About the Poets

Watch videos, read articles, listen to podcasts of and about the poets whose work is in You Are Never Where You Are. Poets are listed in the order in which they appear in the book and the poem in You Are Never Where You Are is below the poet’s name. Writers with a UW connection are noted with: (UW).

Naomi Shihab Nye


Naomi Shihab Nye was born in 1952 in St. Louis, Missouri, into two cultures, Palestinian and American. Greatly influenced by her Palestinian heritage, she has written seven collections of poetry, a novel and many essays. Many of her works have been translated and anthologized. She regards herself as a “wandering poet” who writes across international boundaries.

Read more about the poet and more Naomi Shihab Nye poems.

Poetry Foundation > 

Watch Naomi Shihab Nye read her work.

“The Art of Disappearing” >

“One Boy Told Me” >

“So Much Happiness” and “Kindness” >

Alberto Ríos

“I Saw You Tomorrow”

Alberto Ríos was born in 1952 in Nogales, Arizona, to a Mexican father and British mother. His multicultural upbringing greatly influences his poetry. He has published ten books and chapbooks of poetry. He has also won prestigious awards including the Walt Whitman award and six Pushcart Prizes for both poetry and fiction. He is now a Regents Professor of English at Arizona State University.

Read more about the poet and more Alberto Ríos poems.

Academy of American Poets >

2009 Best Wordsmith >

“Tuesday’s Soup” >

Watch Alberto Rios read his work.

Day of the Dead talk at Arizona State University >

Philip Levine

“What Work Is”

Phillip Levine was born to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents in 1928 in Detroit, Michigan. He is the author of twenty books of poetry and a recipient of numerous prizes including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Levine writes of physical labor and the working class, drawn from his own experiences growing up and working in Detroit. He is now a professor at New York University.

Read more about the poet and more Philip Levine poems.

Academy of American Poets >

Poetry Foundation >

Wikipedia >

Watch Philip Levine read and discuss his work.

Philip Levine reading his poem “Starlight” >

Interview about growing up in Detroit and becoming a poet >

Poets in Person: Tour Brooklyn with Philip Levine >

Victoria Chang


Victoria Chang was born in 1970 in Detroit, Michigan. She has published two books of poetry, including Circle, which was honored with the Crab Orchard Review Award Series in Poetry and won the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award, among other recognition. She holds an MBA and lives in Southern California with her husband and children where she works as a business researcher and writer.

Read more about the poet and more Victoria Chang poems.

Poetry Foundation >

Wikipedia >

Listen to Victoria Chang reading some of her poems.

“Girdling” >

“Proof” >

“Ars Poetica as Birdfeeder and Hummingbird” >

Heather McHugh (UW)

“A Physics”

Heather McHugh was born in 1948 in San Diego, California. She became a poet by age five and an “expert eavesdropper” by age twelve. At seventeen, she entered Harvard University. She is the author of eight books of poetry, one collection of critical essays and four books of translation. She is currently a professor and the Milliman Writer-in-Residence in the English department at the University of Washington. In 2009, McHugh received the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award for her work.

Read more about the poet and more Heather McHugh poems.

Academy of American Poets >

MacArthur Foundation >

Poetry Foundation >

The Stranger >

Wikipedia >

Listen to stories about McHugh.

“Poet’s Wordplay Leads To MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award” | NPR >

“The Size of Spokane” as featured on The Writer’s Almanac  >

Essential American poet on Poetry Foundation website >

Watch interviews with Heather McHugh and the poet reading her work

Favorite Poem Project >

PBS News Hour profile >

Wisława Szymborska


Wisława Szymborska was born in 1923 in Bnin, Poland. An essayist, poet and translator, she is the winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature along with many other awards. She studied her way through World War II while working as a railroad employee to avoid deportation to Germany as a forced laborer. She currently resides in Krakow.

Read more about the poet and more Wisława Szymborska poems

Academy of American Poets >

Nobel Prize >

Poetry Foundation >

Wikipedia >

Listen to Wisława Szymborska’s work.

“Advertisement” read by Flora Coker >

Mahmoud Darwish

“Rita & the Gun”

Mahmoud Darwish was born in Palestine in 1941 and died in 2008 in Haifa, Israel. His first book of poetry was published when he was nineteen and he went on to write more than thirty books of poetry and prose. Darwish was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize, the Prize for Cultural Freedom from the Lannan Foundation and other honors. He was influenced by Allen Ginsberg, Arthur Rimbaud and Abdul Wahab Al-Bayati.

Read more about the poet and more Mahmoud Darwish poems

Academy of American Poets >

The Economist >

The Guardian >

Mahmoud Darwish >

Wikipedia >

Yusef Komunyakaa

“Facing It”

Yusef Komunyakaa, the eldest of five children, was born in 1947 in rural Bogalusa, Louisiana, and raised in the civil rights movement. A Pulitzer Prize winning poet, he has published many books of poetry, plays and essays. Komunyakaa earned a bronze star for his journalistic work while serving in Vietnam. He is now the Senior Distinguished Poet in New York University’s graduate creative writing program.

