5 Poems, 5 Drinks, 5 Bars (A Tipsy National Poetry Month Celebration)

A.J. Rathbun
best cocktails for national poetry month seattle magazine
Reading Ed Skoog at Belltown's Rob Roy

While I’m a big believer in being poetic and reading poems all year long (usually with a drink in one hand), April is National Poetry Month, so now more than ever you should be delving into poems. I know it’s hard for some people to get started--which poem should I choose today?--so I have a couple of suggestions. Also, since poems traditionally pair well with a good cocktail, and since reading poems in bars is one of my favorite things, I’m matching up my poem suggestions with specific bars and specific drinks in those bars. Bonus: I’ve chosen bars that I think are especially poetic in the first place.

Poem: "After the Point of No Return"
Poet: David Wagoner
Drink: The Point of No Return
Bar: Liberty

David Wagoner is one of Seattle finest’s poets for many years running. His 2013 book, After the Point of No Return, containing the poem of the same name, is a fantastic pick up, vivid with an intense feeling of place. As Liberty is a fine place of its own, and has been a top Seattle cocktail bar for many years running, drinking a Point of No Return (which is vivid with gin, Chartreuse, absinthe, lime, rosemary and fire) while reading the poem, or directly after, is a fine match.

Poem: "South Italy, Remote and Stone"
Poet: Richard Hugo
Drink: Italiano
Bar: Artusi

Of course when catching up on your poetry reading this April you should spend time with Richard Hugo, renowned Washington-raised poet and inspiration for the local writing center, the Richard Hugo House. While “South Italy, Remote and Stone” isn’t one of his best known poems, it’s great, naturally, and ideal for reading after a hard day of work. Balance it out with a serious, but seriously refreshing, drink at Italy-in-Seattle bar Artusi: the Italiano, a revitalizing beverage featuring stalwart Italians Campari, Cynar and Fernet Branca along with soda water.

Poem: "Flight"
Poet: Linda Bierds
Drink: Local Liquor Flight
Bar: Clever Bottle

Amazing poet Linda Bierds went to and then taught at the University of Washington for many years and lives on Bainbridge Island, making her a local poetic treasure. This means reading one of her lyrical and beautifully scientific poems while sipping on a Local Liquor Flight that includes Oola gin, Mischief whiskey, and Batch 206 vodka (all local distillers) is a good match. What makes it perfect is the cool, cozy and breathy atmosphere of the Clever Bottle.

Poem: "The Kansas River, Also Called the Kaw"
Poet: Ed Skoog
Drink: Leaf & Silo
Bar: Rob Roy

This may appear the farthest reach between poem and drink. But local-whiz-kid poet Ed Skoog has many siloes in his background, being from Kansas, and a fair amount of leaves, and this poem of Topeka from his book Mr. Skylight – like most of Skoog’s poems – rolls off your tongue with layers of flavor that inspire a second, third, and fourth reading, which is an apt description of the Leaf & Silo at the Rob Roy, one of my current favorite drinks. After I had this lovely bourbon, Cocchi Americano, Branca Menta, caraway tincture, and spearmint extract combo for the first time, I instantly wanted another.

Poem: "The Convergence of the Twain"
Poet: Thomas Hardy
Drink: RMS Titanic
Bar: Essex

For the last poetic suggestion, step away from Washington state and the last hundred years with this poem by Thomas Hardy, written for a charity event that  raised funds after the Titanic tragedy. It’s more classical but still wonderfully readable, and goes down as smoothly as Essex's drink, the RMS Titanic, with its combination of bourbon-barreled Big Gin, saffron falernum, grapefruit bitters and seawater. Drinking it while reading and sitting beneath the wonderful whale-print wallpaper at Essex is also swell.