Larry Crist: recipient of Marion Kimes Memorial Open Mic Award

Marion Kimes Memorial Open Mic AwardOn July 1, 2016, Larry Crist was awarded the first Marion Kimes Memorial Open Mic Award for his dedication to/and support of the spirit of Open Mic readings. He received a cash award of $100.00.

I was surprised, shocked, flabbergasted to be the first recipient of the Marion Kimes Open Mic Award.

I met Ms. Kimes, in 1992, at Red Sky Poetry Theatre, one of the first people to welcome me to Seattle. I had moved here for theatre with a handful of poems and stories. I had taken a few writing classes, though I had never read my own out loud, nor had sent much out.

Marion was a dynamo of energy, good cheer, and selfless enthusiasm for everybody’s writing and participation. She was especially welcoming to newcomers. As an actor, I was wary of another cliquish caste system, one very much evident in the poetry scene.

I felt in awe of the many new voices I was experiencing, commanding the room’s attention. And with Marion as everyone’s advocate, respect was always widely generated around the room.

As I attended other open mics, while auditioning around town, I wasn’t sure whether I was a writer wanting to act, or an actor wanting to write. Both required endless homework and, hopefully, an audience. With theatre you are continually selling oneself; with writing, however, you are selling something far more personal and unique, intangible perhaps, certainly not an obvious commodity as in theatre.

When performing a show, I’d get nervous about everything—external things beyond my control—whereas with writing, all that mattered really were the words themselves. Performance was a matter of presentation. To be clear, be yourself, and communicate to those listening to what you had placed upon the page.

From open mics, I discovered the most effective time to edit was about an hour before you were going to read. Like a lot of younger poets, my reading and listening to poetry, not my own, was minimal. I was resistant to the idea of “poetry,” which, at the time, I would have said seemed precious, manipulative, and unduly clever.

My enthusiasms began to shift and open mic became my drug-of-choice, and poems—such as I wrote them—weren’t ready or finished until, like a tired actor, they had made the rounds through a series of venues, tweaking them along the way.

Marion was always amicable and a generous resource, welcoming to all poetic fledglings, eager to encourage or reinforce whatever positive experiences therein gleaned. She might stop someone who was nervous and have them begin again, only, “take it a tad slower this time,” said in her soft Texan twang and a calming smile all the while.

Something I recall regarding a utopian society—put everyone first and be kind and respectful to all, and while I didn’t necessarily ever hear Marion say this, this is what I observed from her in my formative years reading in Seattle’s open mic scene.

—Larry Crist

Larry Crist lives in Seattle and is originally from California, specifically Humboldt County. He has also lived in Chicago, Houston, London, and Philadelphia, where he attended Temple University, receiving an MFA in Theatre. He’s been widely published. Undertow Overtures is Larry’s first poetry collection, published by ATOM Press, in 2014.

MaryLee Martin (1929-2014)

by Priscilla Long

MaryLee Martin started came into my writing classes beginning in 2006. What I appreciated most about her was her essential seriousness as a writer. I loved her turn to poetry, the intellect and passion she devoted to it. Her presence in class and in our community was ever-gracious and humorous, continuing through a couple years of terminal illness. Her enthusiasm and attention to the work were a gratifying component of every single class she was in. Also, she was a very good writer. 

In our community, because we are writers, we are inevitably and constantly revealing ourselves. So without much commotion or bother we end up knowing quite a lot about one another, since it’s part of the creative enterprise that our instrument—as they say in theater—is our selves and our lives even if we write about other selves and other lives. It was a great gift to learn of MaryLee’s childhood in Aberdeen, her struggles with Lewy-Body dementia as she cared for her husband, her love of plants and flowers and the garden, and her love of music. Another gift was her awareness of her own mortality, never shrinking from it but never losing her cheerful and loving way of relating to the community. 

When this year’s June Intensive (a seminar I teach) was coming up, MaryLee told me I’d better give her seat to someone else, since she probably wouldn’t be here. I told MaryLee that as long as she was breathing she would have a seat in the June Intensive. I wasn’t sure she’d make it. What a happy moment it was when she walked in with her little smile.

 I feel lucky to have known her. What follows is a piece by MaryLee titled “Why I Write.”

