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PoetrySnaps! Kelli Russell Agodon: Grace

Courtesy Kelli Russell Agodon

In this week’s episode of KNAU's series PoetrySnaps!, we meet Kelli Russell Agodon. When it comes to writing poetry, she says she’s all about quantity. Agodon writes poems every day, whether they are good or bad, published or left in a journal for no one to see, she keeps cranking them out. Today, Agodon talks about her joy of the writing process and shares one of her latest poems, Grace.

Kelli Russell Agodon:

I don't think I realized until college that there are actually living poets. I thought everyone was dead. I was an undergrad at the University of Washington, and I was writing fiction. I took a poetry class with the poet Linda Bierds, and it changed my life. I never went back to writing prose.

The performing part is probably what I like the least, but I love everything else about it: I love to ride a poem, I love to revise a poem, I love writing prompts for my friends. Anything that has to do with creativity is kind of what pulls me in and keeps me in poetry. I'm actually terrible at submitting my work. I have friends who we get together and say, OK this month we're all going to submit X number of times just so I do it.

But no, I just absolutely love the process of writing, and then you get into that place of flow where you lose track of time. It’s magical to create something out of nothing. So yes, if nobody ever read another poem that I wrote, I never published again, or spoke another poem, or had another great conversation, I’d still be writing. I'd still be writing poetry. It's just one of my pleasures in life.

I am quantity over quality, but a lot of the really bad poems will never come out of my laptop. I love writing a poem a day. And I have no problems writing bad poems, just writing something thinking, oh that was just practice. That was just a writing exercise. That poem is never going to go anywhere. I don't want to revise it. Again, it's just to enjoy the creation. But when I do choose a poem to revise, then I highly craft it.

I’m going to read a poem called Grace from my newest book Dialogues with Rising Tides. this poem was inspired when I lived in a rural area in a seaside town in Washington state and would go on morning walks.


Even those who are living well
are tired, even the rockstar
who swallowed the spotlight,
even the caterpillar asleep
in a unbalanced cocoon.
Who knows how
to be happy when a lamb
is birthed just to be slaughtered
at a later date?
It’s so tiring
how every day is also a miracle—
the drunk bees in the plum
blossoms, the sliver of sun
through the branches
and on an early morning
walk we find the farmer’s
granddaughter has fallen
in love with the lamb,
so it will be saved
and named Grace.
And we are spared
for a moment, from a new
loss and life frolics
across a field of wildflowers
never knowing all it has escaped.

About the poet:

Kelli Russell Agodon is a poet, editor and teacher. Her latest book, Dialogues with Rising Tides, was a finalist for the 2021 Washington State Book Awards. Agodon is currently part of a project called Writing the Land; an effort to bring together local land trusts and artists to raise awareness for the preservation of land, ecosystems, and biodiversity.

About the host:

Steven Law is a poet, journalist and educator based in Page, Arizona. He is the author of a collection of poems called Polished.

About the music:

Original music by Flagstaff-based band Pilcrowe.

Steven Law was the co-producer of KNAU’s series PoetrySnaps!
Gillian Ferris was the News Director and Managing Editor for KNAU.