Washington State's new Poet Laureate Rena Priest is coming to The Yakima Valley College for a public reading and talk on May 21, 2021 at 11:30 AM. It will be an on-line event and you can Click here to attend the online event.

By definition a poet laureate  is a poet officially appointed by a government or conferring institution, typically expected to compose poems for special events and occasions.

We don't know if Ms Priest will whip up something special for this occasion but we do know when she was appointed to her two year term last month by Gov. Jay Inslee, she became the state’s first Indigenous poet to serve in the role.

She has a bachelor’s degree in English from Western Washington University and a master’s of fine arts in writing from Sarah Lawrence College.  Priest has received the Allied Arts Foundation 2020 Professional Poets Award and various fellowships. Priest is a member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation, and her first book, “Patriarchy Blues,” was honored with the 2018 American Book Award. She has taught cultural studies and Native American literature at Western Washington University and Northwest Indian College. Her most recent poetry collection is “Sublime Subliminal.”

In an on-line interview from KNKX she describes her early interest in poetry. "Priest says she discovered poetry at a very young age. She credits her grandmother, who published a small book of poems and who she was named after, as well as her school librarian, who inspired her with his renditions of books he read aloud. “He would read to us in the library, the voices of the characters. And I just thought that was the greatest. And you know, that, along with a lot of other experiences, gave me a love for hearing language out loud and the music of language and poetry.” 

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. The poet laureate serves to build awareness and appreciation of poetry — including the state’s legacy of poetry — through public readings, workshops, lectures and presentations in communities, schools, colleges, universities and other public settings in the state including Yakima, on-line ONLY in about two weeks.  Click here to attend the online event.

In closing, to share with you in part how how she sees the world, from the KNKX interview, here are some of Rena Priest's thoughts on the value of persistence.

"Salmon are kind of my heroes. You know, they overcome incredible odds to return home and continue their cycle of life. And they're just so ... I mean, they'll defy gravity. They'll jump up a raging waterfall and cascading rapids, and they just keep trying. And I feel like I want to honor that struggle and that heroism.”