BY MOLLY COOK
Whidbey Life Magazine contributor
July 22, 2013
Washington State Poet Laureate Kathleen Flenniken grew up in Richland and now lives in the Seattle area, but for three days in October 2012, she was very much a part of the Whidbey Island art scene, when she visited Whidbey as part of her outreach work as Poet Laureate.
Flenniken worked with students at all levels in Oak Harbor, Coupeville and Langley. In addition, she gave public readings for adults at the Coupeville and Freeland libraries, led workshops for teachers and engaged in informal dinner conversations in Coupeville and Langley.
Everyone who met Flenniken was charmed by her warmth and by her words. Her two books of poetry, “Famous” and “Plume,” grew out of her young life “on the Project” and her later experience living near and then working at the Hanford nuclear site. Her poetry reminds us that in the right poetic hands, even the most challenging subjects can become beautiful.
Flenniken recently let us know of some new developments with her poetry and here they are for all those who enjoyed meeting and hearing her this past October, and for those who may be new to the poet’s work.
- Flenniken recorded a 30-minute interview with Dick Gordon, host of “The Story,” produced by WUNC/North Carolina Public Radio and distributed nationally. You can hear the interview here.
- The poet was the subject of a five-minute documentary by Lou Karsen produced for the “Document Challenge” in March. The documentary includes original music and inspired interpretations of two poems from “Plume.” Karsen hopes the film will have its Seattle premier soon. In the meantime, you can see this powerful documentary here.
- Composer Reginald Unterseher has set four poems from “Plume” to music with a string quartet and a soprano, and called it “Hanford Songs.” Flenniken wrote that “it is moving, haunting, spooky, gorgeous.” The piece was performed in Wenatchee in June and future performances and a recording are in the works. You can read more about Reg Unterseher and “Hanford Songs” here.
(Photos courtesy of the poet.)