K A I C O G G I N
Kai Coggin (she/her) is the inaugural Poet Laureate of the City of Hot Springs, and author of four collections, most recently Mining for Stardust (FlowerSong Press 2021). She is a Certified Master Naturalist, a K-12 Teaching Artist in poetry with the Arkansas Arts Council, an CATALYZE Grant Fellow with the Mid-America Arts Alliance, and host of the longest running consecutive weekly open mic series in the country—Wednesday Night Poetry.
Recently awarded the Don Munro Leadership in the Arts Award, the 2021 Governor’s Arts Award, twice named “Best Poet in Arkansas” by the Arkansas Times, and nominated for Arkansas State Poet Laureate and Hot Springs Woman of the Year, her fierce and powerful poetry has been nominated six times for The Pushcart Prize, as well as Bettering American Poetry 2015, and Best of the Net 2016, 2018, 2021— awarded in 2022. Ten of Kai’s poems are going to the moon with the Lunar Codex project, and on earth they have appeared or are forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Best of the Net, Cultural Weekly, SOLSTICE, Bellevue Literary Review, TAB, The Night Heron Barks, Sinister Wisdom, Lavender Review, Tupelo Press, and elsewhere. Coggin is Editor at large at SWWIM and is Associate Editor at The Rise Up Review. She also serves on the Board of Directors of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. She lives with her wife and their two adorable Fu dogs in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas.
A Deeper Look:
Kai Coggin is a widely published poet and the author of four poetry collections. PERISCOPE HEART, her stunning debut, was released by Swimming with Elephants Publications, (2014). Her second book is entitled Wingspan, a deeper dive into the soul and sound of this woman, this activist, this lover, this spirit. Wingspan was released on Earth Day, April 22, 2016, by Golden Dragonfly Press. 2017 brought the poet off the page into sound, with the much anticipated release of her debut spoken world album SILHOUETTE. Her third book INCANDESCENT (2019) brings fire and passion to combat the darkness of our times, especially as an act of poetic protest against authoritarian tyranny and fascism. She is proud to be published by Little Rock publisher Sibling Rivalry Press to bring this light of resistance, rebellion, and beauty into the world. And as an act of survival during the pandemic, with much excitement, Kai's newest collection MINING FOR STARDUST was released from FlowerSong Press November 11, 2021. This is her most powerful and meaningful collection to date, a historical archive of the pandemic with inner and outer world survival, political resistance, and personal striving at the helm.
Kai was born on New Year's Day 1980 in Bangkok, Thailand. She was raised in Southwest Houston (Alief), and is currently a happy Arkansas Master Naturalist living and writing in a valley within 3-million-acres of the Ouachita National Forest in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas.
Before transitioning to a career in writing, Kai was first a 9th and 10th grade English teacher, who took her students outside for poetry and drum circles on the lawn, and built a life-size balcony, and meter-stick-aluminum-foil-wrapped swords in her classroom for Romeo and Juliet. People wondered about her methods… but the students learned… and loved her. She convinced her students of the power of their own writing with a poetry and persuasive writing project that culminated with a visit from the internationally acclaimed author of The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros.
Kai believes that learning is a personal journey for everyone, that cannot be constricted and confined by the classifications and labels of standardized testing. She strives to, someday, help change the paradigm of education as a whole. In Houston, despite (or because of) her radical methods, she was recognized as Teacher of the Year, District Secondary Teacher of the Year, and was a top five finalist for Regional Teacher of the Year out of 85,000 teachers.
Presently, with her focus shifted more towards poetry, Kai is a Teaching Artist of Creative Writing and Instructional Specialist in poetry curriculum on the Arts in Education Roster for the Arkansas Arts Council and Arkansas Learning for the Arts. She was recently awarded the 2021 Governor's Arts Award for Arts in Education, for her work in bringing poetry to over 3500 K-12 students a year around the natural state. She also teaches adult creative writing classes online with national writing organizations.
On February 1st 2023, at the 34th anniversary of Wednesday Night Poetry, Pat McCabe, Mayor of Hot Springs appointed Kai as the very first Poet Laureate for the City of Hot Springs, by official proclamation. Her first official act as Poet Laureate was to kick off April's National Poetry Month with a featured reading from internationally-acclaimed poet and author Jane Hirshfield at WNP. View the full reading here.
Kai holds a Bachelor of Arts in Poetry and Creative Writing from Texas A&M University. She lives her life steeped in the values and perspectives of the Ancient Wisdom. She writes poems of love, spirituality, the striving of the soul, feminism, race, sexuality, LGBTQIA+ rights, global injustice, metaphysics, and the natural world. Everything that she writes is infused with Heart and Light.
Kai knows that words hold the potential to create monumental and global change, and she uses her words like a sword of Beauty. She can be found most Wednesdays at Kollective Coffee + Tea hosting Wednesday Night Poetry in person or virtually through the pandemic, reading her poems into an open mic, hoping the wind carries her words out to the world.
“Kai Coggin’s heart and soul shine out in every poem she writes - blazingly, brilliantly, fiercely, affectingly… I always feel in a better mood when I read anything by her.”
Naomi Shihab Nye, Young People’s Poet Laureate, Poetry Foundation