A new poet laureate brings passion to her post

Susan Lynch accepted the mantle as laureate on June 27 at a ceremony at Vashon Winery.

Susan Lynch was named Vashon’s new Poet Laureate in a ceremony held on June 7 at the Vashon Winery (Michael Elenko Photo).

Susan Lynch was named Vashon’s new Poet Laureate in a ceremony held on June 7 at the Vashon Winery (Michael Elenko Photo).

A new poet laureate has been crowned on Vashon.

Susan Lynch, who has taught poetry at the Harbor School and also presented, read and juried poetry at recent exhibitions at Vashon Center for the Arts, accepted the mantle as laureate on June 27 at a ceremony at Vashon Winery.

Lynch follows several other distinguished poets — Ann Spiers, Ina Whitlock, Cal Kinnear, Lonny Kaneko and Merna Hecht — who have served as Vashon’s poet laureates since the post was established in 2011.

The process of selecting a new laureate has varied through the years, said Hecht. But in Lynch’s case, the decision was made by a committee that included grandees of the island’s poetry community and all the surviving former poet laureates. Kaneko died in 2017.

Lynch moved to Vashon Island in 2014, after completing a master’s degree in creative writing and poetry from Goddard College’s West Coast program in Port Townsend. She earned her undergraduate degree in English from Reed College, with a year at Oxford University.

Remarkably, all of Lynch’s adventures in higher education began when she was in her mid-50s.

Originally from a suburb of Chicago, Lynch followed other career paths that have included working as a singer and recording artist with Epic Records and as a private consultant in the tech industry in Los Angeles, among other jobs. She has had an affinity and connection to the Pacific Northwest since her teen years when she dropped out of a boarding school to co-found a commune in the wilds of Oregon. The land is now a deeded benevolent family conservation trust, she said.

Now, at age 65, Lynch finds herself a leading figure in Vashon’s vibrant poetry community.

“It was really such an honor,” she said, recalling that shortly after she had moved to Vashon, she’d found out the community had a poet laureate and felt “some little spark of me thinking, ‘I’d like to be that thing.’”

Her plans for what she will do as laureate are still taking shape, she said. She currently leads a weekly poetry group on the island, edits collections and is also a shamanic practitioner in private practice.

“My tagline is that I want to ‘do cool stuff with poetry,’” Lynch said. “I have some ideas, and I’m just waiting a little bit to start mapping them all out — I’m being hesitant right now, but it will be good.”

Lynch praised the traditions already in place in the community, including a robust schedule of readings at Vashon Bookshop and the existence of several poetry groups that meet regularly at various island locations. She said she was also excited by her experiences at Vashon Center for the Arts, calling the arts center “a fertile ground for island poets and artists to work together.”

She said she also hopes to bring more poetry events to Snapdragon’s new Black Cat Cabaret.

In recent years, Vashon’s poet laureates have been instrumental in organizing a biennial poetry festival on Vashon, last held in 2017. In 2019, the poetry festival did not take place, as its traditional April presentation conflicted with the first edition of Vashon Lit Con, held at Vashon Center for the Arts that month. Local and regional poets participated in that event, instead.

But Hecht, the outgoing poet laureate, said that she supports the idea of the return of the poetry festival, as it was well attended in the past.

Highlights of Hecht’s tenure as poet laureate included a 2018 fundraising effort that ultimately raised approximately $4,000 for the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project. As part of that effort, Hecht organized a sold-out reading at Vashon Bookshop by poets including the Washington State Poet Laureate, Claudia Castro Luna. In May 2019, another sold-out poetry event at the Bookshop, spearheaded by Hecht, featured famed Northwest poet Tess Gallagher.


The brain is not the mind and the soul

is not the body

and the body is a wave that comes

and swells and crashes—

a house for bugs.

I’ve got nothing against that, but

it’s the flying

I love, the rising tho love came

in other forms, once, now

f l y i n g

is the way to freedom.

They say the mind is a halo

in its own spatial dimension

hovering around the head, outside

the brain, the skull, like a wreath

and sure enough

that’s how we’ve seen it

depicted for like ever

in gold leaf, in blood on cave walls,

frescoes crumbling from damp or

buried deep. Mind, soul,

tell me, where are they?

Flying. They are flying,

whispering I AM.

Don’t worry so much

about that other stuff.

By Susan Lynch, from her collection, “Nothing Doing,” comprised of poems Lynch has written during her five-year residence on Vashon.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@vashonbeachcomber.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.vashonbeachcomber.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Arts

flower press
Our Town: Local photographer learns new language of artmaking

According to Ed Holmes, the creative voice is present within all of us.

Flower-powered band to perform season-ender on outdoor stage

Seattle-based band General Mojo’s to close out Summer Stage season at Open Space.

Book Vashon
Islanders share life stories through new memoir collection

“Where We Came From” preserves group’s stories for their friends, families and next generation.

What’s Happening in Arts | Sept. 9 to 16

Support Vashon Center for the Arts, learn about plankton, and enroll in sculpture classes.

light show
Laser and music show will light up the night next week

“Liquid Light” returns, in a follow-up from its debut presentation from July 4th.

Pascale Judet Artwork
Drawings and paintings by Pascale Judet can be seen at VALISE Gallery’s new show.
First Friday gallery walk beckons art lovers on Sept. 4

First Friday will launch VCA’s annual art auction, which culminates with a gala on Friday, Sept. 24

John de Groen Photo
A celebration of the life of Marshall McKay Murray will take place on Oct. 16.
What’s Happening

Fall arts classes, upcoming performances, a celebration of life for Marshall Murray

Courtesy Photo
Amanda Kelly, who will lead the yoga flow benefit on Sunday, is a writer, yogi, mother and activist. She has taught across the planet and right in her own backyard. Her monthly community classes and students support local and international mutual aid organizations.
Community Yoga Flow to benefit Afghani and Haitian Refugees

“Together We Rise,” is a free, all-are-welcome yoga class on Labor Day weekend. Donations are welcome.

With new safety policies in place, VCA offers concerts, auction

Some major events are coming to the arts center this fall.

Award-winning show on LGBTQ life on Vashon has closing party

By Peter Woodburn For Vashon Heritage Museum When the Vashon Heritage Museum… Continue reading

One more mile
What’s Happening Aug. 26 – Sept. 2

One More Mile is closer for Concerts in Park, Croaker plays the pub, and more.

What’s happening Aug. 19 – 26

Go glam at a house concert, islanders work with youth to create book, and more.