Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Series

We are excited to partner with Seattle Arts & Lectures to support the publication of the Seattle Youth Poet Laureates’ first collections.

The Seattle Youth Poet Laureate program aims to identify young writers and leaders who are committed to civic and community engagement, poetry and performance, and leadership and education across Seattle.

The Youth Poet Laureate is a program of Urban Word, an award-winning literary arts and youth development organization, presented nationwide in partnership with local youth arts associations and leading national arts groups, including the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Society of America, PEN Center USA, and Cave Canem.

YPL 2021–22

Zinnia Hansen
May 2022
94 pp.

The seventh collection in the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Series, Spikenard is a philosophical contemplation of family, religion, and the reverential observations of an interior mind. This collection was written in partnership with the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate program, a program of Seattle Arts & Lectures.

Praise for Spikenard

“Light on light on light . . . burning beautifully,” Zinnia Hansen makes a shining debut with this luminous collection, a potent distillation of “every beautiful thought at once.”

—Rena Priest, Washington State Poet Laureate ’21–23

“I took a hammer/ to my words,/ but forgot the nails,” Zinnia Hansen writes in her debut collection. As each poem alternately sprawls and condenses, breathes horizontal and compresses down, a form of worship emerges at the nexus of watching a world burn and wondering “who is going to cut a hole in the/ horizon and let out the smoke,” feeling aging turn in on itself and begin again like “Russian nesting dolls filled with moist earth,” and finding reverence in the paradoxes of transcendental awe and a desire “to burn the/ garden God planted in my belly.” The book transforms into its own cathedral of sun and the particular smell of Pacific Northwest trees—and, as it examples how “even love is a form of deconstruction,” you are invited in to be transformed with it.”

—C. R. Grimmer, author of The Lyme Letters

Zinnia Hansen finds love in artichokes, salmon, and the yellow sign “telling you to slow as you drive down our neighborhood road,” and mystery in the mother who “captures the weather of the world in a cup.” She falls asleep “reading about duende; reading, radiating duende” and struggles to make peace with the body, the question of God, and the persistent uncertainty of belief. Here is a beautiful young mind writing her way into the great conversation. Ready Spikenard and celebrate.

—Kathleen Flenniken, author of Post Romantic


Zinnia Hansen is Seattle’s 2021/22 Youth Poet Laureate. Zinnia Hansen is a poet and essayist from the Pacific Northwest. She is a first-year student at the University of Washington, studying linguistics. Her work has been published in Blue Marble Review, Young Poets Network, and Ice Lolly Review. She was a finalist in the New York Times Personal Narrative Contest and part of the Hugo House Young Poet’s Cohort.

Zinnia Hansen

YPL 2020–21

Bitaniya Giday
June 2021
60 pp.

The sixth collection in the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Series, Motherland is a breathtaking exploration of womanhood and blackness framed by family, immigration, and history. Giday blends lyric and experimentation to bring her experiences as a first-generation Ethiopian American to life and asks insightful, difficult questions about how we all experience the world. Her combination of traditional storytelling and contemporary influence infuses her poems with a conscious power wielded to invoke the reader’s reflection, consideration, and awareness.


Bitaniya Giday is a first-generation Ethiopian American residing in Seattle. Her writing explores the nuances of womanhood and blackness, as she reflects upon her family’s path of immigration across the world. She hopes to restore and safeguard the past, present, and future histories of her people through traditional storytelling and poetry.


Coming soon

YPL 2019–20

In the Footsteps of a Thousand Griefs
Wei-Wei Lee
May 2020
68 pp.

The fifth collection in the Seattle Youth Poet Laureate Series, In the Footsteps of a Thousand Griefs is a thrilling exploration of culture, personhood, empowerment, and grief for the things we must leave behind. Lee’s poems are intimately shaped both by her childhood in Taiwan and her current life in—and love for—Seattle. She shuttles us between continents and years, navigating through those primal relationships that shape the places we call home. Both brave and vulnerable, attentive to sorrow and beauty alike, these poems draw strength from the past even as they question the present, reminding us there is reflective power and honor even in the smallest steps we take toward our future becoming.

Praise for In the Footsteps of a Thousand Griefs

Wei-Wei Lee’s first collection of poems combines the raw elements of emotion, sensation, personal history, and family history and heats them into a molten stream of surprising language. The poems hold you close and tell you secrets. They are brave enough to be vulnerable, to open themselves up and show you who they really are.

—Karen Finneyfrock, author of Ceremony for the Choking Ghost


Wei-Wei Lee grew up in Taiwan but was born in the States, and Seattle is the first city in the States she has ever known and loved. As the 2019/2020 Youth Poet Laureate, she hopes to pay tribute to both Taiwan and America in her writing, and she hopes to do them proud.


Coming soon

YPL 2018–19

Azura Tyabji
May 2019
86 pp.

With a shrewd eye and a precise pen, Stepwell asks readers to look closely at their everyday. Genre-blending and genre-bending poems come together to form a collection built around attention, advice, and admonishment. This first book is a bold statement around what it means to live, write, and ask questions of self and city in today’s America.

Praise for Stepwell

A modern-day apostle of unrepentant certitude—to say the least, Tyabji’s stanzas leave little room for the abstract as her style of writing is visceral and calculated. May all the established poets hold (this) new work, by (this) new author closely.

—Anastacia-Renée, Seattle Civic Poet, author of (v.), Forget It, and Answer (Me)


Azura Tyabji serves as the 2018/19 Youth Poet Laureate of Seattle. As a writer, spoken word performer, facilitator, and educator, her poetry is motivated by a love for community, justice, and healing. She writes fearlessly and with documentary precision about the complex realities of contemporary urban life.


Coming soon