Words of Courage
Photo: Radford Creative

Words of Courage

A collaboration between Seattle Arts & Lectures, Writers in the Schools, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and Partners in Print.

Over a decade of community collaboration

Since 2011, Partners in Print has collaborated with Seattle Arts and Lectures’ Writers in the Schools (WITS) program to design, print, and publish an annual volume of poetry broadsides written by patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital. In this program, young poets work alongside veteran WITS Writers-in-Residence Sierra Nelson and Ann Teplick. These young poets capture the truth of their experiences from their own perspective and use their vivid and healing imaginations to create an alternate world to inhabit.

The impact of becoming a published poet is amplified in a hospital setting, where a sense of self beyond one’s medical diagnosis can be eroded. These letterpress-printed broadsides provide a tangible reminder of the transformative and healing power of words—both for the writer and the reader. 

The creative process

Each year, we convene over 20 local letterpress artists and a myriad of in-kind donors to bring Words of Courage to fruition. The broadsides are collated into handmade, cloth-bound portfolios, created by the artists under the guidance of master book binders Bonnie Thompson Norman and Jules Remedios Faye. The portfolios are then distributed to the poets’ families and the participating artists. Several portfolios go to Children’s Hospital and Seattle Arts and Lectures for display, donor appreciation, and fundraising purposes.

The entire creative process is also rewarding from the artist’s perspective: from reading the work of the young poets facing unimaginable challenges with such courage, to attempting to create a broadside that adequately reflects this courage, and sharing the creative process with fellow printers.  

Regional impact

Words of Courage furthers the mission of Partners in Print by using the power of the press to help amplify the voices of our most vulnerable community members. We have seen that these broadsides have an extraordinary regional impact: they are showcased at all SAL events, travel to all of the Seattle Public Library branches, and are displayed annually in the community gallery at the Seattle Art Museum. In 2018, Seattle Children’s Hospital chose to present a broadside portfolio to the Dalai Lama to represent the depth and spirit of arts engagement that happens there. Over the years, broadsides have been printed in Lushootseed, Arabic, Spanish, and Braille.

This year’s Volume

My Breath Is Like a Bluebird in the Distance

We are all expert contingency planners these days. When the Writers in Residence at Seattle Children’s Hospital were unable to meet with young patients for most of 2021, we found ourselves with more willing letterpress artists than pediatric poems to print. Our trademark solution? Collaborate! Emerging printers paired up with lifelong printers, skill sets combined, and sparks flew. While we printed 14 poetry broadsides this summer, we engaged a whopping 24 artists!

See what’s inside

View Portfolios

Thank you

Words of Courage was made possible in part by in-kind donations from: