Arts & Culture

‘The power of poetry comes when we engage other people’ says new Olympia poet laureate

‘Eating Out of Season’ by Sady Sparks

Olympia’s new poet laureate, Sady Sparks, reads a poem called “Eating Out of Season” at the Jan. 8 City Council meeting.
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Olympia’s new poet laureate, Sady Sparks, reads a poem called “Eating Out of Season” at the Jan. 8 City Council meeting.

The mission of the Olympia Poet Laureate is to connect people to poetry, and that’s something Sady Sparks started doing well before she was chosen for the city post.

Sparks, 24 and a senior at The Evergreen State College, began her two-year term as poet laureate Jan. 1, and she’ll offer a free poetry workshop Saturday at Browsers Bookshop.

A lover of words since her Midwest childhood and a poet since her teens, she found her calling as an ambassador of the written word last year when she taught poetry workshops to students in Emily Petrie’s kindergarten and first-grade class at Lincoln Options Elementary School.

“It was the most fun I’d ever had in my entire life,” she told The Olympian. “I was practically crying, I was so happy.”

The children had a great time, too, Petrie said. “The students were so energized by her practical methods and inspired by her whimsy,” Petrie said.

Sparks loved introducing the Lincoln students to the play and the power of poetry, and she’s looking forward to doing the same with people of all ages as 2019-2020 poet laureate, a community service position aimed at increasing the presence of poetry in Olympia.

“It’s really exciting for Olympia to be saying, ‘We value poetry. We value writers,’ ” she said. “That’s really a powerful statement.”

At Saturday’s workshop, titled “Asking Love Questions,” she’ll provide writing prompts, lead poetry games and share dark chocolate with participants, who need no poetry experience.

She’s also planning to station poets with typewriters on Fifth Avenue for Arts Walk, happening April 26 and 27. Passersby are invited to ask a poet to write them a poem on a topic of their choosing.

“I wanted to create more interaction,” said Sparks, who moved to Olympia in 2013 after she was accepted to Evergreen. “A lot of poets are alone writing. The power of poetry comes when we engage other people with this craft.”

She discovered that power when she was 12 years old, she said. She’d written a school essay about the day of her grandfather’s funeral and decided to share it with her family not long afterward.

“I was in my grandma’s living room with all my family, and I was reading my essay, and everyone was crying,” she said. “That was the first time I noticed the power of words.

“It was kind of my first public reading,” she added.

She fell in love with poetry in high school, when a teacher suggested she read the work of Sylvia Plath, and she has been developing her craft in college, selling her poems at the Olympia Zine Fest and reading at Last Word Books and New Traditions Café.

Though poetry is a big part of her life, Sparks was surprised when Frederick Dobler, a member of the city’s Arts Commission, suggested she apply to be poet laureate.

“I said, ‘What are you talking about? I’m too young,’ ” she said. Then she went home and found information about the position online.

“I read the description, and I just started crying,” she said. “I had no idea I wanted this so badly. I had no idea that this was what I was meant to do.”

Before she applied, though, she had to think about whether she wanted to commit to staying in Olympia after she graduates in June.

“Olympia has become my home,” she said, “but I could go anywhere in the world. I had to ask myself, ‘Am I willing to stay here for two more years with the rain?’ The rain is really hard for me.

“I said, ‘Of course,’ ” she continued. “This is such an amazing reason to stay. It is such an honor to be the face of poetry in Olympia for the next two years.”

Asking Love Questions

  • What: Sady Sparks, Olympia’s new poet laureate, will host her first workshop, which explores romantic love through poetry games, writing prompts and more.

  • When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday

  • Where: Browsers Bookshop, 107 Capitol Way N., Olympia

  • How much: Free; bring paper and a pen or pencil.

  • More information: 360-357-7462, browsersolympia.com

Here’s a poem Sparks wrote about the recent weather:

me i walk

tromp

me tromping

me fall

falling

me fumbling

me laughing

me puddling

me recalling

midwest

snow days

me gasping

me greeted by

wet knees

me free/zing

me dizzied by

snowflakes

me sneaking

snow bites

me eating

dollops

me not

dehydrated

yet.

you

your water

possible today.

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