Read more about the poet and more Yusef Komunyakaa poems

Academy of American Poets >

Poetry Foundation >

Wikipedia >

Watch Yusef Komunyakaa read his work

“Facing It” > 

Helen Edison Lecture >

Theodore Roethke (UW)

“My Papa’s Waltz”

Theodore Roethke was born in 1908 in Saginaw, Michigan. He taught at the University of Washington from 1947 until his death in 1963 where he taught great writers like David Wagoner, James Wright and Richard Hugo. During his tenure at the UW, Roethke was the recipient of the 1954 Pulitzer Prize. In 1963, he drowned in a swimming pool that was turned into a Zen garden at what is now the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island.

Read more about the poet and more Theodore Roethke poems

Academy of American Poets >

Poetry Foundation >

Roethke House >

Wikipedia >

Listen to Theodore Roethke read his work

“My Papa’s Waltz” >

Poetry Foundation’s Essential American Poets podcast >

Carlos Andrés Gómez


Carlos Andrés Gómez was born in 1981 in New York City. Though Gómez is a native New Yorker, he moved ten times before graduating high school, living in four countries and attending twelve different schools. A two-time National Poetry Slam Finalist and winner of the 2006 “Slam King of New York” award, he has performed at more than 100 colleges and universities and toured across North America, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. He continues to tour and work as a poet, playwright, actor and spoken-word artist.

Read more about the poet and more Carlos Andrés Gómez poems

Brass magazine >

Poet’s website >

Watch Carlos Andrés Gómez perform his work

“Spelling Bee” >

“All We Have” >

“Gifted” at the Bowery Poetry Club MegaQuasiSemiFinal Slam >

Featured at Poetry Africa >

Richard Hugo (UW)

“Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg”

Richard Hugo was born in 1923 in the Seattle neighborhood of White Center. He served as a bombardier in World War II, and the GI Bill allowed him to earn a BA and an MA at the University of Washington where he studied under renowned Northwest poet Theodore Roethke. Recognized for his poems about small towns in the Northwest, Italy and Scotland, Hugo is also known for his much-praised treatise on teaching and creative writing, The Triggering Town. He died of leukemia in 1982.

Read more about the poet and more Richard Hugo poems

Academy of American Poets >

Poetry Foundation >

Wikipedia >

Listen to Richard Hugo read his work

“Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg” >

Watch Richard Hugo videos

“The Milltown Union Bar” >

Richard Hugo discusses writing “Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg” >

Arthur Sze

“The Shapes of Leaves”

Arthur Sze is a second generation Chinese-American born in New York City in 1950. He is the author of eight books of poetry and is a widely respected translator of Chinese literature. The first poet laureate of Sante Fe, New Mexico, he is a recipient of various awards including the Guggenheim Fellowship. Sze is a professor emeritus at the Institute of American Indian Arts. It is said that his work “resides somewhere in the intersection of Taoist contemplation, Zen rock gardens and postmodern experimentation.”

Read more about the poet and more Arthur Sze poems

Academy of American Poets >

Poetry Foundation >

Wikipedia >

Watch Arthur Sze read his work

Lunch Poems on UCTV >

UC Berkeley’s Lunch Poems reading series >

Lynn Emanuel

“The Politics of Narrative: Why I Am a Poet”

Lynn Emanuel was born in 1949 in Mt. Kisco, New York, and grew up in Denver, Colorado. She is the author of four books of poetry, including her latest, Noose and Hook, and has been anthologized in many others, including The Oxford Book of American Poetry. The recipient of numerous awards including two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, Emanuel is currently a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh.

Read more about the poet and more Lynn Emanuel poems

Academy of American Poets >

Poetry Foundation >

Wikipedia >

“Self-Hatred Can Be Funny,” an article about Lynn Emanuel by Frances McCue >

Watch Lynn Emanuel read her work

“Desire” at the Jazz Poetry concert >

Lynn Emanual reads from her new book Noose and Hook

Part 1 >
Part 2 >

Poets’ Co-op TV Show on CCTV54 in Louisville, CO >

Colleen McElroy (UW)

“Bad Slam Broadway”

Colleen J. McElroy was born in 1935 in St. Louis, Missouri. She was raised as an “army brat” and lived in St. Louis, Munich and Kansas by the time she was 21. She has published nine books of poetry in addition to numerous short fiction and nonfiction publications. Greatly influenced by her travels, McElroy has won two Fulbright Creative Writing Fellowships, one of which took her to Yugoslavia in 1988. She is now a professor emeritus at the University of Washington.

Read more about the poet and more Colleen McElroy poems

Poetry Foundation >

University of Washington faculty page >

Wikipedia >

Ken Arkind

“An Experiment in Noise, in A Sharp Major (Poem to be Read as a Pledge)”

Ken Arkind was born in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, but he calls Denver home. He is a National Poetry Slam Champion and a Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe Grand Slam Champion. Arkind has performed at over 200 colleges and universities, and has shared stages with such artists as Yusef Komunyakaa, Matt Matson, Ani DiFranco and Sage Francis. In Denver, he works as Project Coordinator for the Denver Minor Disturbance Youth Poetry Project. His work has been featured in numerous anthologies and published by Write Bloody Press and Sketch Publications.

Read more about Ken Arkind

Hot Congress website >

Interview with Denver Westword Blog >

Watch Ken Arkind read his work

“An Experiment in Noise, in A Sharp Major (Poem to be Read as a Pledge)” >

“Press Continue” performed by the Dynamic Duo >

Engage in the Book > About the Poets

Engage in the Book

“People like poetry like people like music: nobody doesn’t. If some think they don’t, they just haven’t listened to the right thing.”

—Richard Kenney,
UW professor and poet