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I started investigating the Seattle Open Mic scene in 1994 and soon found a home at Red Sky Poetry Theater. I attended one of the last, if not the last Red Sky reading at the Ditto Tavern and then was a regular for about ten years as the run at the Globe happened during about that time, 1995-2005.

Marion Kiimes

Marion Kimes

Marion Kimes, for a time, ran Red Sky single-handed, curating, hosting (or coordinating hosts) and getting someone to go up into the Globe’s attic area to get the mic, the signup book and the cigar box for donations.

And it was not long after becoming a regular that she would ask me a question that would totally restructure my approach to poetry. Like a lot of other neophyte poets, I was very much into recognizing what made me angry and wrote a lot of rants. After one Red Sky session she said, in her Texas drawl: “Paul Nelson, can I ask you a question? What is your commitment to beauty?” Holy shit! You talk about wisdom. You talk about poetry being the most concise use of language. You talk about perception, kindness, mentoring &c &c &c!

I would hear from Paul Hunter on Facebook that she died and he sent back to me this:

I… know that Marion was abroad with her daughter, and had been in frail health, had been in the hospital for pneumonia for weeks before. I didn’t even know she was out of the country. Will let you know if any plans develop.

I would immediately go to my library and there, by Jack Kerouac and Kevin Killian, was her place. I plucked one of the several chapbooks of hers I acquired over the years. I thought immediately about her poem for Martin Luther King, saying that she meant no disrespect to the dead, but if he was going to sin, the fact that his sin was about love was something she could excuse. I’ll have to find the poem.

The one I did come to by chance was in the book entitled: Latterly (Poems):


his heavy, quick breath trumpets his arrival.
coughing, tail awag, he pushes at the door asking
for a treat. he’s friend to all, threatens none,
yet daily he’s saying goodbye to us, to him
we’d always like to say hello! (& Gabe, could you wait?
add a few days, have another go at death for us —
we’re not ready, not ready not . . . ready?)

She was 84 years old, read at at least one of SPLAB’s Super Bowl of Poetry events in Auburn, read as the local poet at a 2008 Subtext reading I curated that was George Bowering’s first reading ever in Seattle, and was a dear woman and committed poet. She showed by example how a poet should engage in the world and I’ll never forget her kind, sharp guidance for me and her commitment to Red Sky week after week for years. She died on March 31, 2014, in Dhaka, India. Rest well, Marion. You’ll be missed.