American Prophets

Order American Prophets online here. It is our first book of transcribed interviews to come out after 30+ years of doing interviews. If you are an customer, please consider listing SPLAB as your non-profit beneficiary via

Over the past decade or so, no one has done more for poetry in the Pacific Northwest than has Paul Nelson. He has sponsored and hosted free public readings and workshops while bringing to Seattle notable poets like Wanda Coleman, Nate Mackey, Michael McClure, Brenda Hillman, George Bowering and other leading figures in the world of Organic Poetry. He is as fine an interviewer of poets as anyone working today, coming to each interview thoroughly informed but retaining great flexibility, letting the various threads intertwine. These interviews, combined with lengthy scholarship, have produced a number of remarkable essays and, ultimately, his manuscript American Prophets.

Sam Hamill

Thanks to support from 4 Culture and Charles Stobert, the first book made up of transcribed interviews from the historic radio archive was published to celebrate SPLAB’s 25th anniversary party, December 14, 2018, at the White River Valley Museum. To order a copy of American Prophets, click here.

We are grateful to 4 Culture for their financial help to sustain this archiving project.

From a press release Gloria DeGaetano commissioned: “American Prophets includes an A-List of luminaries who have dedicated their professional careers to deep, positive changes through a focus on whole-systems thinking and activation of creative approaches so individuals and society flourish…”

Paul Nelson first started conducting interviews in his early radio days, Chicago 1980. In 1990 he was promoted to News & Community Affairs Director of KKNW (106.9 in Seattle) and over the next 14 years created nearly 500 hours of innovative and compelling public affairs radio programs. He continues to do interviews to this day and this is the main page for all his interview activity. It is updated regularly and thanks to a grant from 4Culture, we are digitizing our archives and posting links to the audio here.

Building on his early interest in holistic medicine, his interviews soon began to see the holistic approach in all facets of life, as well as the inadequacies of the industry-generated culture. In 1994 he interviewed Allen Ginsberg and three years later co-founded the Northwest SPokenword LAB in Auburn, Washington, now known as SPLAB, Seattle Poetics LAB.


If there was an “A” list of whole-systems luminaries, Paul interviewed many of them and is editing a manuscript of some of the most fascinating interviews into projects called American Prophets and Cascadian Prophets. These are people who inherently understand some angle on the limitations of the materialist/neoliberal world view and the industry-generated culture (or anti-culture). In 2011, the Occupy movement was born, expressing outrage and indignation at the worst abuses of the military-industrial complex, but Paul was there in 1990, interviewing authors, poets and activists, all of whom had an angle on how things could be and how things were evolving past the notion of human as machine and the competition/ domination/colonialist ethos.

Jean Houston

The archives created by Paul include interviews with David AbelCecile Andrews, Salamah Lorraine ArdenRichard Atleo, Peter Balakian, Vince Ballestri (with Brian Kent), Pablo BalerBeaver Chief, Greg Bem, Medea Benjamin, Peter BergRobin Blaser, Michael Boughn on Jack Clarke, George Bowering, (Bowering in 2005, my first interview with him,) Michael Boughn on Jack ClarkeIan Boyden (on Ai WeiWei), Ian Boyden (A Forest of Names), Shahar Bram, Darius BrusaferroDavid Buuck, David Stephen Calonne on Diane di Prima, Trev Carolan, Wanda Coleman, Wanda Coleman on American SonnetsStephen Collis, Elizabeth Cooperman, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Peter CulleyPhyllis Curott, Iris Cushing, Bhagavan Das, Gloria DeGaetanoJohn de Graaf, Sarah De LeeuwDominick DellaSala, Marita Dingus, Diane diPrima, Larry Dossey, Eric Drooker, George Draffan, Wayne Dyer,

George Bowering Sharing The Love

Riane Eisler, El Habib Louai, Kurt Elling, Maria Amparo Escandon, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Gary Ferguson, Nikky Finney, Evan Flory-BarnesJack and Adelle Foley, Father Matthew Fox, Tom Frank, Emily Kendal Frey, Janet Gallant, Arun Gandhi, Allen Ginsberg, Sallie Ann Glassman, Sam Hamill with Ian Boyden, Sam Hamill (Poets Against The War), Thom Hartmann, Andrew Harvey, Dennis William Hauck, Jeanne Heuving, Jeanne Heuving on Nate Mackey Destination Out, Steven Hill, Brenda Hillman, Brenda Hillman (2017) on Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, John Hogue 11.14.1999 Interview (Part 1) (Part 2), Jeffrey Hollander, Jean Houston, Paul Hunter, Paul O Ingram, Graham Isaac, Neil Jacobson, Jewell James,paule

