The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS) recently announced Jourdan Imani Keith as Seattle’s next Civic Poet. Keith, a student of Sonia Sanchez, is a poet, essayist, playwright, naturalist and activist.
“The Seattle Civic Poet program attracts the best artists in our region,” says Randy Engstrom, ARTS director. “We couldn’t be happier to have Jourdan Keith as our next Civic Poet, she’s the definition of an engaged generative, intersectional artist, with a demonstrated commitment to the City.”
Jourdan Keith’s 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.
As a keeper of culture and history in the Griot (gree-oh) storytelling tradition, her ekphrastic poems were commissioned by the Northwest African American Museum and by Seattle Art Museum. She has been awarded fellowships from Hedgebrook, Wildbranch, Santa Fe Science Writing workshop, VONA, and Jack Straw. She is also Seattle Public Library’s first naturalist-in-Residence. Keith is the founder and director of the gender, ethnicity and environmental justice organization, Urban Wilderness Project. She’s received awards from University of Washington, Artist Trust, 4Culture and ARTS. Her memoir in essays, Tugging at the Web is forthcoming from University of Washington Press.
The Civic Poet program celebrates Seattle’s rich literary community, while investing the future of literary arts through community engagement. The two-year Civic Poet post serves as a cultural ambassador for Seattle’s rich, multi-hued literary landscape and represents Seattle’s diverse cultural community. In addition to five annual performances, the Civic Poet will also complete hands-on work with communities to engage constituents city-wide. Seattle’s Civic Poet will serve a term of two years, from August 2019 to August 2021, and will receive a $10,000 stipend distributed over the two-year term.