An Interview with Olympia Poet Laureate Sady Sparks

Olympia recently appointed Sady Sparks as the city’s second poet laureate, a position responsible for expanding access to the literary arts, connecting people to poetry, and promoting the art form as “a community voice that contributes to a sense of place.”

South Sound caught up with Sparks to talk about where she comes from, what her plans are as poet laureate, why she loves living in Olympia, and more.

Q: Tell me a little about your background. Where did you grow up?

A: I grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana around lightning bugs and concrete until I was about 14. I moved to a small town in Ohio with my mother and sister right before high school. After graduation, I went to Brazil for a year as an exchange student. Then I came thousands of miles out to Olympia for (The Evergreen State College) in 2013. I’ve taken long trips abroad since then, but Olympia has become my home.

Q: How long have you been writing poetry?

A: I’ve been writing poetry for nearly ten years, and more seriously for the last five.

Q: Why do you think poetry as an art form is important today?

A: People in cities who see poetry painted on walls and sitting on coffee shop tables take those messages seriously. Poetry brightens days. It also helps people listen to and process difficult topics with compassion and curiosity. Poetry is an important art form because it requires nothing complicated or expensive: write in the dirt, with a marker, with a chewed-up pencil, anywhere.

Q: What does it mean to you to be named Olympia’s Poet Laureate?

A: Being named Olympia’s Poet Laureate is extremely inspirational. I am humbled to hold the position at the young age of 24, and recognize how hard I’ve worked at writing and facilitating. I hope other young artists see this and feel inspired to apply for powerful positions in their communities as well. I was on the bus coming back from class late one night when I learned I’d been selected. I was so elated, I turned to a person I barely knew and told her. The news felt like receiving a lifetime supply of fresh blueberries. I’m that happy.

Q: What are your plans going forward in the role?

A: To have a lot of fun! I am excited to bring more visibility to the poetry community here. There are endless people who are passionate about words in Olympia, and I want to unite them all. I also love challenging the belief that some people aren’t poets. I believe when folks have a fun opportunity in a comfortable environment to play with words, they get in touch with the inner poet that has and will always exist. My first workshop Asking Love Questions is being held at Browsers Bookshop on Feb. 16 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The rest of the plans are a secret and will unravel onto the website over the next two years.

Q: Is there a place online where can people read some of your poetry or other writing?

A: There is currently a recent poem of mine on the City’s Poet Laureate webpage about Chilean blueberries. Other than that, I read at open mics around town and table at craft fairs. During Spring Arts Walk, I and a few other poets will be writing poems on typewriters for the public. Come find us and I’ll make you a poem! I’m also looking for new pen pals and people interested in word games. Email if interested.

Q: Who are some of your favorite poets?

A: My favorite poets are the five- and six-year-olds I worked with last year at Lincoln Options Elementary School. I learned a lot more about creativity, focus, and listening by watching them describe, write, and read their poems. I also admire Andrea Gibson and Sylvia Plath for their unrelenting honesty and clever wordplay.

Q: What are a few of your favorite things about Olympia?

A: Oh Olympia! I love how mountains reveal themselves on sunny days and the ferns that carpet the woods. Living in this environment is mysterious. I’ve discovered new fruits like pluots, kiwi berries, and salmonberries. I love all the vegans and vegan businesses helping make our city more compassionate. I love Evergreen. I love the photo booth in Captain Little and foggy mornings and that our Farmers Market accepts food stamps. I love Fifth Avenue, walking down the hill into a fuchsia sunset on summer evenings. Maybe above all else, I love the strangely frequent rainbows during spring and the way they still make me shriek.

is the digital coordinator at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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