary arts are both accessible to, and representative of, the diversity in Tacoma.