Of Paul’s workshop facilitation and commitment to poetry, here’s what some have said about the experience:

“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, Poet, Translator, Founder of Copper Canyon Press

“In any case I’m writing to let you know that I cannot think of a better fit for this position than Paul. I already knew of his intellectual and spiritual generosity but what he did in my 4 hour grad seminar I have not seen before in my life either as a student or a professor: his passion for poetry, his knowledge, his energy, and his capacity to inspire students are a miracle of modern humanities.” – Pablo Baler, Cal State University at Los Angeles (pdf)

“Paul is a remarkable teacher. His knowledge extends beyond poetry and poets to music, art. and culture in general. His enthusiasm and energy can transform a group of strangers into something like a community in a matter of minutes.” – Pamela Alexander, Poet, Associate Professor, Oberlin College, OH

“Paul shared his amazing work with taped interviews and it was a rare treat to hear poets talk about the process of writing. Paul did a great job uniting the ideas and energies of famous poets and showing us how we can dwell in that same creative space. I enjoy attending workshops where I am made to feel like I am part of the wonderful creative force of writers. Paul’s workshop validated my own work and gave me insights into how to bring spontaneous energy into my writing practice. I would like to know about other classes Paul will teach to the public.” – Linda Thompson, Writer, Educator

“Paul Nelson created the best lesson my students have experienced this year. He brought two poets to school who competed in a poetry bout in front of a group of three hundred teenagers here at Eastlake. Afterward Paul, Aundria and David presented a work shop that inspired the students to create their own poetry competition. Three weeks later Paul returned with Andrea to facilitate a bout among twelve students in front of their class mates. The whole thing was electric. There were no grades to motivate the students, but they listened with intensity and respect to each participant’s poetry. Afterward many students came up to me individually to tell me that the experience had been motivating and inspiring. Several students have shown me poems they wrote last night on their own after the bout…” – Brian Schuessler, Eastlake High School, Sammamish, WA

“…The poets you brought to teach the workshops were inspiring and at the same time encouraging to our audience of all ages and experiences. From the youngest to the oldest, everyone learned and enjoyed. We believe that poetry and the public library belong together and we cannot thank you enough for being willing to bring your team of experts to the University Place Library.” – Lauren Murphy, Supervising Youth Services Librarian, Pierce County Library System

“Last night was our SPLAB performance at Vashon’s new Youth Council club, the Crux. Wow! It was one of the most amazing, high-energy poetry evenings I’ve ever seen. Paul Nelson energized a diverse audience (ten adults and about 35 teens) and led them through…”– Rayna Holtz, Vashon Island Library

“…Paul, I would like to congratulate you on facilitating this very successful program. The SPLAB! curriculum proved to be very effective with this group and I was truly amazed by the caliber of work produced by these students!…” – Bonnie Cline, Young Adult Librarian, Auburn Library

“…We first encountered your genius for facilitating meaningful contact with poetry when we participated in the teen Poetry Slam. It was a wonderful, upbeat opportunity for our students to perform their work in a safe, supportive environment, and your tremendous enthusiasm and good cheer made it a complete delight…” – Cynthia Beebe, Annie Wright School Tacoma, WA

June 18, 2008
Auburn School District
No. 40 915
4th Street NE
Auburn, WA 98002

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing in support of Paul Nelson who is seeking employment with your school district. For the last year, I was Paul’s colleague at the Muckleshoot Tribal College. He worked as an office skills instructor while I worked across the hall as a GED instructor. I had many opportunities to observe his skillful teaching style and inspirational personality, and I was always impressed with his professionalism, expertise, and collegiality.

Paul is an excellent teacher and communicator, and his classroom conduct evidences skills and ease found only in the most experienced instructors. With twenty-six years as a radio broadcaster and over ten years as a poetry instructor, Paul brought a vast and unique array of teaching tools to his office skills position. Paul’s wonderful facility with language, keen awareness of student needs, and ability to make the most mundane office skills a fun learning process are examples of these tools. In addition, he was always prepared if not overprepared.

For all of his classes, which in the last several months were filled over capacity, he prepared PowerPoint presentations as well as online tutorials that were directed to all ability levels and learning styles. That kind of preparation was essential as Paul had students of all ages from vastly different educational backgrounds. Because of his enthusiastic approach, students loved going to Paul’s classes, and they always learned something.

Whenever I observed his classes, the students were always fully engaged and often smiling and laughing. In his tenure at Muckleshoot College, Paul built the office skills program into a popular and successful series of classes, bringing in the most students ever in its history. Some of the reasons for the program’s success include Paul’s flexible scheduling of tutoring and testing sessions, his challenging but fun instruction, his prompt grading of tests and friendly consultations with students, his jovial, yet always professional, manner, and, perhaps, most importantly, his sincere compassion for the Muckleshoot students and the difficulties they face as Native Americans.

Because of his professional, enthusiastic, and friendly demeanor, Paul was an outstanding colleague. In staff meetings, he always articulately reported the news from his program and offered thoughtful insights and analyses for others. He never failed to have a warm greeting in the morning or a friendly farewell in the evening for me and his other colleagues. I am very pleased to wholeheartedly recommend Paul Nelson as an outstanding prospective teacher for your district. I am available anytime during the day to answer any questions you may have. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Todd Johnson
GED Instructor
Muckleshoot Tribal College
(253) 876-2136
(pdf here)

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