The Arts Issue - WA129, Poems from Our State

WA Poet Laureate Tod Marshall

September 04, 2017

By Rajah Bose
Photo by Zack Berlat (’11)

Tod Marshall

role: Professor of English at Gonzaga, Wayfinder
keys to inspiration: Wide reading – history and philosophy, poetry and novels, art criticism and religious theory – and visits to unwires, nondigitalized spaces (mountains, forests, streams)
spokane faves: Nance Van Winckel, Garric Simonsen, Mary Farrell.  So many great writers and artists in Spokane!

 WA Poet Laureate Tod Marshall

It isn’t as much a poetry collection as it is Google maps in verse. The only limitation to this word atlas is the physical boundary of its creators: There are 129 writers from Washington, one for every year of statehood.

Tod Marshall, the book’s editor, nears the home stretch of his two years as Washington state Poet Laureate with this book. During that time, he met hundreds of writers, looking in every town and city, and received more than 2,000 submissions. A quick glance at the contributor cities shows that he left little, if any, of the state unturned.

Sherman Alexie opens with a piece that alone is worthy of the book’s price. Also included are poems by a few names you might recognize: Linda Bierds, Christopher Howell, Richard Kenney, Heather McHugh, Laura Read, Tom Robbins, Katrina Roberts, Derek Sheffield, Martha Silano, Ellen Welcker, Nance Van Winkle, Katharine Whitcomb, Maya Jewell Zeller, and all three former Washington Poet Laureates: Samuel Green (2007-09), Kathleen Flenniken (2012-14) and Elizabeth Austen (2014-16). Gonzaga alumni Sierra Golden (’09), whose poetry was featured in the last issue of Gonzaga Magazine, and Maria Mills (’15) are also featured.

“I did my best to choose a wide range of voices, subjects and poetics; in this book, you’ll find poignant elegies, powerful eclogues, snappy sonnets, incisive haiku, memorable dirges, and light-hearted verses that might bring forth a smile… ” 
Tod Marshall from the WA129 introduction

Alongside those poets are more than a hundred other brilliant writers from all corners of the state. Included are reflections on mountains and remembrances on falling water, odes to Tim O’Brien and Tony Hoagland, pages that seem full with fewer than two dozen words and full stories told in one sentence that fills a page.

When he is completed with his run as poet laureate in January 2018, no doubt Washington will miss Marshall’s regular appearances and his unrelenting inspiration to the state. Fortunately he left us with this map, and if the poets in this book are any sign of what is to come, we will not need to look far to fill his vacancy.

BUY WA129 AT THE ZAGSHOP or independent bookstores throughout Washington.

The poet laureate program is sponsored by:
Humanities Washington and Arts Washington