“If memory is decayed sense, and imagination / is decayed memory, what do you make of you / or what do I make me, seeing I am / what I have seen, mostly?” So begins Richmond Lattimore’s “A Theme from Thomas Hobbes,” the first poem in the first issue of Poetry Northwest, published in June 1959. It’s as fitting an intro as you could ask for to a journal that has spent the next six decades cataloguing lives imagined in language. That issue alone had a cover designed by artist Mark Tobey, Richard Hugo and Carolyn Kizer on its editorial board, and poems by William Stafford, Philip Larkin, and James Wright. 

Now, to celebrate its 60th Anniversary issue, Poetry Northwest holds a reading at Wallingford’s Open Books this Saturday, November 2, at 7pm. Four poets with work in the new issue will read: Michael Bazzett from Minneapolis, Laura Read and Kathryn Smith from Spokane, and Ryo Yamaguchi from Seattle.

The journal has changed editorial hands many times, and even ceased publication between 2002 and 2006, but Erin Malone and Bill Carty—the coeditor and senior web editor, respectively (both poets)—attribute its longevity and significance to the various editors’ dedication to find good work and to a simple physical fact: “People want to read poetry in print,” Carty says. 

Even though it publishes national and international poets and is read elsewhere, “we have continuing discussions over what [it] means for the journal to be of the Northwest and in the Northwest,” Carty says.

The editors read everything, but are particularly attuned to what’s happening here, and Malone says that publishing poets from the Northwest, “which is still considered fringe in the publishing world in some respects,” alongside national names helps bring attention to the diversity of local writers and their varied expressions, not exclusively the odes to nature the region is known for. “If I think about the wide range of people writing in this area,” Carty says, “it’s not a homogenous group.” 

So you don’t need the word conifer in your poem to be considered? 

“No, no,” he jokes. “We’re open to all types of trees.” 

Poetry Northwest 60th Anniversary Reading
Nov 2, Open Books, Free

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