Poetry Northwest’s winter-spring 2016 issue, available April 1, will feature Edmonds poet Joan Swift. Her work was also published in the magazine in 1959, Poetry Northwest’s first year.

Poetry Northwest to start promising new chapter

For six years, Everett Community College has housed a literary gem with a prestigious history. Poetry Northwest magazine, founded in Seattle in 1959, has published the works of poets who put this region on the map.

Its first editors were giants of Northwest letters, Carolyn Kizer, Richard Hugo and Nelson Bentley.

Poetry Northwest will soon start a new chapter. It will lend its name to a new book publishing venture, Poetry NW Editions. Everett will remain its home base.

Kevin Craft, an EvCC English instructor and Poetry Northwest’s editor since 2010, is leaving his role with the magazine to become executive editor of Poetry NW Editions.

What is good news for the poetry community also will benefit EvCC students, and perhaps some studying at Washington State University in Everett.

“Students will be involved in book design, not just magazine design,” Craft said Tuesday. “Everett Community College has been so supportive of Poetry Northwest. The college’s graphic arts program is growing, and our writing arts program is growing.”

An Integrated Strategic Communications major is among bachelor’s degrees now offered by WSU in Everett. Craft sees a possibility that those students could be involved with Poetry Northwest. “Now that WSU is coming, it’s a chance for students to stick around more than two years,” he said.

Poetry Northwest was housed at the University of Washington for decades, with longtime UW Professor David Wagoner serving 36 years as its editor. In 2007 it was incorporated as a nonprofit organization.

Craft said that with an “in-kind arrangement,” EvCC donates space to Poetry Northwest. The twice-a-year magazine is supported by individual donations and entities that include the Community Foundation of Snohomish County. With a national distribution, it is sold at area bookstores.

As Craft takes on the book effort and continues teaching writing and literature at EvCC, Poetry Northwest magazine will have a new editing team. Aaron Barrell, another EvCC English instructor, will be the magazine’s senior editor. He will co-edit with Erin Malone, “a well-known poet in the Seattle community,” Craft said.

Craft sees Poetry NW Editions as a book publishing avenue for mid-career poets. It’s not likely to compete with the region’s big-name poetry publishers, Port Townsend’s Copper Canyon Press or Wave Books of Seattle. “We’ll fill a stepladder niche between a first book and big houses. We want to be that step,” Craft said.

On April 1, the start of National Poetry Month, the winter-spring 2016 edition of Poetry Northwest will be on sale. Featured in the magazine, along with Washington’s new Poet Laureate Tod Marshall and others, are new works by Edmonds poet Joan Swift.

Swift’s inclusion in the current edition brings her full circle. Craft said her work was published in Poetry Northwest in 1959, its first year.

“I was in the second edition — and I stapled the first edition. I’ve been a poet all my life,” Swift said Tuesday from her Edmonds home.

Swift, who said “I’m old enough not to tell my age,” earned a bachelor’s degree from Duke University in the late 1940s and a master’s degree in creative writing at the University of Washington in the early 1960s. One of her UW professors was Theodore Roethke, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who died in 1963. “It was my one stroke of luck,” Swift said of her time in Seattle with Roethke, Kizer and other poetry legends.

A widow whose husband, Wayne Swift, was on the UW ski team, Swift said others have described her poetry as “lyrical.”

Her poem “Mushrooms in a Museum,” first published in Poetry Northwest in 1959, is now featured on the Poetry Northwest website. She continues to write, and will be out this spring with a new book, “The Body That Follows Us.”

Craft believes poetry is as vital as ever.

“Every community has its poets,” Craft said. Describing the art form as short, dense and meditative, he said “poetry is alive and well and being read voraciously.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3560; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Poetry Northwest

Poetry Northwest is a national poetry magazine edited at Everett Community College. It’s available online and at area bookstores. Founded in 1959, it will soon lend its name to a book publishing venture, Poetry NW Editions. For more information, go to www.poetrynw.org.

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