April is National Poetry Month and to celebrate, Arts Downtown, Pierce College and the Puyallup Public Library are hosting Washington State Poet Laureate Tod Marshall — an award-winning poet and the Robert K. and Ann J. Powers Endowed Professor in the Humanities at Gonzaga University.
Marshall will speak at 7 p.m. April 12 at a free event in the Puyallup Public Library meeting rooms, and share with audiences works of poetry from poets across the state and nationally both contemporary and from other time periods. He will also share some of his own poetry from his three collections: Dare Say (2002), The Tangled Line (2009) and Bugle (2014).
Marshall is Washington state’s fourth poet laureate — and the first laureate from Eastern Washington (Marshall lives in Spokane) — appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee in January 2016. His term ends Jan. 31, 2018. The poet laureate position is sponsored by Arts Washington and Humanities Washington and is responsible for building awareness and appreciation for poetry in all its many forms through public readings, workshops and community events throughout the state.
“I want to celebrate the art writ large, focusing on the ways poetry can affect us,” Marshall said. “There are many practitioners of the arts in the state. They may appreciate different forms of it. All of the ways that poetry finds a way into our lives is important.”
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Marshall was born in Buffalo, New York, and grew up in Wichita, Kansas. He studied English and philosophy at Siena Heights University in Michigan, earned his MFA at Eastern Washington University and his PhD at the University of Kansas. He said it was a college professor that turned him toward poetry. He wrote his first poem at age 20.
“I was fortunate to have a wonderful teacher in college who turned me onto specifically how poetry has the potential to connect to readers through rhythm and story and an amazing use of figurative language,” Marshall said.
During the day on April 12, Marshall will engage with students and faculty in the poetry and creative writing departments at Pierce College Puyallup. Following the evening program at the library, Marshall will head to Olympia on April 13 to address a poetry event there where he will unveil the release of “Washington 129,” a collection of poetry representing 129 Washington state poets, and also the number of years Washington will be a state when Marshall exits his position at the end of next January. For the remaining 10 months of his term, Marshall will host poetry readings throughout the state, spotlighting poetry in the book.
Magda Cockerline, a board member with Arts Downtown and a co-chair of the program to bring Marshall, along with Glenda Carino, past president of Valley Arts United, and Beth Swartzbaugh, adult services librarian at the Puyallup library, are pleased to provide this opportunity to the public.
“Our motto has always been ‘arts for all people,’” Cockerline said. “This is a great opportunity for people who love poetry, or who don’t know they love poetry.”
Swartzbaugh said the evening program will be 45 minutes, with an additional 15 minutes at the end for a question and answer session. A reception with refreshments will follow.
“He is a terrific speaker,” Swartzbaugh said. “He has great presence in front of groups, and he engages the audience really well.”