Tina Schumann

Sam Keen, Yusef Komunyakaa, Leslie Korn, Mary Norbert Körte, Mary Norbert Körte Part 2José Kozer, Joanne Kyger, GP Lainsbury, George LakeyFrances Moore Lappe & Anna Lappe, Ed Larson, Peter Levitt, Rob Lewis, Priscilla Long, Claudia Castro Luna, Lewis MacAdamsNate Mackey, Amalio MadueñoDaphne Marlatt, Jerry MartienBarb Maynes, David McCloskey (Cascadia Institute) Michael McClure, Colleen McElroyBarry McKinnon, Corrine McLaughlin & Gordon Davidson, Tim McNultyRussell Means, Erica Helm Meade, Michael Meade, Brooke Medicine Eagle, Finn Menzies, Ethelbert Miller, David Montgomery, Kathleen Dean Moore, Michael Murphy, Eileen MylesLoretta Napoleoni, Miriam Nichols, Brett Nunn, James O’Dea, John Olson, (John Olson Dec 7, 2016 on In Advance of the Broken Justy), Judith Orloff, Shin Yu Pai, Deborah Poe, Eric PollardDan Pontbriand, Bill Porter (Red Pine), Charles Potts, Dawn Prince-Hughes, Jamal Rahman, dan raphael, Paul Ray & Sherry Anderson, John Robbins, Judith Roche, Steve RothJerome Rothenberg, Rick Rouse, Douglass Rushkoff, Rudy Ryser, Ed Sanders, Andrew Schelling, Andrew Schelling on Jaime de Angulo and Andrew Schelling on his book The Facts at Dog Tank Spring, Leonard Schlain, Mona Lisa Schultz, Tina SchumannCheryl Seidner (Wiyot Tribe),

Anne Waldman

Brenda Hillman

Rupert Sheldrake, Richmond Shepard, Michael Shuman, Cedar Sigo,  Laura Simms,Willie SmithJuliana Spahr, Wedlidi Speck, Marilyn Stablein,  George Stanley, Susan Starbuck, Hal & Sidra Stone, Sharon ThesenSolihin and Alicia Thom, Robert Thurman, Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman & Robert Ullman,V.J. Vaitheeswaran, Ed VarneyAnne Waldman, Thomas Walton, Wang Ping, Jerry Wennstrom and Marilyn Strong, Daniel Williams, Jason Wirth, (December 10, 2019, Jason Wirth on the Buddhist history of Rainier Beach), Xi Chuan, Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Zhang Er, Stephen Zunes and other SPLAB audio, here.

Bhagavan Das sings with wife Uma: Song for Ganesh

Bhagavan Das sings with wife Uma: Kali Ma


3 Responses to American Prophets

  1. Consider interviewing Major (“Maj”) Ragain? Little known beyond a hundred mile circle around Akron, Ohio, he is, to many, including myself, teacher/mentor/poet supreme. Having lost the use of his legs to childhood polio, he has not a spark of self-pity nor is he handicapped by the obvious condition. Disdaining wheelchairs etc, mostly these days he crawls, often through rain or snow, to his car specially outiftted for his needs and conducts writing workshops at Kent State, a Veterans’ Poetry Workshop circle, and huge monthly poetry readings at an independant bookstore. Neither shy nor coy, he is by nature at once ecstatic and humble in such a way as to make one suddenly proud to be of the same species as this man. Decades ago I had to urge him to publish when he, the same age as I am, took a workshop from me at a racetrack in Boise, Idaho, bowling me over with his astonishing work. When I assured him his work was publishable he merely shrugged; when I pointed out that work such as his is rare and is needed by many many of us to be reminded of how miraculous a thing life all around us is, only then was he willing to considered publication. He has now published, w/small places such as Pavement Saw and Bottom Dog Press, several collections. His spirit is imbued with a profound knowledge of poetry, zen, Taoist philosophy, and he is an inexhaustible font of racetrack history and lore. Like his fellow track rat, Bukowski, he is earthy; like Rilke, he knows the angelic orders and so he is as conversant about the spirit as he is about the spirited creatures who race on those dirt tracks. He can be reached a

    I am William Pitt Root, at

    • Splabman says:

      William, thanks for reading this blog and for your inspired testimonial.
      I am focusing on bioregional poets (Cascadia) for the foreseeable future, but thanks for keeping me apprised of Maj Ragain. Paul

  2. Pingback: SPLAB @ 27 | SPLAB

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