Writers and poets always have a special place in Edmonds, Washington state’s first Certified Creative District.

There is literally an event, showcase, collaboration, or celebration going on everywhere you look.

Edmonds boasts two rare independent bookshops — Edmonds Bookshop and The Neverending Bookshop — that regularly showcase internationally- and nationally-recognized authors in book readings, book clubs, and fun book events connecting readers to different worlds and different points of view.

Edmonds Sno-Isle Library can always be counted on for virtual children’s storytime, book groups, and Brains & Brews, online pub trivia night.

You never know who might show up at any number of the cafes and coffee shops for open mic, either.

Write on the Sound (WOTS), an annual writers’ conference first founded in 1985, helps writers get the word out through informative, invaluable workshops, sessions, panel discussions, and manuscript/poetry critiques — all focused on the craft of writing for all levels and interests. What started off as a one-day event, put on by the City of Edmonds Arts Commission, has become a weekend affair, held early in the fall.

There’s even a writing contest with a new theme every year and cash prizes for registered conference attendees.

Next scheduled for Oct. 7-9, WOTS promises to be another winning opportunity to share, connect, and improve — writer to writer.

WE SPEAK Festival gives voice to Spoken Word artists who get to perform live and virtually at the Edmonds Center for the Arts (ECA) — a synergistic showcase of the critically acclaimed and the aspiring…established and rising stars…adults and youth mixing it up, exchanging, sharing, growing, together.

Kealoha, the first Poet Laureate of Hawai’i, is one of 10 featured artists in the upcoming second annual hybrid in-person/virtual WE SPEAK Festival, presented by ECA this Thurs., 7:30 p.m.

This is his second festival appearance.

Prior to participating in the premier launch of WE SPEAK Dec. 3, 2020, Kealoha led virtual Spoken Word workshops with high school poets, as a part of ECA’s Education & Outreach programming and through partnerships with Leadership Launch and Scriber Lake High School. He also virtually mentored three student finalists from the WE SPEAK Youth Poetry Slam Competition before their performance.

The MIT grad and sometime surfing instructor is a profound voice for the Hawaiian people and their indigenous experience. Billed as an “internationally acclaimed poet and storyteller,” Kealoha has mastered the ability to touch the hardest of hearts, reaching across oceans to reclaim dignity and sovereignty of spirit, while tying us all together through universal joys.

He has not only performed all over the world but with world-renowned, chart-topping musicians, like Hawai’i’s own Henry Kapono and Willie K, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, and Willie Nelson.

“Spoken Word is, to me, the most efficient and impactful way for me to connect to people on a human level,” he explained. “The way I view the universe has been heavily influenced by the work of other poets, and I would like to think that I have contributed to the conversation in a small way as well. When we practice the artforms of listening and speaking, the cycle of symbiotic growth continues. In this second year of the WE SPEAK Festival at the Edmonds Center for the Arts, the audience can expect to witness that growth as individuals and as a collective of artists working together.”

That dynamic collective includes: Seattle’s Chelsey Richardson with jazz trumpeter Owuor Arunga, Steve Connell with flexing dancer Drew Dollaz and violin composer Daniel Bernard Romain, Ivan Coyote, and the four Youth Poetry Slam finalists — Bella Hopkins, Jiya Joshi, Rin Bromagen, and Yennifer Gaspar.

Local artists Richardson, Arunga, and the youth finalists will appear in-person to perform, while the non-local artists have submitted video performances.

All artists are prepared to confront issues of race, gender identity, the indigenous and disabled, misogyny, the global health crisis, and more…all within this year’s theme of “Connection,” love, hope, healing, resilience, courage.

Those missing the Jan. 27th celebration can view it for 72 hours afterwards on livestream.

Another new, promising showcase, Poet’s Perspective, gives local writers a chance to capture Edmonds’ unique sense of place in short poetry form — and maybe win big.

On Jan. 19, Edmonds Arts Commission sent out a call for Pacific NW Puget Sound area writers (youth and adult) to submit original, previously unpublished short poetry by Feb. 24. Six winners will receive a $100 honorarium for their work, which will be displayed at one of two outdoor Edmonds locations — the new Hwy. 99 City satellite office and Edmonds Sno-Isle Library — for six months, starting in April.

The Edmonds Arts Commission will also make the winning poems available for viewing on its website gallery.

Feature photo of poet Kealoha by Ronen Zilberman