Try pinpointing the center of the literary world. You might start with New York City or London. Everett? Probably not.
Yet Everett can now claim a spot on the literary map. Everett Community College is the new home of Poetry Northwest, a national poetry magazine started 51 years ago by writers who became literary giants.
“It’s a real coup,” said Kevin Craft, Poetry Northwest’s new editor and chairman of the English Department at EvCC.
Craft said that students in EvCC’s Written Arts programs will get an opportunity to work on a nationally distributed magazine. “This flagship magazine offers students the chance at an editorial internship, and graphic arts students are getting real professional training,” he said.
Poetry Northwest’s print version is published twice a year, with its Spring-Summer edition due out Thursday. Printed in Walla Walla, it is supported by subscriptions and donations, and is available at bookstores. The magazine has a Web site, www.poetrynw.org, and an independent staff, most based in Seattle.
As editor, Craft selects the poems to be published. “We have thousands of submissions, from all over the world,” he said.
Founded in Seattle in 1959, Poetry Northwest was housed at the University of Washington for years. Poet and UW professor David Wagoner spent 36 years as editor. It wasn’t published from 2002 until 2005 because of financial problems. A move to Portland, Ore., brought Poetry Northwest back to life, and in 2007 it was incorporated as a nonprofit organization.
Until recently, it was located at the Attic Writer’ Workshop in Portland and edited by David Biespiel. In a farewell message to readers last fall, Biespiel wrote that Craft’s “connection to this magazine is long.”
“He has been a contributor to these pages, a student of the magazine’s former, longtime and legendary editor David Wagoner, and he is a dynamic presence in the vibrant Seattle poetry scene and beyond,” Biespiel said of Craft.
Craft, 43, said Monday that he grew up on the East Coast and earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland, where he knew Biespiel. He came to the University of Washington to earn a master’s degree in fine arts as a poet. Craft is the author of “Solar Prominence,” a poetry collection published in 2005.
His association with Poetry Northwest puts him in heady company. The magazine was started as a quarterly in 1959 by Errol Pritchard, with Carolyn Kizer, Richard Hugo and Nelson Bentley as co-editors. Poetry Northwest won national notice by publishing the works of established and fresh new writers who became literary superstars — Theodore Roethke, Anne Sexton, James Dickey, Raymond Carver and Joyce Carol Oates among them.
Kizer was editor from 1964 until 1966, when she left to become literature director at the National Endowment for the Arts. A Spokane native, she also happened to be my mother’s girlhood friend.
Craft knows the magazine’s prestigious history, and is thrilled its next chapter is in Everett.
“I have to really praise Everett Community College for being foresighted and generous enough to take this on,” Craft said, crediting the “visionary leadership” of Craig Lewis, dean of Communication and Social Sciences at the college.
“It’s huge,” Craft said. He is aware of just one similar publication, Parnassus Literary Arts Magazine, that’s produced at a community college.
He’s still a community college teacher, and these days it’s a challenge to attract students to the beauty of poetic language.
“I play with it in all kinds of ways,” Craft said. “With Twitter, it’s 140 characters. Most sonnets are 140 syllables.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; email@example.com.
Poetry Northwest events at EvCC
To celebrate the move of the national magazine Poetry Northwest to Everett Community College, two public events will be held for free on the campus. A panel discussion is scheduled for 1 p.m. April 26 at Gray Wolf Hall, followed by a poetry reading at 2 p.m. at the Russell Day Gallery in the Parks Student Union building. The college is at 2000 Tower St. in Everett. Information about Poetry Northwest is on the Web at www.poetrynw.org.