“To have great poets there must be great audiences too.” —Walt Whitman
Virginia Woolf spoke of having a room of one’s own in which to write. Writers of all kinds know that they also benefit from having a community in which to thrive—an extended family where they can share and test their writing ideas. Without an attentive audience, trusted feedback, and a dash of praise, that room of one’s own can potentially become a prison rather than a sanctuary. But with the right community, the writer can indeed flourish.
The Redmond Association of Spokenword, also known as RASP, provides an energetic community and sense of belonging to writers in and around the city of Redmond, Washington. It expands the sanctuary of the writer’s lonely garrison, encompassing fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. While this anthology honors poetry, it is part of a larger context in the RASP community—a full range of writing by the group’s talented participants.
In the years since RASP was founded in 1997, the organization has had many accomplishments. It is my hope that this book contributes to the group’s successes, but also celebrates the accomplishments of its individual contributors. The poets whose work you’ll read here include new contributors and longtime RASP regulars, as well as many of the best-known poets of the Seattle area who have been guest poets at our monthly readings—for which I have served as curator since 2008. The interactions of all these poets enlarge not only our community but influence the broader poetry community of the entire Seattle area and beyond.
The heart of each RASP meeting is its open-mic reading. That’s where RASP’s experienced and first-time participants find a platform to share their work. And it’s where many first-timers have become experienced. Reading work aloud to an attentive audience helps each poet refine his or her performance, while the audience hones its listening skills. Together, careful reading and listening has helped to build a strong and supportive community.
The poems in this anthology—120 poems by 70 poets—have naturally fallen into three groupings. The first section, “Here,” encompasses 22 poems about the Pacific Northwest, and sometimes more specifically the here and now of poetry readings—perhaps even of RASP itself. The second section, “There,” gathers 28 poems that point to geographical locations farther afield. The third section, “Everywhere,” with 70 poems, is not just a catch-all for the remaining poems but a celebration of the range of diversity present in the RASP community and the many styles of its poetry. The assignment of poems to particular sections may be subjective, but I trust that you will find some aspect of the sectional theme in each of that section’s poems—and also enjoy each poem on its own terms. Together, I hope these three sections take you on a rewarding trip—here, there, and everywhere. Thank you for reading.
Michael Dylan Welch, Editor