Nico Vassilakis

Is the recent passing of the Subtext Reading Series a sign that experimental literature in Seattle is going extinct? Not as long as Nico Vassilakis lives here. A founder of Subtext, Vassilakis has long explored the fringes of poetry, playing with words less as containers of meaning than as abstract images. In his newest collection, Disparate Magnets, Vassilakis manipulates the sounds and appearances of words to create poetry unlike any you've seen before. By boldly examining the durability of these strange little collections of symbols we use to push ideas around, Vassilakis is making it easier for more conventional authors to get frisky with their words, too. PAUL CONSTANT

Kim-An Lieberman

Born in Rhode Island to Vietnamese and Jewish parents, Kim-An Lieberman's latest collection of poems, Breaking the Map, examines her heritage in intelligent, unsentimental ways. Even when she doesn't write autobiographical poems (as in "Wings," where a woman discovers her husband's secret: "She was facing him in the grey wash of morning, / stroking the knoll of his shoulder blade, when twin quills broke suddenly through the skin"), she's writing about why we're here. She finds delicious, unexpected answers. PC

Rajkhet Dirzhud-Rashid

Seattle is home to many writers whose work I love, but Rajkhet Dirzhud-Rashid is the only one whose work I stalk. Every Friday, I track down the latest issue of the Seattle Gay News, in which Dirzhud-Rashid's weekly column Lipstick and Lust glitters like a diamond from outer space. Ostensibly chronicling Dirzhud-Rashid's sexual adventures and cosmetic preferences, Lipstick and Lust takes readers on a roller-coaster ride through our columnist's life and psyche, from dramatic battles with rude bus drivers and intrusive Seattle Housing Authority representatives to semigraphic depictions of S&M encounters at the pansexual play space the Wet Spot (aka the Center for Sex Positive Culture). There is no filter (Dirzhud-Rashid crows about details other writers would kill to keep hidden) and, seemingly, no editor (her off-the-wall grammatical flourishes are half the fun). Nevertheless, there's more life in one Lipstick and Lust than in a hundred columns by Jean Godden. If Rajkhet Dirzhud-Rashid were a character someone created, that someone would be on this list. But Dirzhud-Rashid is her own creation. She must be honored as such. DAVID SCHMADER

Summer Robinson

Summer Robinson's Pilot Books isn't a bookstore; it's a playful literary tree fort that happens to sell books. With only a few hundred small-press books in stock, Robinson bolsters publishing's personal side. She hosts writing groups every week and an intimate reading series for authors who the big stores sometimes skip. Every time you go, you're reminded why you read in the first place. PC