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Q&A with Kathleen Flenniken | 2003 Fellowship, Literary

Artist Trust

Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I’m slowly accumulating the poems that will be, I hope, my third published collection. I have a thought toward the theme and even a working title, but that doesn’t seem to make it happen any faster. 
Q: What did you do with the award?
A: I don’t believe I kept the award separate from our general pool, but I was coming off more than a decade of staying home with our young children and it was a very big deal to be contributing any income to the family. And as a poet, no less. 
Q: How has your practice developed/changed since you received the award in 2003?
A: In those days, before my first book, I was writing poem by poem with no real sense for how individual poems talked to each other or what larger story they might be telling.  Now I still follow the poem where it wants to go, but part of me is always aware of a collection down the road.  I’ve become more comfortable playing in other genres, too.
Q: What was the impact of this award / Artist Trust on your career / artistic life?
A: The impact was huge.  I felt uncomfortable even calling myself a poet at the time—my education and work background was in engineering and I identified as a stay-at-home mother.  I struggled to feel legit. The fellowship gave me a burst of confidence that I harnessed and rode. I put together my first manuscript and started sending it out.  I successfully applied for an NEA Fellowship and I otherwise wouldn’t have attempted it. I began to think of myself as a working, professional writer. Through Artist Trust I met other artists, including visual artists, most particularly Allan Packer, and we chatted about our work. Those conversations across disciplines were again about building confidence but also vision and ambition.
Kathleen Flenniken is the author of two poetry collections, Plume (University of Washington, 2012), a meditation on the Hanford Nuclear Site, winner of the Washington State Book Award and finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and Famous (University of Nebraska, 2006), winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize and named a Notable Book by the American Library Association. Her awards include fellowships from the NEA and Artist Trust, a Pushcart Prize, and a 2015 residency at the Bloedel Reserve. She served as the Washington State Poet Laureate from 2012 – 2014.