Maya Jewell Zeller, the recent winner of the New American Poetry Prize, will step into the spotlight alongside two of her favorite fellow writers this week.
Zeller, a former Port Angeles High School teacher, will join poets Tess Gallagher and Gary Copeland Lilley for a free reading and conversation Tuesday in Port Townsend. Then she’ll appear with Gallagher on Thursday in Port Angeles.
Zeller, musing on poetry readings, said they’re a lot like curated art shows, with their mix of images and emotions. Appropriately enough, she, Lilley and Gallagher will read together at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Northwind Art’s Jeanette Best Gallery, 701 Water St. in Port Townsend. Each writer will bring books to sign and sell after the reading in the art-filled space.
“I think I will read some things about our life as women,” Gallagher said in an interview from her home in Port Angeles.
She also intends to read from “Moon Crossing Bridge,” one of her 11 volumes of poetry. It’s out of print and so not easy to find, Gallagher said; “I love that book so much.”
Earlier this year, she traveled to Europe to accept a lifetime achievement award from the Fondazione Roma in Italy, which hosts the annual Ritratti di Poesia, or Portraits of Poetry festival. Also this year, Gallagher turned 80.
Lilley, for his part, has been busy bringing poets and other authors together in Centrum’s Port Townsend Writers Conference. He was named artistic curator of that gathering in 2021.
Lilley is also writing poems and working on a new manuscript. His friend Gallagher “lit a fuse” in his creative life, Lilley has said.
“He is an excitement,” Gallagher said of Lilley. Well-known as a teacher, open mic host and poet, he has eight books to his credit, including “Alpha Zulu,” “The Bushman’s Medicine Show” and “The Subsequent Blues.”
Zeller’s latest book — her fourth — is “out takes/glove box,” a poetry collection that won the New American Poetry Prize when it came out last year. This fall she’s been on tour, giving readings across the Northwest.
At 3 p.m. Thursday, Zeller and Gallagher will read together at the Little Theater at Peninsula College, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd. in Port Angeles.
This free event is an extra one added to the college’s Studium Generale series. A book signing will follow at the Bookaneer bookstore. Lilley wasn’t able to join since he teaches at that time, said Studium organizer Kate Reavey.
Now a professor at Central Washington University, Zeller taught at Port Angeles High School from 2002-05.
“It was my first career out of college,” she said.
Zeller taught literature, sophomore English/writing, creative writing, drama and American Studies, which was history and English in a hybrid format.
“I also coached cross country and track,” she added, “so, a lot of fun and great bonding with families and students.”
Zeller is eager to share work from her new book in this week’s events. Poetry readings, she said, are chances for people “to laugh, to cry, to connect with each other.”