Civic Poet

About the Seattle Civic Poet Program

The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS), in partnership with the Seattle City of Literature, commissions and supports an experienced poet for a two-year residency to serve as a literary ambassador for Seattle. The Civic Poet will serve as a cultural ambassador for Seattle's rich, multi-hued literary landscape and will represent Seattle's diverse cultural community. In addition to annual City events, the Civic Poet will foster community dialogue and engagement between the City, the public, and other artists, while celebrating the literary arts. 

Launched in 2015, the Seattle Civic Poet program is inspired by the previous Poet Populist program instituted in 1999 by Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata. The goal of the Poet Populist program was to support the practice of literary arts, and democracy, and to promote local literary arts organizations to a general audience citywide. The Poet Populist program was discontinued in 2008. The Civic Poet program continues the legacy of the Poet Populist program by fostering community dialogue and engagement between the public and artists while celebrating the literary arts. 

Civic Poet 2023-24: Shin Yu Pai

Shin Yu Pai wearing a beanie and flannel. posing in front of a concrete wall. Photo by James McDaniel

The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS) in partnership with the Seattle City of Literature announces the selection of Shin Yu Pai as the incoming 2023-2024 Seattle Civic Poet. Pai is the fourth Civic Poet in the program’s history. 

Shin Yu Pai is a Seattle-based poet and the author of 11 books, including most recently Virga (Empty Bowl, 2021). She is the recipient of awards from the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture, 4Culture, and The Awesome Foundation. She is a 2022 Artist Trust Fellow and was shortlisted in 2014 for a Stranger Genius Award in Literature. From 2015 to 2017, Shin Yu served as Poet Laureate for The City of Redmond. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in Atlas Obscura, Tricycle Magazine, YES! Magazine, NYTimes, Zocalo Public Square, Seattle Met, ParentMap, Seattle’s Child, International Examiner, and South Seattle Emerald. Her work has appeared in publications throughout the U.S., Japan, China, Taiwan, the UK, and Canada. 

Shin Yu is the writer, host, and producer of The Blue Suit – a podcast on Asian American stories for KUOW Public Radio, Seattle’s NPR affiliate station. The Blue Suit launched in July 2022 and is currently in production for a second season, which will begin releasing episodes in May 2023.

New poetry books are forthcoming in 2023 from Empty Bowl Press and Blue Cactus Press. 

A Call for Poems from the Seattle Civic Poet

Tree with a brown trunk and graceful curved branches, the canopy is rounded like a blue cloud with animals hidden in lighter ink.
Blue, Critter, Tree by Fay Jones

Submissions will be administered and selected by Shin Yu Pai.

Seattle Civic Poet Shin Yu Pai invites you to send her a short poem on place, as it relates to sustainability. What might it look like to imagine a Seattle where all communities thrive, where we care for our environment and non-human species? How might we connect Seattle’s past and present to a more enduring future? What places and people do we cherish and want to protect?

Poems should focus on places and images specific to Seattle, our natural environment and the living things particular to this region (i.e. Western red cedar trees, orcas, salmon), Seattle-specific communities of people, and more. Here are some poems to give you inspiration:

Of the poems selected for this public poetry campaign, poems (or excerpts from poems) may be printed as postcards, posters and/or other visual material.


  • Poet must reside or work in Seattle, WA
  • Poems must be submitted in English language
  • Poems must be unpublished
  • Poems must be your original work and 100 words or fewer
  • No AI- or LLM-generated content
  • Authors retain copyright for poems but grant the Civic Poet and The City of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture the right to display and distribute the selected poems or excerpts of the poems
  • Only one poem per Seattle resident/worker will be considered or selected

Due Date

All eligible poems received by October 31, 2023, 11:59 p.m. PDT will be reviewed.

How to Submit Your Poem

  • Compose a poem related to the theme “sustainability and place” in 100 words or fewer.
  • Cut and paste your submission into the body of an email with a short bio confirming that you live or work in Seattle to
  • For privacy reasons, NO street addresses should be provided in the email.

