Bellingham resident Rena Priest was recently named the 6th Poet Laureate of Washington State. Priest — a member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation — is the first Indigenous poet to be named to the position, and will serve in the position from April 14, 2021 until March 31, 2023. She was appointed to the position by Governor Jay Inslee.
Priest brings a lengthy list of accomplishments and experiences to the position. She has degrees from Western Washington University and Sarah Lawrence College (NY), has held various poetry fellowships, and recieved an American Book Award for her 2017 poetry collection “Patriarchy Blues.”
Sponsored by Humanities Washington and the Washington State Arts Commission, The Washington State Poet Laureate Program gives poets the opportunity “to build awareness and appreciation of poetry — including the state’s legacy of poetry — through public readings, workshops, lectures, and presentations throughout the state.”
During her term, Priest will focus on celebrating Washington’s tribal poets and increasing awareness of the natural world.
“To be named Poet Laureate means that I am connected to a tradition dating back to ancient Greece, when heroes and poets were crowned with laurel leaves. I am profoundly honored to be able to carry this distinction and to undertake the work of stewarding poetry in our state for the next two years,” Priest says.