Sarah Sloat and Marie Craven's Dictionary Illustrations screens at the monthlong Cadence Video Poetry Festival. Courtesy of Cadence

Without poetry, words are just weird honking noises we make to order takeout, communicate with Alexa, and holler at cars that rush the crosswalk. Since 1996, springy-green April has been National Poetry Month, a time to show a little extra love to the wordsmiths among us (and to compose our own verses as well!). We've compiled a list of the best poetry events this month, from A Celebration of National Poetry Month with poet laureates to the unusual, multidisciplinary Cadence Video Poetry Festival. Find even more National Poetry Month events here, or check out book events in general here.

Found something you like and don't want to forget about it later? Click "Save Event" on any of the linked events below to add it to your own private list.


Ilya Kaminsky
Ilya Kaminsky is a Russian Jewish poet and translator who's as good a writer as he is a steward of the genre. In addition to editing tons of anthologies and guest-editing tons of journals, his two previous books—Musica Humana and Dancing in Odessa—were widely praised. Deaf Republic, his new book of linked lyrics about an occupied population trying to resist the government after soldiers kill a deaf boy at a protest, is getting similar treatment. Kaminsky performs the poems from the perspectives of the different characters in the narrative. In one mode, he speaks in a pretty standard Russian-accented English. And in another, he wails and sings like my Russian Jewish grandpa. This style is arresting and makes for a powerful performance. RICH SMITH
Broadway Performance Hall


Laura Eve Engel and Bill Carty
This evening looks promising: Laura Eve Engel wrote Things That Go, inspired by the biblical story of Lot's wife (turned to a pillar of salt by God for daring to look over her shoulder at Sodom and Gomorrah). According to the book description, the poems "strain against the notion of looking as passive." The other reader, Bill Carty, is a Seattleite who edits Poetry Northwest and is the author of Huge Cloudy.
Open Books


Morgan Parker: Magical Negro
"Magical Negro" is a term popularized by director Spike Lee in 2001 to describe a Black stock character whose function is to help the white protagonist in a film realize or achieve something with their quasi-mystical powers of Blackness. Think Will Smith in The Legend of Bagger Vance. Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile. Jennifer Hudson in Sex and the City. Los Angeles–based poet Morgan Parker titling her new potent book of poetry Magical Negro is hilarious, because this book doesn't cater to white selfhood or knowledge at all. Instead what we get is a portrait of 21st-century Black womanhood: our complexities, our sadness, our everydayness, our shared ancestral trauma and the violence done against us, our splendor, our humor. My body is an argument I did not start. That's the pitch of Parker's language. It's hard not to feel completely undressed by every poem. If the world suddenly became a reflection-less place, this book of poetry is what I'd look into to see myself. The poet's vision of Blackness is resplendent, multivalent, complicated, heavy, ever-changing. And beautiful. True, too. JASMYNE KEIMIG
Hugo House

APRIL 4–25

Cadence Video Poetry Festival
Video poetry has been around since the late 1970s, but it's been enjoying a slight revival in a world where three-minute videos on the internet serve as our primary mode of media consumption. Local fiction writer Chelsea Werner-Jatzke is curating the second iteration of this festival, which will include video poems from Shaun Kardinal, Catherine Bresner, and Sierra Nelson. Bresner and professor-poet Amaranth Borsuk will lead workshops throughout the month for those who want to learn to create their own cinepoems. RICH SMITH
Northwest Film Forum


Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs
If you think of poetry as something over-precious and pretentious, read Nickole Brown's "The Scat of It" (2018), which is about exactly what you think it is: "The shit of it, the slick of it, the beetle’s tumbling joy / the bear’s berry slush of it, the coyote’s ghost white dry of it—undigested fur, nothing more / hot-pressed into a turd—that nothing-wasted prayer." How's that for rich nature imagery? Brown is the author of the collections Sister and Fanny Says as well as the recent chapbook To Those Who Were Our First Gods. She'll read here with her wife Jessica Jacobs (Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going), past winner of the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. JOULE ZELMAN
Open Books

Nikkita Oliver: Pebbles in My Shoes
Poet and activist Nikkita Oliver will share new work at this lounge-style reading.
Hyena Culture


Never Again is Now: The Art and Activism of Millennial Nikkei
Millennial Japanese Americans honor their persecuted ancestors, imprisoned for their ethnicity during World War II, through poetry, dance, and art. Hear spoken-word by Troy Osaki and Kurt Yokoyama Ikeda; see movement by Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor in an excerpt of a piece called Farewell Shikata ga nai with live music by Seattle Kokon Taiko; gaze at photos from The Suitcase Project by Kayla Isomura; and join a discussion moderated by Nina Nobuko Wallace. This event is co-organized by the Japanese American Citizens League and Densho.
Wing Luke Museum


Poetry in Translation: Indigenous Showcase Edition
Washington State's beloved first civic poet laureate, Claudia Castro Luna, curates this bilingual poetry series. The April edition, devoted to Indigenous poets, will feature Duane Niatum, fabian romero, and Sasha LaPointe.
Northwest Film Forum


Sabrina Benaim
Performance artist, teacher, and slammer Sabrina Benaim has represented Toronto and Canada at various major slams. Her poem "Explaining My Depression to My Mother" made her social-media-famous.
El Corazón


