Tree Swenson

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Tree Swenson (born Holly Swenson, 1951) is the executive director of Richard Hugo House, the Seattle-based non-profit writing center.[1] Swenson is involved with poetry, independent publishing, and American literary foundations. She was a co-founder of Copper Canyon Press.[2]

Swenson met poet Sam Hamill at UCSB and, in 1972, they formed Copper Canyon Press, an independent press based in Port Townsend, Washington, that is dedicated to publishing poetry.[3]

Swenson was the publisher and executive director of Copper Canyon Press, and edited and designed books. She helped publish the work of hundreds of poets, including Nobel Prize winners Pablo Neruda and Vicente Aleixandre, and Pulitzer Prize winner W.S. Merwin.[4]

From 1984 to 1993 she was the art director of Graywolf Press, and in 1994, she returned to school for a master's in public administration at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.[5]

In 1997, she became director of programs for the Massachusetts Cultural Council.[5]

Swenson became executive director of the Academy of American Poets in April 2002 and led this non-profit organization for ten years.[6]

She is currently the executive director at Richard Hugo House, a writing non-profit in Seattle named for esteemed poet Richard Hugo.[7]

Swenson's leadership of Hugo House has been publicly criticised,[8] most notably in an open letter[9] by prominent writers of color, including Washington's former Poet Laureate, Claudia Castro Luna, and signed by 120 Hugo House students, teachers, members, and fellows.

Swenson in response published a statement acknowledging that "Hugo House is a white-led organization with a majority-white staff and board; we are located in a majority-white neighborhood and have a majority-white clientele....Hugo House has benefited from its position of privilege among these unjust systems."[10] A week later, Swenson hired a white person as development director without a public search process, and was criticized for effectively shutting people of color out of the position.[11] Writers have called for Swenson to resign.[12]


  1. ^ "A book festival that means something at Seattle University".
  2. ^ "Mission & History" – via
  3. ^ Preusch, Matthew (July 11, 2008). "Old Port Town's Appeal Reaches Beyond Northwest" – via
  4. ^ Rich, Motoko (April 20, 2009). "Pleased by His Pulitzer, Surprised by Poetry" – via
  5. ^ a b Gannon, Mary (May 1, 2002). "Swenson Named Academy Director" – via
  6. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. (February 8, 2002). "Poetry Academy, After Budget Uproar, Gets New Chief" – via
  7. ^ "Hugo House in Seattle - A Place for Writers". Hugo House. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  8. ^ Reyna, Luna (February 19, 2021). "Hugo House's Passive Response to Racism Prompts Writers to Address the Violence of the Past" – via
  9. ^ Renee, Anastasia; Castro Luna, C.; Miscolta, D.; Tahat, D.; Keith, J.; Narayan, S.; Taw, H. (July 14, 2020). "Letter to Hugo House from Writers of Color and Allies".
  10. ^ Swenson, Tree (December 17, 2020). "Racism at Hugo House: A Public Acknowledgement" – via
  11. ^ "A Demand for Racial Equity at Hugo House: How It's Going and Next Steps". February 6, 2021.
  12. ^ Macdonald, Moira (February 13, 2021). "Writers Call for Resignation of Hugo House's Director, Expressing Concerns About Structural and Systemic Racism at the Seattle Writers' Center" – via

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