Natalie Fuller
Woodnote author Christine Deavel.

Seattle’s Poetry Pro Wins Washington State Book Award

By Deanna Duff

If you are in need of a sonnet, couplet or limerick, Christine Deavel is Seattle’s poetry pro. She can pluck the perfect book from among the 10,000 titles at Open Books: A Poem Emporium, the poetry shop she owns with husband John Marshall. After publishing her first-ever poetry book, Woodnote, in 2011, she is now an award-winning poet herself. Announced September 7, Woodnote received a 2012 Washington State Book Award for poetry.

“I love books and many have spoken to me over the years. I always dreamt of having my own,” Deavel said. Woodnote was previously awarded the 2011 Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize from Bear Star Press who published the book.

Open Books, one of only three poetry-only bookstores in the nation, is located in Wallingford and is a particular favorite of readers from the Ballard neighborhood to University District area.

The book is a labor of love and took 14 years to complete. “I’m a fitful writer,” said Deavel, who endured extended dry spells. She was inspired by everything from her neighborhood walks to her beloved dog Sandy. The beautiful wood grain of her writing desk inspired the title poem, “Woodnote.”

“The key is to let yourself be surprised by the hard and the easy, the beautiful and the sad,” Deavel said.

The overall tone of Woodnote is informed by Deavel’s childhood in Indiana, which was surrounded by farmland. Even though she has lived in Seattle for over 25 years, her Midwest roots remain strong. The heartbeat of the book is found in its earthy references.

“I’m tethered to that landscape. It’s in my vocabulary, on a cellular level, and I’m grateful that I figured out how to honor that connection,” she said.

Deavel inherited her passion for reading and writing from her parents who were teachers. She began writing at five years old; one of her first poems was an ode to her teddy bear.

“Right away, my family made room for my writing, encouraged me and that made all the difference,” she said.

She is now a self-described experimental poet, which Woodnote reflects with a diversity of pieces from whimsical two-liners to innovative, lyrical poems.

“Every piece has its own poetics and the poems told me what they should be,” Deavel said.

Multiple pieces were inspired by partnerships with local organizations. “Drawn” was originally commissioned by the Frye Art Museum and “Economy” was written for the former Subtext reading series. Deavel is strongly connected to the local arts community and selected a painting by Seattle artist Jacqueline Barnett as the book’s cover art.

“It was an opportunity to share this experience,” Deavel said. She chose Barnett’s oil painting, “Exposure,” because of its visual power and the fact that it thematically balanced the book’s opening poem, “Hidden.”

“There is something really evocative and interesting about a partnership that is supportive of both the poet and artist,” Barnett said.

Barnett’s daughter is a poet which added special meaning to the artist’s first literary collaboration. “I was elated to do this. Seattle is an innovative community of artists,” Barnett said. “Christine and John are especially generous and invite friendship and intimacy in the most authentic ways.”

For a woman of words, Deavel is only speechless when contemplating the reality that Woodnote is an award winner. Nestled somewhere between Dante and Dickinson, her own name will be in good company on Open Books’ shelves. Always the poetry pro, however, her focus remains solidly on her patrons.

“If you have one reader who reads the book with intelligence, you’ve hit the jackpot!” Deavel said.

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