Poet in Seattle's Tent City

Feb 7, 2011

Is there poetry in homelessness? Poet A.K. Mimi Allin is exploring that question while she lives with Seattle's Ten City homeless encampment this winter.

Allin is in the last few weeks of  her three-month experiment.  In December, she joined about 80 people  who make up Tent City's  current digs in the parking lot of Maple Leaf Lutheran Church in northeast Seattle. 

In a profile of the poet  in Real Change's newsletter, Stay Connected, contributing writer Celina Kareiva writes that Allin has found day-to-day life in Seattle's Tent City to be hard work - just to stay warm and get simple things like a coffee maker and a microwave to work without blowing fuses.

The wind and rain can also take their toll

Nobody is sleeping, and then you wake up the next day and everyone is grumpy because tarps make a lot of noise in the middle of the night. The wind. The rain. People are up. Or people are coughing. Sometimes I'm up, and it feels like everyone is coughing.

Allin is chronicling her experiences in blog posts where she's been writing about things such as Tent city's rule book and issues around mental health

Allin is the same poet who set up outdoors at Green Lake. When someone came up to her,  she would ask them what their specialty was.  She told KPLU's Paula Wissel:

People would answer in very creative and interesting ways like that their specialty is seeing the silver lining in clouds.

She also spent a month last year at Seattle architecture firm NBBJ as a corporate poet in residence.  During that experience,  Allin focused on tending the soul and spirit in an office environment through performance art and creative installations.

This winter, she's tending the soul and spirit of  the homeless largely by listening.