Federal Way poet Richard Wakefield enlightens youngsters

On Nov. 28, Federal Way poet Richard Wakefield visited fifth-graders at Mirror Lake Elementary School. - Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror
On Nov. 28, Federal Way poet Richard Wakefield visited fifth-graders at Mirror Lake Elementary School.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror

Richard Wakefield, an award-winning poet from Federal Way, shared his writing wisdom with students at Mirror Lake Elementary.

On Wednesday, Wakefield visited Hayley Mathis' fifth-grade class to discuss poetry and his love for the craft. The session coincided with the students' ongoing studies in poetry.

The class discussed aspects of one Wakefield poem titled "The Shape of the Year." The poem's structure mimics the length of days through the four seasons, starting with short lines for winter, swelling to longer lines for summer, and finishing full circle with short lines for winter — and all written as one sentence. The students also asked about the meaning of certain words in the poem, such as "languid" and "delirium."

Wakefield later thumbed through his poetry book, "A Vertical Mile," for examples of alliteration, a literary device consisting of repetitive consonant sounds. For example, in one poem, the line "cuts across the creek" emphasizes the hard "c" and creates a cadence while conveying the point.

Wakefield told the students that reading and writing poetry will make them better writers.

"It really makes you think about how words fit together and how words flow," he said.

Mathis was grateful that her students had a chance to meet someone with a writing career.

"They had something to connect with," she said, thanking Joan Tornow of Communities In Schools of Federal Way for arranging the visit.

Wakefield has been writing poetry for 44 years. He was 16 years old when his first poem was published.

Wakefield is the author of several books, ranging from original poetry collections to a dissertation on Robert Frost. He has taught American Literature at Tacoma Community College since 1985 and is a regular contributing writer for the Seattle Times. Wakefield has been honored for his poetry with the Richard Wilbur Award in 2006 and the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award in 2009. To learn more, visit


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