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Now Offering: Poetry Workshop led by avery r. young

We’re pinching ourselves to make sure it’s really happening: avery r. young is headed back to Tacoma, and he’s holding a workshop with Blue Cactus Press, followed by a reading and book signing at King’s Books.

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Yup, definitely hapening. We’re excited to announce that on April 5th, Blue Cactus Press is welcoming writer, performer, educator and activist avery r. young to Tacoma in celebration of his new poetry book, neckbone. avery will kick things off by leading a small poetry workshop at 2pm at Defiance Square (a.k.a. Blue Cactus Press’ office in Tacoma).

Please note that workshop space is limited to 15 participants and registration is required. Cost for the poetry workshop is $25 per participant (registration fees go directly towards compensating the artist for his time and energy). Trust us, this will be the best $25 you ever spend.

BCP will also reserve two seats for youth poets, free of charge. Youth interested in participating must email bluecactuspress(at)gmail.com with the following information: first and last name, age, school currently attending, and a short statement explaining how participating in the workshop will benefit their artistic craft. We’ll email youth to formally offer workshop seats after reviewing submissions.

Adults can sign up for the workshop by filling out the form below AND submit payment via the “Pay Your Registration Fee” button below.

Pay Your Registration Fee

$25.00

Following the workshop, avery will hold a poetry reading and book signing at King’s Books at 5pm on the same day (April 5). The reading is FREE and open to the public. If you’ve never seen avery perform, you will be blown away. Do not miss this opportunity to see a nationally recognized and bomb-ass poet, activist and performer lay it down on the mic right here in Tacoma, or to create poems with him at the workshop! 

In the meantime, check out one of avery r. young’s performances here. 


About avery r. young:

Interdisciplinary artist avery r. young is a 3Arts Award winning teaching-artist, composer and producer with work that spans the genres of  music, performance, visual arts and literature. Examining and celebrating Black American history and culture, his work also focuses in the areas of social justice, equity,  queer identity, misogyny and body consciousness. As a writer, this Cave Canem alum has work featured The Breakbeat Poets, Coon Bidness, to be left with the body and Make Magazine.  He has also written curriculum and essay on arts education which appear in Teaching Artist Journal and A.I.M. Print.  Dubbed “sunday mornin jook joint,” his performance and work in sound design merges spiritual and secular aesthetics with dramatic and comedic sensibilities. He has performed in the Hip Hop Theater Festival, Wordstock and Lollapalooza. Has recorded with house producers Anthony Nicholson, Charlie Dark and is featured on recordings such as, New World Reveal-A-Solution, Audio Truism, Catfish Haven’s Devastator and New Skool Poetiks.  His new full-length release, booker t. soltreyne: a race rekkid,  features songs and other sound designed created during his artist residency with the University of Chicago’s Arts and Public Life initiative.  It was during this residency that he worked worked on sound design and concrete poems called “cullud sign(s).” Through voice, sound, visual art and performance,  young is constantly exploring the forms and spaces in which poetry can exist. Most recently, he is the vocalist on flutist Nicole Mitchell’s Mandorla Awakening (FPE Records) and his poetry is featured in photographer 3Arts Awardee, Cecil McDonald Jr.’s debut book, In the Company of Black (Candor Arts) and his first book neckbone (Northwestern University Press) will be available June 2019.  He is currently one of four directors for the Floating Museum and touring with his band avery r. young & de deacon board.

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We’re Taking Pre-Orders!

That’s right, it’s officially time to pre-order your copy of our two newest poetry books:

What Us Is by Kellie Richardson (Richardson’s debut poetry collection, newly re-published with BCP and sporting a swanky new cover design)

Publication Date: March 1, 2020
Price: $17.00
Pre-order here

What Us Is offers readers a glimpse into the head space of one of Tacoma, Washington’s most respected poets, Kellie Richardson. In her debut poetry collection, Richardson turns herself inside out to let others know they’re not alone.


 Terrain by Gina Hietpas

Publication Date: August 1, 2020
Price: $17.00
Pre-order here

In her debut poetry collection, Terrain, self-taught poet and educator Gina Hietpas offers readers a way to return to the land with care and dignity. Drawing from a deep well of personal observation, connection and participation with the natural world, Hietpas’ poems explore themes of allyship, care, and ultimately, healing. 


Why Pre-Orders Matter

🌵 When community members pre-order a book from an independent bookstore, booksellers are better able to gauge market interest and order accordingly. In turn, this helps small publishers (like us) determine how many books to print before we launch, gain traction with regional audiences, and spur initial book sales.

🌵 Pre-ordering books also helps authors by increasing their odds of making it onto bestseller lists, potentially opening doors for future book contracts, and increasing their rankings on Goodreads and other influential literary sites. All of these are important components for an author’s long-term market success. 

 🌵 Lastly, when community members pre-order books directly from publishers, we’re able to ensure we have enough capital to cover printing costs (one of the biggest expenses of a book’s production costs), and focus on other aspects of publishing (like setting up cool events and readings for you, dear readers). 


