Awards & Recognition

Professor Kathleen Byrd Selected as Poet Laureate

By Alexis Calma

October 26, 2023

English professor Kathleen Byrd in front of a black background

South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) congratulates English professor Kathleen Byrd who has been selected as the City of Olympia’s poet laureate from 2023 to 2025.

The poet laureate is selected every two years to engage our community by promoting poetry as an art form and expanding access to the literary arts. This year, the City of Olympia specifically sought a poet with a focus on the environment and climate change.

“I have been teaching bioregional, sustainability, and climate change themes in my English courses for years so that thematic intersection is foundational for the role as poet laureate for civic engagement,” Byrd shared. “I hope to engage with poetry and literary arts to create connections and build bridges between elders and youth. Intergenerational connections feel really important to me during this time of climate change, climate justice, climate anxiety and fears. I think that intergenerational dialogue is one avenue toward building hope and fostering understanding for grassroots change, especially at a local level.”

SPSCC’s Dean of Humanities and Communication, Melissa Meade, shared that, “Professor Kathleen Byrd is a talented educator and poet, and at SPSCC we all benefit from her longstanding commitments to community and creativity. Kathleen will bring an ethics of care to the work of the poet laureate, as her work reflects deep commitments to our relationships with each other, the natural world, and the environment. She is unafraid to ask hard questions and think through the most pressing challenges facing us as educators, artists, and humans. Kathleen recognizes the ways in which we are all connected, and how poetry can be a portal into new ways to move through the world, appreciate each other, and transform our futures together.”

Byrd holds an MFA from Western Washington University in creative writing, poetry and an MEd from the University of Washington, Tacoma, with an emphasis on adult learning theory. She has published a variety of works including the collection of poems Hold the Babies and the article "Defining College Readiness from the Inside Out". She has taught at SPSCC for 25 years.

Byrd invites the community to local reading and writing events featured on the City of Olympia’s Arts and Culture webpage. “I really look forward to the surprises that will inevitably happen,” Byrd said. “The connections people will make, working with local organizations, and connecting people to this most significant issue with poetry and literary arts.”