WITS Voices: She Fills With Ink

By Matt Gano, WITS Writer-in-Residence

when the poems with long lines
salted raw on page make you aware
of your meat, mark them with
an asterisk, for the sky
she fills with ink

Over the past year, fellow writer Aaron Counts and I have had the privilege of mentoring Seattle’s first Youth Poet Laureate (YPL), Leija Farr. As Seattle YPL, Leija was awarded a book deal with publishers, Penmanship Books, and during her time as Seattle YPL has been tasked with writing and completing a manuscript of poems. This is a seemingly massive undertaking even for a seasoned writer; but Leija’s never-ending ability to unmask her surroundings has led to a comprehensive study of her life and the beauty and horrors of our world at large.

One of the most exciting aspects of this process was selecting the order of her poems and titling sections of the book. It was a Sunday afternoon, and three of us huddled together in a small conference room at the Beacon Hill library. Pieces were printed and laid across the table like expensive wares. We began by grouping poems that spoke to each other, finding common images that would sew each section together. This is not necessarily a seamless process, though the scope of Leija’s poems lend themselves nicely to a powerful arc and clearly threaded ideas.

On the whiteboard we wrote the titles of all her poems. On the whiteboard we wrote “Birds and Blackness,” we wrote “Outweigh The Gravity,” we wrote “We Come in Hundreds.” She dreamed of names. On the whiteboard we underlined the underlines. We shifted order like rebels under her direction. We wrote in red and purple. On the whiteboard her titles became more than titles. Jazz script in dry erase, code coming unscrambled, the last 10 pieces of a 1000 jig puzzle, water fitting exactly to shape, a classic beat with perfect breaks. And she’d repeat, “this is so exciting, this is so exciting!” face beaming on high, new lights for the old field.


Catch the premiere of Leija Farr’s new book of poems, Outweigh The Gravity (Penmanship Books) on May 28th at Folklife, during which we’ll also be crowning the new Seattle Youth Poet Laureate. Leija’s book will be for sale; come get yourself a copy and an autograph and help us cheer on the future of Seattle poetry!

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