Oct. 22: State poet laureate to read, discuss work

Flenniken-2013PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington poet laureate Kathleen Flenniken’s life and work have taken twists and turns since she earned her degree in civil engineering at Washington State University in 1983.

Author of “Plume,” winner of the 2013 Washington State Book Award, she will return to WSU at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22, in the Museum of Art to read and discuss her literary journey and work.

“Kathleen Flenniken conjoins what we might think of as right-brained and left-brained disciplines – creative writing and engineering,” said Linda Russo, who teaches poetry at WSU. “Her visit presents an opportunity to talk about the strengths of yoking these different kinds of thinking that we value, especially in the College of Arts and Sciences (http://dev.cas.wsu.edu/index_rotate.html).

The free, public event is part of the 2013 WSU Visiting Writer Series (http://libarts.wsu.edu/english/visitingwriterseries.html) hosted by the Department of English (http://libarts.wsu.edu/english/).

Flenniken’s childhood near the Hanford, Wash., nuclear site provided compelling background for her work on “Plume,” which uses poetry to plumb the Hanford experience – the science, secrecy and enduring effects of radiation, including illness and death.

“‘Plume’ is a brilliant work telling a complex Hanford story by plumbing so many levels – the personal, the local and the national, the remembered and the documented facts,” said Russo, who co-chairs the Visiting Writer Series. “It’s a work that really urges us to stop and take a look at our actions and think of the kind of legacy we’ll leave.”

Another of Flenniken’s books, “Famous,” earned the American Library Association’s notable book distinction and the 2005 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry.

On her blog, The Far Field, Flenniken publishes poets of Washington state. She teaches through Writers in the Schools, Jack Straw and other arts agencies and is an editor for Floating Bridge Press, dedicated to publishing Washington poets.

State poet laureate for 2012-14, she is conducting a poetry-reading and education tour to all 39 counties.

“I’ll be reading mostly from ‘Plume’ and giving background and context for these poems of Hanford and Richland, my hometown. I’ll read new poems, too,” she said.

On Thursday, Nov. 7, the WSU Visiting Writer Series will host Scott Olsen, whose essays have appeared in “The Best American Essays” seven times. His book, “Prairie Skies: A Pilot’s Reflections on Flying and the Grace of Altitude,” has been praised as “full of grace, style, lyricism and sharp cloud-level insight.”



Debbie Lee, professor of English, deblee@wsu.edu, 509-335-6812

Adrian Aumen, communications, College of Arts and Sciences, adriana@wsu.edu, 509-335-5671