With this in mind (along with your burning passion for poetry and art), we hope you’ll consider pre-ordering your books directly from Blue Cactus Press, or with your local, independent bookstore (like King’s Books). Happy reading, friends!

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The Prickly Pear Podcast & Libro.fm are in cahoots!

Guess what, friends?! Libro.fm, our favorite independent audiobook platform, is our new podcast sponsor!

Libro.fm is the first and only company which lets you purchase audiobooks directly from your favorite local bookstore (we’re looking at you, King’s Books). When you sign up for Libro.fm, you can pick from more than 125,000 audiobooks, including New York Times best sellers and recommendations from booksellers. You’ll get the same audiobooks at the same price as the largest audiobook company out there (you know the name). But you’ll be part of a different story — one that supports community.

Here’s how our sponsorship works: Libro.fm now has a standing, special offer for listeners of The Prickly Pear Podcast: get 3 audiobooks for the price of 1 ($14.99) with your first month of membership.

All you need to do is use the following code when signing up for your first month of membership: PRICKLY

Every sign up with this code will help financially support Blue Cactus Press and the production of our podcast, AND you can still designate your favorite independent bookstore to receive a small portion of the proceeds, as well! You can also follow this link to sign up.

If you haven’t already, download the Libro.fm app on your smart phone (of course, it’s free) and start listening. It’s Friday, after all 🙂

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Episode 9: Lucien Vedego & The Great Avocado

Prickly Pear Podcast: Lucien Vedego & The Great Avocado

We’re having trouble keeping up with all the cool arts events happening around town for Tacoma Arts Month, so naturally, we retreated to the great garage to catch our breath and *settle down.* We convinced Lucien Vedego, a multi-disciplinary artist with work in the fields of music, painting, writing, acting, and modeling, to join us while we did so. This podcast episode is the very silly but also heartfelt result of that.

This conversation is about you, Tacoma, and what keeps cool kids like Lucien walking through your streets. We deep dived into conversation about honesty, “facebooking it” in real life, friendship and the artistic process. We hope you enjoy it.


LUCIEN VEDEGO is a multi-disciplinary artist with work spanning the fields of music, painting, writing, acting, and modeling. All of his work stems from his mission to spread the messages of unity, vulnerability, and innate power. He is also active within the field of metaphysics, sharing esoteric teachings by holding space, as well as working as a Reiki practitioner. Most recently, he founded decriminalize nature tacoma, a branch of the larger decriminalize nature effort.

Learn more about Lucien at Hello Mister Ohm, or on Spotify at Axi-Ohm.

This photo makes me smile, so you know, I included it. Not sorry.

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Cover Reveal: The Art of Naming My Pain

We can’t keep Kellie Richardson’s book cover under wraps any longer! It’s too good to keep to ourselves, and the story behind it – and behind Kellie’s creative work in collage – is worth sharing. So, let us introduce you to The Art of Naming My Pain, a collection of prose, poetry and collage by Kellie Richardson.

The cover of is based on one of Richardson’s collage pieces, “Listen,” created in 2019 with acrylic, tissue paper and found items on canvas.

Continue reading Cover Reveal: The Art of Naming My Pain
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¡Cover Reveal! for Low Static Rage

Yes, we did take a month off to recharge, but now we’re back with a vengeance, Tacoma, and we’re ready to reveal the cover art for Michael Haeflinger’s debut poetry collection, Low Static Rage.

“Polar Vortex” by Michael Bolsinga, 2014

This stellar cover art is from a painting by Michael Bolsinga, a painter living in Portland, Oregon. It’s titled “Polar Vortex,” and was created by Bolsinga in 2014. Check out more of Bolsinga’s work on his website, or on Instagram @bolsinga.

And before you ask, friends, let us set the record straight: yes, we’re publishing a book with no words on the cover. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch!

Why? Because at its core, Low Static Rage is art, and the poetry inside speaks for itself. Haeflinger crafted each poem with incredible attention to rhythm, form, lyricism, and tone, and we want his book to feel and look as artistic in the hand as it reads across the page. With that in mind, we feel that Bolsinga’s “Polar Vortex” offers the perfect visual pairing to Haeflinger’s poems. “Polar Vortex” depicts the same stark beauty, tension, and simmering energy as Haeflinger’s poems.

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Episode 8: Therapy Isn’t a Death Sentence with Robert Lashley

Prickly Pear Podcast Episode 8: Episode 8: Therapy Isn’t a Death Sentence with Robert Lashley

It’s been a contemplative spring, friends, one as heavy with emotional processing as the branches of a flowering peony bush (you know, the ones near Chinese Reconciliation Park in Tacoma, with milky-white flowers larger than our fists and a melancholy that drags at the bush). We’ve been absorbed with emotional processing all year, it seems, and our latest podcast interview with Robert Lashley, an exceptionally lyrical and honest poet, was no different.