Why Do I Write

by MaryLee Martin

I, Mary Lee, write so that I will remember.
I write to resolve pain.
I write to change the past.
I write to cling to lost loved ones.
I write to save myself for posterity.
I write to notice what I may have missed.
I write to forgive. I write to let go. I write to clear my mind.
I write to clarify my thinking.

I write to frolic in my various delights.
I write to make myself laugh.
I write to see what the page asks of me.

I write to avoid the task at hand.
I write in hope of fame and fortune.
I write to amuse.
I write to share my experiences and my
I write to explore my foolishness.

I write to portray a woman of the twentieth century.
I write to find joy.
I write because I enjoy the lovely shape and sound of letters and

I write to greet my readers from this sunny day and from
beyond my long, happy life.
I write to join eternity.
I write to relinquish my thoughts and words as they fade and
become ash.
I write to summon my children and all who follow us
pleasure and appreciation of the present and hope for the

I write to become myself.

Priscilla Long is a Seattle-based writer and teacher of writing.

Elegy for Bill Shively

for Bill: Poet, Teacher, Friend

June 27, 1952 — September 28, 2014

This is a drink for Bill Shively,
one of the several poets we lost last year,
mine wine but his beer — or sake —
if he could clink my glass
from wherever he went.
Who was one of us
during the old days,
though he’d long since
moved to Oregon
to teach special ed kids,
taking his hat worn at a rakish angle
and his Chicago-style cool.
Who incorporated a whole country,
“Guanabana,” with boundaries
the periphery of a table for four
at the Comet Tavern one night.
It was a small country.  You had to leave
it to go to the bathroom,
but still, the treasury could afford
another round of beers for all citizens.
Who had a goat roast each summer
in Oregon.  I drove down once,
camped in his dusty backyard,
sang my poems from a makeshift stage
set among roaming chickens.
Who said, I can stand the heat.
I just don’t like the kitchen.
Time burns, he told us,
and it burned him.
He wrote to me from Japan,
I miss the U.S. of US.
And we found, at his memorial
in Seattle, though we’ve all gone
on to our separate destinies,
that we are still an us.

—Judith Roche

All Fire  All Water, published by Black Heron Press in 2015, is Judith Roche’s fourth poetry collection. Her third, The Wisdom of the Body, won an American Book Award. She has published widely in various journals and magazines, and has poems installed on several public art projects in the Seattle area. She co-edited First Fish, First People: Salmon Tales of the North Pacific Rim, which also won an American Book Award. She has conducted workshops around the United States and has taught at several universities. She currently teaches at Richard Hugo House Literary Center in Seattle. She is a Fellow in the Black Earth Institute, a progressive think tank exploring the links between nature, spirit, and social justice.


Bill Shively was a performance poet and spiritual leader in the arts scene of the Pacific Northwest for the last 35 years. In the 1970s he moved between New York City and San Francisco, where he learned “the importance to create and perform rather than write and publish.” For several years in the 1970s he hosted the open mic series at the Sacred Grounds Café near the Panhandle a few blocks off Haight-Ashbury. In 1981, Bill was a founding board member of the Red Sky Poetry Theater, Seattle’s longest running weekly reading series, originally based in the Pike Place Market. Emphasizing performance over publication, Red Sky also featured music including The Bill Shively Band. He was the first and only “editor” of Open Sky, an “assemblage” style zine in which every contributor simply sends in 400 copies of their piece which is then compiled and bound. While in Seattle, Bill also created SkyViews magazine, which started out as a monthly newsletter with guest editors. During the mid-80s he lived for a few years in Kyoto, Japan where he hung out with Cid Corman, edited the Kyoto Journal and performed with Red Sky associate saxophonist Michael Monhart. For the last two decades Bill lived in Newberg, Oregon, with his life’s love Anna Laakso, where he taught special education in the public schools. During that time he participated in every poetry venue in Poetland, and continued his musical collaborations with Stan Cassels, Leuth Bartels, Toni Santos, Ray Coffey and Martha Armstrong, among others. For many years he and Anna hosted the legendary GoatFest at their home in Newberg.

—Casey Bush, Portland, Oregon

Published in Raven Chronicles, Vol. 21, 2015.