Arts and Entertainment

Poetry sends ex-teacher from Oak Harbor to Big Easy

Former Oak Harbor High School English teacher Patricia Hawley recently took first place out of 400 applicants in a poetry competition and was invited to speak at  the 25th annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. - Courtesy photo
Former Oak Harbor High School English teacher Patricia Hawley recently took first place out of 400 applicants in a poetry competition and was invited to speak at the 25th annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

After devoting 25 years to molding the minds of Oak Harbor students, former high school English and drama teacher Patricia Hawley finally found some time for herself and earned the recognition she deserves.

“When I graduated from teaching, I thought, ‘all right, what does this woman want?’” Hawley said.

It turns out she wanted to concentrate on poetry. Though Hawley has been a writer her entire life, she said she never had time to focus.

“I’m literally the example of the person who is a late bloomer,” Hawley said. “I taught students who have three books out with another one coming; I’ve been involved in critiquing and helping other writers; but I didn’t really have time for myself. Poetry is particularly demanding. It’s a particular discipline that needs concentration.”

Hawley has spent the last 13 years developing her poems which are inspired by her large family (two children, 10 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren), personal concerns and social commentary. She also helped establish the Skagit River Poetry Festival, an organization that brings poets into schools to teach students about the joy of literature and hosts a large festival in La Conner each year.

Through her work with the festival, Hawley met some renowned U.S. poet laureates and began studying with them here in Washington and over on the East Coast. She was even motivated to take classes at Sarah Lawrence College in New York and began submitting her work to different poetry groups.

Hawley earned an honorable mention from “Passages” magazine and had her work featured in “Jeopardy” and other local publications. But her most noteworthy award came this November.

Of the 400 submissions to the 25th annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, Hawley’s four poems, “Vectors,” “Father’s Day,” “When Days Unraveled Like Late Summer Roses” and “What He Told Me,” were rated number one. Hawley was given a prize of $1,000 and will head to New Orleans on March 22 to present her work at the festival which takes place March 23 through 27.

Her poems will also appear in this month’s issue of Louisiana Cultural Vistas magazine.

“Having been a retired school teacher, I really don’t have an expendable income,” Hawley said. “The irony is that the prize will go towards the cost of the hotel room, but I’ve always wanted to see New Orleans.”

Hawley’s work will also be showcased in a much smaller, but more accessible venue next month, when she does a poetry reading with a few other artists at the Coupeville Library at 7 p.m. on April 21.

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