Marion Kimes Dead at 84

April 4, 2014

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.


  1. Lisa Choi

    She invited me into the Red Sky Poetry theater family. Mentored me and watched over my growth as a poet and woman. I will miss her energy and joie de vivre.

  2. Marjorie Rommel

    Thanks, Paul, for this sad news. Marion was a force… for poetry, beauty, and all else she found good — I’m SO glad I knew her. Last time I saw her was at the Ditto, putting forth her distinctive voice and energy, rattling her tambourine for all she was worth! Such a fierce little lady! Sometimes she used a small hand drum, too, but not that night. I was there with my poet/painter friend Matthew Levesque, who was visiting from San Francisco — he’d never encountered Marion before. “Wow,” he said later, “Who WAS that?” An interesting question. At intermission that night at the Ditto, she asked me, “Marjorie, why are you so afraid of yourself? What do you think you might DO?”

  3. Bart Baxter

    Paul, thank you so much for posting this.

    • David Fewster

      Hi Bart–This is sad news. I had recently been trying to contact Marion. Drop me a line at

  4. David Fewster

    Am saddened to hear this. Marion was both an elemental force and a regular joe who made everyone who entered her circle feel welcome.I just recently started to contact poets to contribute personal essays about the history of Red Sky, a pilot issue of these is in Open Books. With Marion’s voice gone (along with Don Wilsun), it feels like time is running out. Bart!–contact me.

    • Marjorie Rommel

      Hello David, thanks for your comments about Marion — she was definitely one of a kind. I’m also very interested in your Red Sky project. Seattle literary history, man — don’t let it get away!

  5. Clarice Keegan

    I was thinking about her just yesterday. She was steel and silk and an amazing voice.

  6. Mark D. Johnson

    I just heard that Marion passed away on March 31st in India. And I remember hearing her read a poem at Red Sky and thought well she just takes off and she’s flying, yes an amazing force. Thanks for posting Paul.

  7. Paul W

    I will miss our breakfast chats at the Coastal Kitchen. Even as Marion’s memory failed, her wisdom prevailed.

    I believe she died in Bangladesh, not India. How fitting that she was on an adventure when she left us. The only sad thing was that I think she didn’t manage to reconcile with her son before her passing – she had talked many times of wanting to contact Thornton and see how he was doing.

  8. Karen Hannegan

    I never missed Red Sky Poetry Theater with Marion Kimes. My daughter Bethany and I saw Jesse Bernstein performing back in the day. Bethany was a high school student and it changed her life. She has become and artist, poet, sculptor due to the influences of Red Sky and the inspiration we both experienced when we lived in Seattle. She’s in Santa Fe New Mexico completing her Masters in Art Therapy. I’m in Portland drawing cartoons and writing poetry.


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