Back in 2009, I shortlisted local poet Kim-An Lieberman for a Genius Award. Here's what I wrote back then:
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.
So Lieberman has been one of my favorite Seattle poets for years now, and for good reason—her poetry is brave and smart and welcoming. The first lines of her poems usher you inside with a great image (like this one, from "Post Post Intelligencer:" "Here’s the headline: Marmaduke runs amok.") and then they lay out an unforgettable scene in a voice as clear and as obvious as your own interior voice. I was excited to hear that she finally had a second book of poetry, In Orbit, coming out from Blue Begonia Press next year.
But I was heartbroken to learn that Lieberman passed away on December 8th, after a two-year battle with gastric cancer. I only met Kim-An once, after a wonderful reading she gave for Breaking the Map at the old Arundel Books space on First Ave. I told her how much I loved her book, and then I let her get to autographing books and being appreciated by her friends and family on her big night. From my brief interaction with her, I can tell you she was kind and gracious and funny. But she had a huge network of friends who can tell you so much more about her: She was a mother and a wife and a teacher. She loved language and playing the piano. She loved Seattle. And Seattle loved her right back.
My heart goes out to Kim-An's friends and family. If you'd like to show your support for those who loved her, there will be a memorial service on December 30th at 3 pm at Seattle Asian Art Museum. If you'd like to do something in her memory, a scholarship in her name has been established. You can contribute to that on this website. Her voice will be missed by so many.