Bellingham has its artistic success stories (Death Cab for Cutie, comedian Ryan Stiles), but it also has its grassroots luminaries. Author, poet, and radio producer Shannon Laws is one. She has the privilege of not only being one of many talented Bellingham artists, but possesses a passion for supporting the local art community. Since beginning her writing career in 2009, she has expanded her reach to radio and community art installation.
Laws has always wanted to be an author. At just 12, she announced to her mother that one day she would be. “I’m sure that statement made her smile. I had poor grammar and spelling skills,” Laws said. Years later, Laws began writing poetry after finding herself in a dark time of life. While living on San Juan Island, she was intrigued by a writing class offered by Pacific Northwest author Susan Wingate. “That class changed the direction of my creative life and gave me hope.”
In June, Laws released her third book of poetry, “Fallen.” The collection explores loss, heartache, and quiet eroticism. Draped in dark humor and metaphor, the writing is a middle-of life work that aims to “ask questions about a dark past, finding truth in the now, while (being) confident about how it all ends.” The book was a community effort, edited and published by Bellingham residents. Laws said she hopes readers find solace in the familiarity of the poetry. Grief is never felt the same, but her collection aims to lead readers through the process of loss. “I’m saying to the reader, ‘Come join me while I wallow around in my mottled life. We’re all a bit muddy. Let’s take that mud, cook it in the sun, and build a home together.” Loss is never a clean endeavor, and that is all right.
Beyond her writing, Laws produces the award-winning radio show, Bellingham Art Beat, which airs on Make.Shift Radio (KZAX LP-FM 94.9) and online at KPNW-DB. In March, the weekly program has been awarded the 38th Annual Mayor’s Art Award for its advocacy for local artists. It covers the art scene with live interviews and music. Laws draws much of her inspiration from the radio show. Each interview brings to light the awesomeness of the human experience. “I fall in love with everyone I interview,” Laws said. While each experience differs, we are all part of human existence. Our experiences are as unique as our fingerprints, she said. Laws is driven by inspiring stories of survival from all dimensions, big and small.
Laws also has had the opportunity to be a part of an unusual revival project. All over the country, phone booths have become dilapidated, seemingly pointless structures once the phones are removed. Working in partnership with artist Christen Mattix, and poet Summer Starr, the team refurbished a phone booth to beautifully house poetry. The Poem Booth can be spotted outside the downtown Community Co-op on North Forest Street. Today, the booth stands as a bright, clean, and inspiring art installation, hosting a new poem on a quarterly basis. Poems can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners receive $25 cash and a $25 gift certificate to the Community Co-op.