How Kim Kent is becoming a Seattle poet

Our October poet in residence, Kim Kent, has taken a very long route to arrive at exactly the point where she wanted to be. Kent always considered herself a writer, but she didn't always know that poetry would be her calling.

Growing up in New England, Kent read and wrote fiction. "I wrote a lot of historical fiction as a child," Kent says. "I don't think I had great historical knowledge, so there was always a plague and an enthusiastic, rebellious girl on horseback." Her undergrad minor was in creative writing, but the pull of poetry proved to be unstoppable.

By the time Kent moved to Seattle in 2010, she knew that she wanted to write poetry, but she was having trouble getting motivated. That all changed when she discovered the Hugo House and started to take poetry course. "I think the first class I took was with Kary Wayson," she says, and pauses. "Though it might've been Kate Lebo."

In any case, Wayson's yearlong intensive poetry class proved to be a breakthrough for Kent. "It was intense. She's a great teacher — she's very honest, and for me it was the first time I talked about revision and craft." Kent says the class was "super-generative" and it served as "an introduction to Seattle's literary scene," introducing her to local figures like Kevin Craft.

Kent's poetry is durable — it's constructed thoughtfully and it stays with you. The imagery in her poems resonate in your mind long after you've looked away. Many poets are good at creating one solid moment in their poems. Other poets have a gift for inspiring emotion. Kent's poems do both at once: she sets a scene with clarity and precision, but she also leaves a door open for ambiguity's sake. There's always an unanswered question, an unexplored path, just begging for your attention.

After finding her way around Seattle's literary scene and starting to develop her voice, Kent left Seattle to attend grad school in Spokane from 2015 to 2017. She's a rare Washington poet who's conversant with the literary scene on both sides of the mountains. "For whatever reason, each side of the state has their own opinions of each other, but I felt very lucky to have a home in both."

In recent years, Seattle poets have left town due to rising rents and moved to Spokane. Now, those writers are coming back to visit with surprising regularity. "I went to readings at the Hugo House on Wednesday and Thursday of last week," Kent says, "and both of them had Spokane poets in them. I think the more we can combine our scenes, the better."

That said, Kent feels like she's at home in Seattle. She likes how Seattle's scene "seems very authentic to the city. I like that people are hustling, and even though it isn't always easy, people are showing up for each other and supporting each other more and more."

One of the ways that Kent is showing up for the community is her acceptance into the Made at Hugo program, which provides young Seattle writers with a peer group and a run of the writing organization's resources. Kent is making the most her time as a Made at Hugo Fellow, attending plenty of readings and classes. Right now she's a part of a class by local author Keetje J. Kuipers, which she says offers plenty of new perspectives in a workshop setting. At the end of the program next year, Kent hopes to have a good draft of a first poetry collection to send out to publishers.

Kent seems to be learning as much as she can from a great tradition of Seattle poets. She counts Elizabeth Austen's class about public speaking as one of the most influential learning experiences of her life as a poet, and she's a big fan of Frances McCue's most recent collection. As she talks about her past and her plans, it's clear that she's very deliberate in her intent to place herself in the Northwest poetic tradition. She's proceeding thoughtfully and with great care to ensure that she's adding something of great value to our community.