The Washington State Poet Laureate program is jointly sponsored by Humanities Washington and the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA). Poets laureate work to build awareness and appreciation of poetry—including the state’s legacy of poetry—through public readings, workshops, lectures, and presentations in communities throughout the state.
In April 2007, the Washington State Legislature passed a bill that recognized the value of poetry to the culture and heritage of the state by establishing the Washington State Poet Laureate. Poets can either self-nominate or be nominated by a third party. The application process takes place every two years, and the appointed poet laureate serves a two-year term.
To learn more about past poets laureate, please click here.
About Rena Priest
Rena Priest became the sixth Washington State Poet Laureate on April 14, 2021, and her term will run until March 31, 2023. A member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation, Priest will be the first Indigenous poet to be the state’s Poet Laureate. Priest’s literary debut, Patriarchy Blues, was honored with the 2018 American Book Award, and her most recent work is Sublime Subliminal. She succeeds Claudia Castro Luna, the previous poet laureate. Priest’s literary debut, Patriarchy Blues, was honored with the 2018 American Book Award, and her most recent work is Sublime Subliminal. Priest’s work can be found in Poetry Northwest, Pontoon Poetry, Verse Daily, Poem-a-Day at Poets.org, and elsewhere.
She has taught Comparative Cultural Studies and Contemporary American Issues at Western Washington University and Native American Literature at Northwest Indian College. Priest holds a BA in English from Western Washington University and an MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in Bellingham, Washington.
Each laureate puts their own unique focus on the position, and Priest focuses on two primary goals during her term: celebrating poetry in Washington’s tribal communities, and using poetry to increase appreciation of the natural world and the threats facing it.
Interested in hosting Rena Priest for a reading, workshop, or other event?