Kevin Craft has been a strong supporter and unifier of poets throughout the northwest. In this interview we learn more about his own writing process and perspective on teaching. He believes, “we write poems for ourselves, to clarify and align our own hearts and minds.” Also, hear about his upcoming book, ten years in the making, and future publishing projects. -Jessica Gigot
JG: You have been editor of Poetry Northwest since 2010 and are now stepping down to work on other projects. How would you describe your time as editor of this publication and how do you see it evolving in the future under new leadership?
KC: It’s been a great honor to serve as editor of Poetry Northwest. Doing so has deepened my sense of community, vertically and horizontally. That is to say, on the one hand I felt actively connected to voices of the past, those who worked on and published in the magazine—Roethke, Kizer, Hugo, Stafford, etc.—felt a direct responsibility to them to continue their foundational work. On the other I found myself in daily conversation with many poets all over the region and the country. I learned a lot, through daily practice on the work of others, about how poems can be read and effectively revised. I really enjoyed being in poetry in that way—as a helping hand, guiding the poem home.
My most important goal and achievement, I’d say (beyond updating the magazine for the digital age) was to re-inscribe the founding vision of Carolyn Kizer in the public mind. It was her magazine at the outset, and that was an important moment in American literature—to have, in the late 50s and early 60s, this bold and brassy figure at the head of a magazine—embodying in many ways what I like to call the Western feminist avant-garde.
I think Poetry Northwest will go on being the dependable backbone of regional poetry publishing—giving voice to the concerns of readers and writers in our neck of the woods. It’s an important gateway publication—a portal to a larger audience for many emerging writers. The new team sees it that way too.
JG: How would you describe the poetry and literary community in Seattle and throughout the northwest?
KC: I would describe it as dynamic and inclusive. The literary community, both in Seattle and the region at large, has never been more active—there’s literally something for everyone, at every level of engagement. When I first arrived in Seattle in the early 1990s, it certainly seemed like a city of readers and writers, though more fragmented and isolated, perhaps, primarily visible in bookstores, libraries, and universities. There were a few longstanding reading series that animated venues around town—like Red Sky Poetry Theatre, which had found its niche on Capitol Hill in the mid-90s—and Bumbershoot, of course, which had a vibrant Bookfair. Now, thanks to expansive organizations lik