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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.


2019-2021 Tacoma Poet Laureate - Abby E. Murray

Abby E. MurrayAbby E. Murray is a poet, instructor, editor and activist. She was born in Puyallup but spent years moving from state to state with her husband, who is still active duty in the U.S. Army. She recently returned to the Tacoma area when he was assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. She earned a bachelor of arts degree at Seattle University, a master of fine arts degree at Pacific University and a doctorate degree at Binghamton University. She also taught creative writing at universities and community colleges in Colorado, Georgia, Washington and New York.


Because Murray identifies as a conflicted pacifist indirectly impacted by military service, her poetry, essays and community endeavors often focus on the lasting ramifications of violent conflict beyond the combat zone. She is the editor of Collateral, a literary journal that publishes creative work exploring this experience, and is passionate about creating platforms to amplify voices of marginalized writers and artists. War reaches into all our lives, she says, which is why she teaches poetry and writing workshops to the public and military families, trauma survivors, and the undocumented and detained. She also teaches creative writing at Tacoma School of the Arts and argumentation in military/academic writing at the University of Washington, on fellowship from the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.


Murray has several chapbooks published, including Quick Draw: Poems from a Soldier’s Wife (2012) and How to be Married After Iraq (2018), and her first full-length collection of poems, Hail and Farewell, recently won the Perugia Press Poetry Prize and will be released in fall 2019. She considers her poetry to be her most tested and trusted survival skill.


Contact Abby E. Murray 

If you are interested in working with Abby E. Murray or having her perform for your school, organization, or event, please contact her at abbyemurray206@gmail.com.


Kellie Richardson

2017-2019 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 Pacific Lutheran University, 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. 


Contact Kellie Richardson 

If you are interested in working with Kellie Richardson or having her perform for your school, organization, or event, please contact her at tacomapoetlaureate@gmail.com or (253) 273-0591.


'What Us Is' by Kellie Richardson

What Us Is is the debut collection of poetry from Kellie Richardson. The book dives deep into themes of love, loss, and longing, with specific attention to the nuances of identity. Richardson also explores the deep violence, pain, and impacts of racism by communicating the very real and urgent demonstrations of police brutality, gender violence, and her complicated journey with faith. Find out more about What Us Is.


Events in the Community

Here's just a sampling of where Kellie Richardson has been performing and presenting in her role as poet laureate: 

  • Reading at Kaleidoscope, the Tacoma Arts Month opening party (October 2018)
  • Performed opening piece for Know Your Rights youth summit (September 2018)
  • Guest on Prickly Pear podcast (August 2018)
  • Guest on Chris Talks podcast (July 2018)
  • Produced Summer Soulstice - a curated showcase of emerging artists, centered on artists of color and LGBTQ artists (June 2018)
  • Hosted showcase of spoken word poetry by UW Tacoma students (June 2018) 
  • Taught spoken word poetry course at UW Tacoma (May 2018)
  • Participated in Lettuce 253 (May 2018)
  • Feature performer for housing justice event at Gray Middle School (April 2018) 
  • Facilitated art/poetry workshop for single mothers (April 2018) 
  • Featured performer at "Crossing the Street" Louder than a Bomb event (April 2018)
  • Facilitated workshop and closing performance for Seeds of Peace Youth Summit with First Creek Middle School students (March 2018)
  • Judge for Poetry Out Loud's WA State finals (March 2018)
  • Guest speaker at Peace Community Center (January 2018) 
  • Performed "Love Wins" in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday (January 2018)
  • Reading at Creative Colloquy (December 2017) 
  • Reading celebrating 30th Anniversary of Pierce County AIDS Foundation and to honor those impacted by HIV/AIDS (December 2017)
  • 'What Us Is' book launch (December 2017) 
  • Moderated panel discussion on using creative and small business social media for activism and social justice (November 2017)
  • Performed at Metropolitan Development Council's fundraiser (November 2017) 
  • Keynote for University of Puget Sound's Black Student Union fundraiser (October 2017)
  • Keynote for YouthBuild (October 2017) 
  • Reading at Hurricane Maria benefit event (October 2017)
  • Reading at Kaleidoscope, the Tacoma Arts Month opening party (October 2017)
  • Reading at Creative Colloquy Crawl (October 2017)
  • Published 'What Us Is' chapbook on Amazon and Kindle (September 2017)
  • Keynote for Metropolitan Development Council fundraiser (September 2017)
  • Taught a poetry and mixed media course to young women on probation/diversion with the Pierce County Juvenile Court (September 2017)
  • Reading and facilitated discussion for Women in Business (August 2017)
  • Moderated Mayoral and City Council Candidate Forum hosted by Indivisible Tacoma (July 2017)
  • Facilitated workshop at Tacoma Public Library for high school students on bringing authentic voice to essays (July 2017)
  • Reading at the kickoff celebration of Tacoma Pride (July 2017)
  • Reading at Foss Waterway Seaport at part of Art Walk (July 2017)
  • Reading at City of Destiny Awards (June 2017)
  • Reading to honor graduates of ALF Class XXIII and new members of ALF Class XXIV (June 2017)
  • Facilitated a poetry workshop and open mic for women currently at the Women's Corrections Center (May 2017)
  • Reading at the book launch of "Villain Songs" by former Tacoma Poet Laureate Tammy Robacker (May 2017)



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

Kellie Richardson (2017 - 2019)
Thy 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)