Rick Barot and David Biespiel
Tacoma-based, Philippines-born poet Rick Barot is the author of the collections The Darker Fall, Lambda Literary finalist and Grub Street Prize-winner Want, and Chord, with a fourth, The Galleons, due out in 2020. He's won all the fellowships, or at least NEA, Guggenheim Foundation, Artist Trust, Civitella Ranieri, and Stanford University grants. He'll read with David Biespiel, an award-winner for A Long High Whistle and Poetry Foundation's Best Book of the Year and a shortlister for The Book of Men and Women. 
Open Books


A Celebration of National Poetry Month
Seattle Arts & Lectures will present a reading by the 2016-17 Youth Poet Laureate, Maven Gardner, along with this year's Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Cohort Maia Ruth Pody, Alex Newsom, and Kiyoshi Sakauye, Washington State Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna, and Seattle Civic Poet Anastacia-Reneé.
Warby Parker Capitol Hill

Hanif Abdurraqib: Go Ahead in the Rain
Hanif Abdurraqib writes good poetry about music, and he writes good music criticism using the tools of poetry. Combining personal narrative with an electric analytical mind, Abdurraqib has made me consider the work of artists like Celine Dion, Macklemore, and Carly Rae Jepsen more deeply than I ever imagined I would. And, as much as it pains me to say, it's true: He has written powerfully about the band Fall Out Boy. His essay about going to see a Bruce Springsteen show after visiting Michael Brown's plaque is a must-read, too. So when news came out that Abdurraqib was working on a biography / book-length personal essay about his love for A Tribe Called Quest, I jumped for joy. Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest is now here, and it's getting rave reviews. Go hear about the kings of jazzy rap from a music writer in his prime. RICH SMITH
Elliott Bay Book Company


WordsWest Literary Series with Ilya Kaminsky and Mark Doty
Kaminsky's new book Deaf Republic, writes Rich Smith, is composed of "linked lyrics about an occupied population trying to resist the government after soldiers kill a deaf boy at a protest." Reportedly, seeing Kaminsky read/perform the poems is a fascinating experience. Mark Doty, one of the most celebrated living poets, has won many awards, including the T. S. Eliot Prize. No doubt this'll be one of the best poetry double bills of the month.
C&P Coffee Company


Shayla Lawson: I Think I'm Ready to See Frank Ocean
I Think I’m Ready to See Frank Ocean takes individual Frank Ocean songs as inspiration to produce “a mythological mixtape of confession and surreal sleuthing,” as Hugo House describes it. Lawson will be joined by the wonderful Jane Wong, with a Q&A led by Anastacia-Reneé.
Hugo House


Stanza: Fire
Poets write and artists respond in a dialogue on the theme of "fire." The results will be published in a book that you can (and should) buy. Come to the opening for readings.


Arts Corps Presents: 2019 Youth Speaks Seattle Grand Slam
Five youth poets will emerge from this contest as representatives of Seattle at Brave New Voices, an international slam competition taking place next July. Watch the hopefuls duke it out.
Kings Hall 

APRIL 19–21

Bibliophilia Storytelling Festival
Bibliophilia is back! Rather than force audiences to sit and listen to four writers simply read from their work for two hours (which can be great!), writer and organizer Jekeva Phillips combines the powers of improv and literature to create wild, dynamic performances. This year features some of the region's best poets and storytellers, including Amber Flame, Donna Miscolta, and Jalayna Carter. If you can't attend the whole festival, I'd check out the Beginning, Middle, and End event on Friday and the Poetry Verse Play: Featuring Amber Flame event on Sunday. In the former, three different artists tell the beginning, middle, and end of a story using three different genres—poetry, prose, and theater. For Poetry Verse Play, a group of improv artists will create a one-act play based on a first hearing of one of Flame's poems. This year, all events will take place at Hugo House, where I'm sure the bar will be open. RICH SMITH
Hugo House


Elizabeth Colen, Sarah Galvin, Robert Lashley
Bellingham poet Elizabeth J. Colen, author of True Ash, Lambda Literary Award finalist Money for Sunsets, and more, will be joined by Stranger favorite (and contributor) Sarah Galvin (Rich Smith: "Fans love Galvin's poems for their wild imagery and surprising turns") and Stranger Genius Award winner Robert Lashley (Smith: his poems in Up South are "fucking dope").
Open Books


The Sacred-Profane Self in Late Capitalism: A Reading with Janaka Stucky and Sarah Galvin
An intriguing and very heterogeneous double bill: Janaka Stucky, the founding editor of indie publisher Black Ocean Press, will read from a collection he wrote while fasting, doing rites, and going into trances, called Ascend Ascend, while Stranger idol Sarah Galvin will read from Ugly Time, which Rich Smith called "incredible."
Hugo House
(You can also hear Janaka Stucky on April 24.)

Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate
Housing Development Consortium's 11th annual benefit luncheon will feature a reading from U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. Elliott Bay booksellers will be on hand with copies of her books for sale, including Wade in the Water, Life on Mars (winner of the Pulitzer Prize), Duende, and The Body's Question.
Washington State Convention & Trade Center


HERE: Poems for the Planet
Join Francisco Aragón and Kimiko Hahn at this eco-poetics reading and book launch for Copper Canyon Press's HERE: Poems for the Planet, an anthology dedicated to the literary defense of nature.
Broadway Performance Hall

Found something you like and don't want to forget about it later? Click "Save Event" on any of the linked events below to add it to your own private list.