Information sent to this email address is considered a public record and may be subject to public disclosure. For more information, see the Public Records Act, RCW Chapter 42.56.

All poets will be notified about the results of the selection process by early 2024.


For questions about this call, please contact Seattle Civic Poet Shin Yu Pai:

Past Civic Poets

2019-21 Civic Poet Jourdan Imani Keith speaking at a podium in front of a Seattle Office of Arts & Culture banner.

Jourdan Imani Keith, outgoing Seattle Civic Poet; photo by Marcus R. Donner

Jourdan Imani Keith, a student of Sonia Sanchez, is a poet, essayist, playwright, naturalist, and activist. Her writing blends the textures of political, personal, and natural landscapes to offer voices from the margins of American lives.  

A recipient of the 2018 Americans for the Arts award, her TEDx Talk, Your Body of Water became the theme for King County's 2016-2018 Poetry on Buses program. Her Orion Magazine essays, Desegregating Wilderness and At Risk were selected by Rebecca Skloot for the 2015 Best American Science and Nature Writing Anthology. A keeper of culture and history in the Griot (gree-oh) storytelling tradition, her ekphrastic poems were commissioned by the Northwest African American Museum to be featured as oversized text on its walls during its Glass Orchidarium exhibit. Keith's creation myth, We Were All Water was commissioned by Seattle Art Museum for a featured performance at the REMIX 

She has been awarded fellowships from Hedgebrook, Wildbranch, Santa Fe Science Writing workshop, VONA, and Jack Straw. As Seattle Public Library's first naturalist-in-Residence, she designed "Natural Literacy,"  a curriculum linking environmental and early childhood literacy. Keith is the founder and director of the gender, ethnicity, and environmental justice organization, Urban Wilderness Project. She's received awards from the University of Washington, Artist Trust, 4Culture, and Seattle's Office of Arts and Culture. Her memoir in essays, Tugging at the Web is forthcoming from the University of Washington Press. 

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Anastacia-Renée smiling in a yellow dress and red shoes, standing in front of a red wall.

Anastacia-Renée is a multi-genre writer, educator, and interdisciplinary artist. She was the Seattle Civic Poet from 2017-2019, recipient of the 2018 James W. Ray Distinguished Artist award for Washington artists (Artist Trust), 2017 Artist of the Year, and former 2015-2017 Poet-in-Residence at Hugo House.

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Claudia Castro Luna

Claudia Castro Luna's muse is the city, from little libraries and food trucks to the green tunnels of Lincoln Park.

Claudia left her native El Salvador at the age of 14 escaping the Civil War with her family. Resilient to the low expectations of high school counselors, she went on to study Anthropology and French at the University of California Irvine and earned an MA in Urban Planning from UCLA. Fluent in German, she is a K-12 certified teacher with a passion for arts education and teaching immigrants.

In 2012 she earned an MFA in poetry from Mills College. She was a 2014 Jack Straw fellow and is a recent recipient of a King County 4Culture grant. Her poems have appeared in Milvia Street, The Womanist, Riverbabble, and forthcoming in the Taos Journal of Poetry and Art. She has been a featured reader for the Berkeley Poetry Festival and for NPR-affiliate KALW. Claudia is also writing a memoir, an excerpt of which appears in the 2014 Jack Straw Writers' Anthology. Living in English and Spanish, Claudia writes and teaches in Seattle where she gardens and keeps chickens with her husband and their three children.

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Arts & Culture

Gülgün Kayim, Interim Director
Address: 303 S. Jackson Street, Top Floor, Seattle, WA , 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94748, Seattle, WA , 98124-4748
Phone: (206) 684-7171
Fax: (206) 684-7172

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The Office of Arts & Culture promotes the value of arts and culture in, and of, communities throughout Seattle. It strives to ensure that a wide range of high-quality artistic experiences are available to everyone, encourage artist-friendly arts and cultural policy.