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April 7, 2021 / Margo Vansynghel / Crosscut

Washington State names its first Native American poet laureate

A member of the Lummi Nation, Bellingham writer Rena Priest will bring attention to local poetry, climate change and the loss of vital natural resources.

After years of entering poetry contests and submitting to literary journals, Rena Priest had developed a habit: She would slip a copy of a New Yorker cartoon into the envelope along with her work. The image showed a car with a driver and passenger stuck in a sea of traffic. The caption: “Try honking again.” 

Rena Priest

Though the cartoon was mostly for laughs — and to soften the potential blow of rejection — that’s how it felt trying to make it as a poet: honking into the void, hoping to make progress. These days, Priest, 42, is breezing through the fast lane. Today, April 1, the Bellingham-based poet has been named the new Washington state poet laureate, the state’s highest honor in poetry. 

The author of two poetry books and a member of the Lhaq'temish (Lummi) Nation, Priest is the sixth poet and first Native person to be selected for the two-year term, a program of the Washington State Arts Commission and Humanities Washington.

Read full article here: Crosscut
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