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Tacoma Poet Laureate


The Tacoma Poet Laureate program was developed to showcase local artists who actively contribute to and advance Tacoma’s literary community in meaningful ways through readings, performances, workshops, presentations, publications and special projects.

The program was founded in 2008 by Urban Grace Church and transitioned to the City of Tacoma's Arts Program in 2011.


Pass the Torch: Tacoma Poet Laureate Celebration

Date: April 29, 2017

Time: Reception and refreshments 5 – 6 pm; Event 6 - 8 pm

Location: Tacoma Community College, Auditorium (Building 2), S. 12th Street & Whitman Street. Free parking available in lot G off S. 12th Street

Cost: Free


Join the Tacoma Arts Commission and current Tacoma Poet Laureate, Cathy Nguyễn, for a poetry and music event as a wrap-up of National Poetry Month. The event will include live performances by the Intellect Gang (a collective of youth and young adult artists), local DJ Chill Dee, and the winner of the 2017-2019 Tacoma Poet Laureate competition, Kellie Richardson, who will officially be awarded the position.


Participating artists:
Cathy Nguyễn, 2015-2017 Tacoma Poet Laureate
Kellie Richardson, 2017-2019 Tacoma Poet Laureate
Miriam McBride
PaQ'Jon Dickerson
Marquis McCrary
Marcel Augustin
Baiyinnah Muhammad
DJ Chill Dee

Enjoy light refreshments from 5 – 6 pm at the Auditorium (Building 2) and participate in a hands-on project led by artist Saiyare Refaei.


While you are there, record a poem for inclusion in the Laureate Listening Project that reflects on the importance of a particular place in Tacoma in your own life. Limited recording spots are available from 5 – 6 pm; contact Naomi Strom-Avila at (253) 591-5191 or email nstrom-avila@cityoftacoma.org to reserve a spot.


Louder Than a Bomb
Come early to hear the Louder Than a Bomb - Tacoma Teen Poetry Slam. This free event starts at 2 pm in the Student Center (Building 11). For more information about LTAB, visit www.write253.com


Tacoma Community CollegePass the Torch is sponsored by Tacoma Community College’s Office of Student Engagement. 





Kellie Richardson2017-2019 Tacoma Poet Laureate - Kellie Richardson

Kellie Richardson is a writer, artist, and educator born and raised in Tacoma, WA.  Her work explores the intersection of race, class, and gender with specific emphasis on themes of love, loss, and longing. She employs both classical poetic forms as well as contemporary mediums such as spoken word. Her work is provocative yet accessible, powerful yet vulnerable. In addition to publishing original work, Kellie created the blog, Brown Betty, in 2012. Brown Betty exists to provide armor and inspiration for real life; a place where commerce and community intersect to cultivate healing. The blog explores the complexities of navigating the human experience, and calls its readers to continue to be inspired to endure and overcome barriers to their happiness. 


Kellie is particularly inspired and called to explore the experiences of women of color, and the intersectionality of identities. In addition to teaching courses at PLU, Kellie has provided poetry and writing workshops to students from Bryant Montessori to Tacoma Community College. She has performed pieces for the Tacoma Art Museum, The People’s Assembly, UW Tacoma, Drunken Telegraph, The Tacoma Round, COLORED2017, and many others. 

Kellie’s relationship with Tacoma is defined by transitions and metamorphosis as she has moved from student to professor, child to parent, and, the most critical progression, from onlooker to loving actor. She enters this process as a loving actor looking to continue to give to Tacoma through poetry and the gift of storytelling. As Poet Laureate, Kellie will persist in her desire to ensure literary arts are both accessible to, and representative of, the diversity in Tacoma. 


If you are interested in working with Kellie Richardson or having her perform for your school, organization, or event, please contact her at kelliepatrice@gmail.com or (253) 861-7722.


Tacoma Poet Laureate Cathy Nguyen2015-2017 Tacoma Poet Laureate - Cathy Nguyen

Nguyễn is an "artivist" who seeks to promote social equity and youth leadership through creative expression and community organization. A resident of Tacoma since 2010, Nguyễn has worked to infuse the arts in a variety of human service and grassroots contexts. In 2012, Nguyễn created and coordinated The RIOT, a first-ever teen poetry/hip-hop program at STAR Center. In the years that followed, Nguyễn worked to draw on and capture the voices of queer youth and young adults through a variety of arts, violence prevention, and leadership development programming at Oasis Youth Center. Currently, Nguyễn integrates creative expression with youth and community development as a teen support group facilitator at BRIDGES, a center for grieving youth and their families, and as an organizer of Tacoma Stands Up, a grassroots initiative calling for an end to police brutality and social injustice through peaceful organization, where she has led Tacoma-wide rallies and arts events focused on community-building and social justice advocacy.


If you are interested in working with Cathy Nguyễn or having her perform for your school, organization or event, please contact her at nguyen.cathryn@gmail.com.


Laureate Listening Project websiteLaureate Listening Project

Every person has a story to tell. In this online audio anthology, community members from Tacoma and greater Pierce County reflect on the importance of a particular place in their own life through poetry. Visit the Laureate Listening Project now!


The Laureate Listening Project was conceived and organized by 2013-2015 Tacoma Poet Laureate Lucas Smiraldo. The project is funded in part by a Spark Grant from The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation and by the City of Tacoma and the Tacoma Arts Commission.


Interested in having your poem included in this project? Contact Lucas Smiraldo at (253) 202-3473 or vanillasoul61@gmail.com.

Past Tacoma Poets Laureate

Cathy Nguyễn (2015 - 2017)
Lucas Smiraldo (2013 - 2015)
Josie Emmons Turner (2011 - 2013)
Tammy Robacker (2010 - 2011)
Antonio Edwards, Jr. (2009 - 2010)
William Kupinse (2008 - 2009)

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