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Tacoma Poet Laureate


The Tacoma Poet Laureate program was developed to showcase local artists who actively contribute to and advance Tacoma’s literary community in meaningful ways through readings, performances, workshops, presentations, publications, and special projects.

The program was founded in 2008 by Urban Grace Church and transitioned to the City of Tacoma's Office of Arts & Cultural Vitality in 2011.


2021-2023 Poet Laureate - Lydia K. Valentine

Lydia K. ValentineLydia K. Valentine is a playwright and poet, director and dramaturg, editor and educator. Her proudest accomplishment, though, is being a mom to two creative, intelligent, and caring  individuals and activists. In her own writing and the projects to which she contributes through Lyderary Ink, Lydia seeks to amplify the voices of those who are often stifled, ignored, and marginalized in what has been the accepted narrative of the United States.

Lydia’s first poetry collection, Brief Black Candles, was published in November 2020 by Not a Pipe Publishing. Poems from the collection were recently showcased in the Eugene Contemporary Art exhibit, A Critical Conversation: Art, Race, Privilege, and Place. Her writing has also appeared in online and print publications such as Angels Flight • literary west, The Pitkin Review, Shout! An Anthology of Resistance Poetry and Short Fiction, and HowlRound. She has been the recipient of various awards and recognitions. She was the 2017 poetry fellow serving Nuestras Pequeñas Rosas in San Pedro Sula, Honduras; recipient of the 2017 Goddard College Engaged Artist Award; and recipient of the 2021 Unsettling Dramaturgy Award.
Lydia is the resident dramaturg for empathos company and Toy Boat Theatre, and she maintains ongoing partnerships with The Mahogany Project, Pork Filled Productions, and We Out Here. She has been invited by various organizations including the African-American Writers’ Alliance, Central Washington University, Creative Colloquy, the Hiatt Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership, Lighthouse Writers’ Conference & Retreat, and Write253 to speak and run workshops on topics such as equity and classroom management, social justice in the classroom, intersectionality and identity, poetry, and playwriting.
Lydia is a faculty member of Northwest Indian College and Seattle Girls’ School. She is also a highly sought after sensitivity/authenticity reader, developmental editor, and copyeditor and has worked on publications such as the social justice and literary arts magazine Speak, books such as Rough House by Tina Ontiversos, and various projects for companies such as Agate Publishing, Forest Avenue Press, and McGraw Hill.

Contact Lydia K. Valentine

If you are interested in working with Lydia K. Valentine or having her perform for your school, organization, or event, please contact her via text at (253) 292-2536, email at admin@lyderaryink.com, or through the contact page on her website.


Events in the Community

Here's just a sampling of where Lydia K. Valentine has been performing and presenting in her role as poet laureate: 

  • Reading at Pass the Torch: Tacoma Poet Laureate Celebration (April 2021)
  • Interview on KING 5 Evening (April 2021)
  • Interview on TV Tacoma's Cityline (April 2021)
  • Reading at 2021 City of Destiny Awards (June 2021)
  • Reading at 2021 Tacoma Pride Festival (July 2021)
  • Reading at A Most Beautiful Thing Celebrating Harlem Renaissance Poetry Lalique Glass (August 2021)
  • Reading for Tacoma Arts Month 20th Anniversary (October 2021)
  • Poetry writing at Arts at the Armory event (October 2021)
  • Class and reading at University of Washington of Brief Black Candles (October 2021)
  • Workshop at Tacoma Arts Live Youth Conservatory (November 2021)
  • Discussion leader at Tacoma Reads November (November 2021)
  • Contributor at We Need a Reckoning (December 2021)
  • Reading at Tacoma Light Trail (December 2021)
  • Writing and workshop at Reflecting Our Wholeselves (January 2022)
  • Reading at City of Tacoma MLK Day Celebration (January 2022)
  • Reading at Black Poets Laureate (February 2022)
  • Interview on South Sound Poetry Connection (February 2022)
  • Reading at State of the City (March 2022)
  • Interview for Dignity City Magazine (March 2022)
  • Presentation at Being Tacoma's Poet Laureate (March 2022)
  • Guest of Honor at NORWESTCON44 (April 2022)

Past Tacoma Poets Laureate

Abby E. Murray (2019-2021)
Kellie Richardson (2017 - 2019)
Thy Nguyễn (2015 - 2017)
Lucas Smiraldo (2013 - 2015)
Josie Emmons Turner (2011 - 2013)
Tammy Robacker (2010 - 2011)
Antonio Edwards, Jr. (2009 - 2010)
William Kupinse (2008 - 2009)

Laureate Listening Project

Laureate Listening Project

Every person has a story to tell. In this online audio anthology, community members from Tacoma and greater Pierce County reflect on the importance of a particular place in their own life through poetry. Visit the Laureate Listening Project now!


The Laureate Listening Project was conceived and organized by 2013-2015 Tacoma Poet Laureate Lucas Smiraldo. The project was funded in part by a Spark Grant from The Greater Tacoma Community Foundation and by the City of Tacoma and the Tacoma Arts Commission.


Interested in having your poem included in this project? Contact Lucas Smiraldo at (253) 202-3473 or vanillasoul61@gmail.com.