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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.


2021-2023 Poet Laureate - Lydia K. Valentine

Lydia K. ValentineLydia K. Valentine is a playwright and poet, director and dramaturg, editor and educator. Her proudest accomplishment, though, is being a mom to two creative, intelligent, and caring  individuals and activists. In her own writing and the projects to which she contributes through Lyderary Ink, Lydia seeks to amplify the voices of those who are often stifled, ignored, and marginalized in what has been the accepted narrative of the United States.

Lydia’s first poetry collection, Brief Black Candles, was published in November 2020 by Not a Pipe Publishing. Poems from the collection were recently showcased in the Eugene Contemporary Art exhibit, A Critical Conversation: Art, Race, Privilege, and Place. Her writing has also appeared in online and print publications such as Angels Flight • literary west, The Pitkin Review, Shout! An Anthology of Resistance Poetry and Short Fiction, and HowlRound. She has been the recipient of various awards and recognitions. She was the 2017 poetry fellow serving Nuestras Pequeñas Rosas in San Pedro Sula, Honduras; recipient of the 2017 Goddard College Engaged Artist Award; and recipient of the 2021 Unsettling Dramaturgy Award.
Lydia is the resident dramaturg for empathos company and Toy Boat Theatre, and she maintains ongoing partnerships with The Mahogany Project, Pork Filled Productions, and We Out Here. She has been invited by various organizations including the African-American Writers’ Alliance, Central Washington University, Creative Colloquy, the Hiatt Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership, Lighthouse Writers’ Conference & Retreat, and Write253 to speak and run workshops on topics such as equity and classroom management, social justice in the classroom, intersectionality and identity, poetry, and playwriting.
Lydia is a faculty member of Northwest Indian College and Seattle Girls’ School. She is also a highly sought after sensitivity/authenticity reader, developmental editor, and copyeditor and has worked on publications such as the social justice and literary arts magazine Speak, books such as Rough House by Tina Ontiversos, and various projects for companies such as Agate Publishing, Forest Avenue Press, and McGraw Hill.

Contact Lydia K. Valentine

If you are interested in working with Lydia K. Valentine or having her perform for your school, organization, or event, please contact her via text at (253) 292-2536, email at admin@lyderaryink.com, or through the contact page on her website.

Pass the Torch – Virtual Event on Thursday, April 22 at 6 PM

As a wrap-up to National Poetry Month, 2019-2021 Tacoma Poet Laureate Abby E. Murray and the Tacoma Arts Commission will host Pass the Torch, a virtual poetry event at which Valentine will officially be awarded the title. The free, public event will be held Thursday, April 22, 2021 from 6– 7:15 PM on TV Tacoma, livestreamed on the City’s Facebook page, and on Zoom. Pass the Torch will feature past 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), and William Kupinse (2008 - 2009).


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.


Events in the Community

Here's just a sampling of where Abby E. Murray has been performing and presenting in her role as poet laureate: 

  • Reading at Pass the Torch, Tacoma Poet Laureate Celebration (April 2019)
  • Summer Poetry Workshop Series (July 2019)
  • Hosted reading by Rena Priest and Carla Sameth (August 2019)
  • Hail and Farewell book launch (October 2019)
  • Artist Trust Reception (October 2019)
  • Threads of History: Creative Conversation about Military Life (November 2019)
  • Collected Poets Series (November 2019)
  • Conversation at Smith College (November 2019)
  • Veterans Day: Two Poets Laureate (November 2019)
  • Collateral Issues 4.1 - 5.1 (November 2019 - November 2020)
  • Veterans Day Reading (November 2019)
  • Featured Poet & Open Mic (November 2019)
  • Give the Gift of Poetry (December 2019)
  • Poets of the Pacific Northwest (December 2019 and October 2020)
  • Winter Garden Reading (January 2020)
  • Alumni Reading Series (February 2020)
  • Class Visits (February 2020 - June 2020)
  • Poets and Poetry Workshop at West Point (February 2020)
  • Poetry Job Shadow with Carmella Neal (February 2020)
  • Celebration of the Small Press Poetry Prize (March 2020)
  • Babysitters Club: Poets on Parenthood (March 2020)
  • Perugia Press Poetry Reading (March 2020)
  • Student Interview (March 2020)
  • Introducing Poem Friday (March 2020)
  • Poem Friday Workshop Series (April 2020 - June 2020)
  • Academy of American Poets College Prize: Binghamton University Submissions (April 2020)
  • Beacon Center Workshop Series (April 2020 - July 2020)
  • The Right to Write (May 2020)
  • Writing the Family (May 2020)
  • Writing from Your Center (May 2020)
  • Two Poets: Talk About Race Series (June 2020 - August 2020)
  • Summer Arts Connect Poetry Workshop Series (July 2020 - October 2020)
  • Interview with Christine Sloan Stoddard (August 2020)
  • Louder Than a Bomb Tacoma (August 2020)
  • Corre y corre sin detenerte Digital and Print Release (October 2020)
  • CityLine: Tacoma Poet Laureate Dr. Abby E. Murray (October 2020)
  • Reading with Poets Laureate (October 2020)
  • Writing Inside the Bubble (November 2020)
  • Compact Survival Kit: On Brevity and Short Form Poetry (November 2020)


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 was 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)