When we announced that we’d like to interview authors who are leaving town for our Exit Interview feature, the most-suggested writer was Kelly Davio, a poet, columnist for The Butter, and co-publisher and poetry editor at the Tahoma Literary Review. The e-mails we received were dripping with sadness about Davio’s departure; the word “irreplaceable” came up. Davio’s debut poetry collection, Burn This House was publshed by Red Hen Press in 2013.
Where are you going, and when and, if I may be so bold, why?
I’m gearing up for one of the bigger moves of my life: I’m headed to London, England. My husband is in tech, and his company has made him director of a group that works primarily out of its London office. It’s hard to say goodbye to literary Seattle, but I’m awfully proud of my husband and this big opportunity for him, so off I go. If I can get all my paperwork in order, that is. Trying to collect all the right papers, stamps, and certifications feels a little bit like waiting for a ruling in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, if I may be allowed a cheesy Bleak House reference.
We encourage as many Bleak House references as possible around here. When do you leave?
If I can get all of the moving parts of this relocation to align, I should be gone by early October. Somehow, in this remaining month-or-so, I need to sell a house and find a new apartment overseas. Yet somehow all I want to do is work on my novel revisions. Maybe I'm in denial!
How would you describe Seattle's literary culture?
I’d say the community here is pocketed. And I mean that in a good way — there are wonderful little pockets of literary community all over the city and the larger area, and no matter what neighborhood you live in or what kind of literature you like to read or write, there’s a gathering and a community for you. Over the years, I’ve thought, “okay, now I have a handle on literary Seattle.” Then I'd immediately be proven wrong when I’d learn about an expo like APRILFest, or about events like Poets in the Park out in Redmond, or about cool new presses like Two Sylvias, or about great literary organizations like Old Growth Northwest. There’s always something new percolating here, and I’ve loved discovering all of these diverse and thriving literary communities over the past decade.
Did you feel supported in Seattle?
Absolutely. Part of that comes from having attended Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, which I firmly believe to be the friendliest and most supportive MFA program in the world. Part of it's also the fact that literary folks in Seattle are unusually giving of their time, their knowledge, and their professional support. Every time I’ve needed help with setting up a reading or getting in touch with a conference organizer, a fellow poet or writer has been gracious enough to help me out. I’ve tried to do the same for others in turn. I think Seattle writers understand that the literary world is an ecosystem, and that when we all work to better that ecosystem, we create a better place for all of us to thrive.
In your opinion, what could Seattle literary culture do better?
We could — and I include myself in this — put our butts in chairs with greater regularity. Being an attendee at a reading series, a book launch, or a workshop is an important way that any one of us can support other writers. Of course, it’s hard when you don’t get off work until six or so to make it halfway across the city to attend a reading at seven, especially when traffic is grueling and busses are late and it’s raining, and, and, and. Yet at the same time, it’s awfully disheartening for authors to put on events that draw, say, two people total.
When a good friend of mine released her first book a couple of years back, she had a big, well publicized event here in Seattle, and just one guy showed up. The guy wandered in as she read to an empty room, he ate a muffin in what sounded like an arrestingly messy way, and then he wandered back out. That, folks, is a bad scene.
And where the heck was I? I don’t remember. I will always feel terrible about not showing up and putting my behind in a chair to listen to her and support her.
Are there any aspects of literary Seattle that you'll especially miss?
I’ll really miss Open Books, Elliott Bay Books, and Hugo House. Those places — both as physical locations and as evolving communities — have been at the center of my experience of Seattle as a literary city, and I’ll miss being able to pop by anytime I want.
I’ll also miss being close to home base as I work on Tahoma Literary Review; I’ll continue as poetry editor and co-publisher, but it will be a bummer not to be able to attend contributor readings and launch events here at home.
Do you have any readings or public events between now and when you go?
I do! I'm happy to say that I'll be reading one last time at Lit Fix on September 23, 7pm at the Rendezvous. I'll be reading with Kevin Maloney, Matthew Simmons, and Jeanine Walker. All the proceeds from the event will benefit Literacy Source, which does wonderful work here in our community.
Do you have any parting words, advice, or wishes for Seattle's literary scene?
Be good to each other. Remember that there’s room in literature for all of us, and we’re at our best when we help — not crowd — each other out.