Robert joined us for a cathartic and open conversation about authenticity in art, the manifestation of grief, and the weight of public shaming. We also dived into respectability politics, gentrification and heritage, and were fortunate that Robert shared his poetry with us throughout the conversation. We hope you enjoy this one, folks, or at the very least, come away with a deeper appreciation for how our complex array of emotion and personal experience inform our art, whether intentional or not. Now grab those headphones, head to Chinese Reconciliation Park, and every now or then, look up from the flowers to watch the fog drift over the water. Drift with it.

*This episode of Prickly Pear Podcast was recorded at Hugo House, a resource and education center for writers, in Seattle. Thank you again to Hugo House for graciously allowing us to record our podcast in one of their cozy workshop spaces. Learn about upcoming writing workshops, readings, and opportunities to utilize writing spaces at HugoHouse.org


Robert Lashley is a writer and activist whose  was a 2016 Jack Straw Fellow, Artist Truat Fellow, and a nominee for a Stranger Genius Award. He has had work published in The Seattle Review of Books, NAILED,  Poetry Northwest, McSweeney’s, and The Cascadia Review. His poetry was also featured in such anthologies as Many Trails to The SummittFoot Bridge Above The Falls, Get Lit,  Make It True, and It Was Written. His previous books include THE HOMEBOY SONGS (Small Doggies Press, 2014), and UP SOUTH (Small Doggies Press, 2017). In 2019, The Homeboy Songs was named by Entropy Magazine as one of the 25 most essential books to come out of the Seattle area. 

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We Come up for Air

Over the last few months, the folks behind Blue Cactus Press (including myself, the publisher, our authors, intern and new conspirators) have kept our heads down and our hands deep in the weeds of publishing work. Today we’re coming up for air, and we’ve got big news to share with you, our much-loved community. Read all about it below!

We broke-up with Amazon

Over the last two and a half years, we’ve learned a lot about the publishing industry, what we can do to conduct business ethically, and how best to support other businesses in the publishing chain. We’re still learning, but one thing we’ve known for a while is that when we utilize Amazon’s services – as a print-on-demand and sales platform – we aren’t serving anyone well. Sure, Amazon is cheap and fast, but every time we utilize it for publishing purposes, we take business away from printers and independent bookstores, no to mention severely lower profits for authors, artists, designers, editors, and our company. So, we’ve officially pulled our titles from all Amazon platforms. Doing this will allow us to better support other small businesses in the industry, including independent bookstores, printers, artists, designers and of course, authors.

Continue reading We Come up for Air
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Episode 7: Abby E. Murray’s Snack Pack PhD Regalia

Prickly Pear Podcast Episode 7: Abby E. Murray’s Snack Pack PhD Regalia

That’s right, Blue Cactus Press snagged an interview with Abby E. Murray, award-winning author, educator, and the 2019 – 2021 Tacoma poet laureate! Abby joined us earlier this spring for a delightfully weird conversation about expensive-AF writing retreats, juggling balls and spinning plates, and figuring out how many snacks one can fit into their PhD regalia (spoiler alert: approximately 8-9 snacks, unless one is lumpy, in which case one can fit many, many more snacks).

More importantly, we chatted about Abby’s incredible, community-centered work at The Selma R Carson Home, where she holds writing workshops for undocumented and unaccompanied boys, and her role at Collateral, a literary journal showcasing creative writing and art exploring the impact of violent conflict and military service beyond the combat zone.

*Learn more about Abby and her subversive plans as Tacoma’s new poetry queen (note: we need no kings) here, or visit the Tacoma Poet Laureate webpage.


Abby E. Murray is the 2019-2021 poet laureate for the city of Tacoma, Washington. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Abby has moved around the country and taught writing in Colorado, Georgia, Alaska, New York and Washington. Her first book, Hail and Farewell, won the 2019 Perugia Press Poetry Prize and was released in September 2019. Previous chapbooks include How to Be Married after Iraq (Finishing Line Press, 2018), Quick Draw: Poems from a Soldier’s Wife (Finishing Line Press, 2012) and Me and Coyote (Lost Horse Books, 2010).

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Episode 6: Good-Ass Hot Chicken ft. José Olivarez and Britteney Black Rose Kapri

Prickly Pear Podcast Episode 6: Good-Ass Hot Chicken ft. José Olivarez and Britteney Black Rose Kapri

Earlier this month, Blue Cactus Press sat down with poetry giants José Olivarez and Britteney Black Rose Kapri for a live podcast recording at King’s Books! José and Britteney joined The Prickly Pear podcast host, Christina Butcher, and local poet Michael Haeflinger, in a discussion about poetry, creative influences, and life as teaching artists and working writers. We also spent a fair amount of time debating the worst best movie sequels of our time, mail fraud and good-ass hot chicken. Oh, and there’s a new emcee in town by the name of Vanilla Sexy …

This episode was live-recorded at King’s Books in Tacoma, Washington state. It was sponsored by Write253, as part of the fourth annual Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB)-Tacoma teen poetry slam festival. LTAB-Tacoma took place in March, 2019, and included youth poets from 13 schools in Pierce and Thurston counties of Washington state.