Arianne True named new Poet Laureate of Washington
April is National Poetry Month and on Wednesday, the Washington State Arts Commission announced that Arianne True will serve as the state’s new poet laureate, beginning in May. Lauren Gallup spoke with the Tacoma-based writer and educator.
LAUREN GALLUP: Arianne True grew up in Seattle, where bodies of water and trafficked streets inspired her writing.
ARIANNE TRUE: I feel very, like I was raised by the land because I have a complicated family situation. So the streets and the water and the trees kind of stepped in.”
GALLUP: True evoked the the imagery of that homeland in one of her first published pieces, “Being Of,” from 2017.
my skin, rocky shore
with waves reverberate
my fingertips, protected coves
currents of veins and arteries
think fainting spells
when my body,
being of water,
as nothing more
than the tide going out
GALLUP: Now, preparing to step into the role of state poet laureate, True says she’s looking forward to connecting folks from across the state of Washington with this art form.
TRUE: I think part of the job of being an ambassador is getting to show folks what’s possible in poetry, like the breadth of different kinds of poems or different kinds of topics or like, just how you can express yourself through it.
GALLUP: True’s journey with poetry began when she was young.
TRUE: I think I just started writing poems randomly in middle school, like, you know, you do when you’re like a kid, you just make things and do art things because it’s fun, or because it helps you work out an idea.
GALLUP: At Ingraham High School, True participated in an after-school workshop led by teaching artists from Seattle’s Hugo House. A mentor told her about YouthSpeaks Seattle, and she also participated in creative writing summer camps.
TRUE: The more time I spent with it, the more I figured out you could do, and the more I built my skills, the more became possible.
GALLUP: Now, True is working professionally as a poet, writer and mentor to others. She was the inaugural Native Artist-in-Residence at Seattle Repertory Theater from 2021 to 2022. She’s in classrooms as part of Writers in Schools and mentors the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate program.
TRUE: I’ve worked with a lot of kids in classrooms who said they like never thought of themselves as poets and never would have tried out poetry, but then after spending more time with it, they’re like, ‘I really see this as a cool way to do a thing I want to do.’
GALLUP: True is still developing and planning what she’ll do with her tenure as the state’s poet laureate.
TRUE: One idea that I’ve talked about and thought about doing is, doing an anthology of queer writers from around the state, and making sure to include folks from rural areas and also folks who don’t already consider themselves poets or writers.
GALLUP: True ultimately wants to encourage more sharing of poetry. The art form is often thought of as this sacred, sanctified space. True says that makes it a vessel for vulnerability that can be displayed.
TRUE: For me, it’s very natural that poetry is the place where you can talk about the stuff you don’t talk about anywhere else, and that you share it, and that that’s like a very special part of it.
GALLUP: A panel of five representatives from Washington’s arts, humanities and literary communities unanimously recommended True for the role from among three finalists. Gov. Jay Inlsee appointed True, who will be given $40,000 annually, additional travel and project expenses and administrative support during her two-year term.