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Two poets explore power, mortality and sexuality

Poetry gathering

“How the End Begins: Two Poets on Power, Sexuality and Mortality” will meet 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 11, at the Vashon Library.

More information on Elizabeth Austen can be found on her Web site at www.elizabethausten.org.

The Vashon Library will host two poets, Elizabeth Austen and J.W. Marshall, in an evening titled “How the End Begins: Two Poets on Power, Sexuality and Mortality” next week.

Austen, a former actor and a poet for many years, was Washington state’s Roadshow Poet for 2007, giving workshops and readings in rural areas around the state. She is also a literary producer for KUOW.

“I believe in presenting poetry in a way that invites the audience in,” she said, noting that she invited Marshall to read with her because of her respect for his work and that he is a wonderful reader of his poems.

Austen will be reading her new poems, not yet published, from a manuscript, like the evening’s reading, called “How the End Begins.” One of Austen’s interests is in how we navigate power in all aspects of our lives, she said, in intimate relationships, between parents and children and as patients and doctors. She said she finds herself running up against issues of power frequently as a female and noted that one of the poems she will read on Vashon is a retelling of the Genesis story from “someone on Eve’s side.”

Marshall and his wife Cindy Deavel own Open Books: A Poem Emporium, a poetry-only bookstore in Seattle. He will read from his new book “Meaning a Cloud.” The poems in the first section of his book, according to Austen, are about his long-term recovery as a young adult from an accident, and in the final section, the poems are about his mother having a stroke and its impact on her and his relationship with her.

“I just think those poems are extraordinary in their inventiveness,” Austen said. “The way he writes speaks really vividly to our human experiences.”

Those human experiences are central to Austen’s work as a poet, and she would like her words to be useful to the evening’s listeners and future readers.

“I ... hope that these poems will provide a stimulus and framework for others to consider the larger questions of how we choose what to do with our lives, what to nurture and what to let go of,” she said.

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