Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Muse: Washington's New Poet Laureate

Poetry matters . . . to everyone. . . [T]he inner life 
that the arts and humanities can nurture is important
to living deliberately and introspectively. . . I am
interested in how poetry and all of the arts can 
help us find our best selves.
~ Tod Marshall*

Tod Marshall has been appointed the fourth Poet Laureate of Washington. He takes over from Elizabeth Austen (2014-2016), who, in turn, succeeded Kathleen Flenniken (2012-2014). Marshall takes up his post on February 1 and will conclude his appointment on January 31, 2018. The first Poet Laureate was Samuel Green (2007-2009).

For details about the qualifications for and duties of the position, see my post of February 7, 2011.

In addition to giving readings and workshops and attending literary events throughout Washington, Marshall plans to "reinforce a message that. . . [people's] voices, their words, their songs of the self, are important and need to be heard." In an interview at The Stranger, Marshall says in his first year his aim is to gather poems from "well-practiced writers" all over Washington and, in his second year, publish the work in an anthology.

* * * * *

. . . it's best not to know where a poem or essay might
come from and, of course, not to anticipate the next
sudden swerve of where it might go. Cultivate possibility
through a willed variety of influences.**

Tod Marshall, Ph.D., is the author of Bugle (Canarium Books, 2014), awarded the 2015 Washington State Book AwardThe Tangled Line (Canarium Books, 2009), a finalist for a Washington State Book Award; and the debut collection Dare Say (University of Georgia Press, 2002), winner of the Contemporary Poetry Series at the University of Georgia. 

Marshall also has published a collection of interviews with poets, Range of the Possible (Eastern Washington University Press, 2002), and edited an anthology of those same poets' work, Range of Voices (EWU Press, 2005); the former appeared on the New York City Public Library Poetry Book List for 2003.

Marshall's literary reviews have appeared at Boston Review and elsewhere.

[M]y understanding of art is that it should rouse us from 
complacency in the midst of ... duality; if we become accepting 
of the horror, then we are not feeling that horror. 
"Happy" poems give no solace, no shelter, nothing but fodder 
for greeting cards in a  world where people prefer
various narcotic hazes to the brutalities around them. . . .***

Even a cursory look at Marshall's work tells the reader that the poet keeps his eyes wide open to the contradictory, to what lulls instead of awakens in us; that Marshall enjoys playing with myth and the concept of artifice; that he's a connector to and blender of the unlike, and that he is attracted to showing us, through often extraordinary images, our own brokenness and the dark places we dwell. His is a poetry from which we "learn to rip things tenderly apart".

Observing dualities, Marshall can be as searing as he is lyrical and tender, creating through the beauty of his words unforgettable descriptions of violence and suffering. The coherence of his collections, the formal and traditional poetic forms he chooses to use—"a way of constantly reinvigorating my interest in the art", Marshall says—his use, as well, of rhymes, off-rhymes, mixed meters, assonance and alliteration, metaphors, propulsive active verbs, enjambment and various other techniques, all serve to underscore what he wants his readers to see and hear and turn over in the mind to find his poems' meaning.

His subjects range from fatherhood and family (as in The Tangled Line), to the unleashing and spilling forth of violence and cruelty of all kinds (Bugle). His poems also address nature, sound (Bugle) and art (Dare Say), technology, appearance versus reality, what we make of what we destroy but also (again, as in Bugle) what we need to "excavate" from our lives to uncover the possibility of transcendence and transformation.

Marshall's opening and concluding lines are often striking, immediately call us to attention or leave us questioning or surprised, as in these examples.

Another jumper broken by the ground
under the River Bridge. Before the fall
did he consider water, [. . .]
~ from "Never One to Paint Space, I Paint Air" in The Tangled Line

100,000 drones above us, a headline said.
Someone must love us, must be eager to know us, [. . .]
~ from "Bugle" in Bugle

[. . .]
The bears, a mother with two cubs, eat toads
on the beach and twitch their noses at boast
and skiers woo-hooing a spray, rope tight.
They crash badly, without foresight or luck.
~ from "Yeah, That's Us on the Speedboat" in Bugle

Rhubarb shoots
spiking from the muddy yard
like bloody broken bones,

like bad teeth. The leaves
grow wide and poisonous.
The sour stalks

burn calories to digest.

Eat only them, and you will starve.
~ "Extraction" in Bugle

In addition to the book awards and recognition mentioned above, Marshall is the recipient of the Humanities Washington Award for Scholarship and Service (2015) and a Washington Artists Trust Fellowship (2005).

Poems by Marshall can be found in scores of literary periodicals, journals, and magazines, including The American Poetry Review, Burnside ReviewThe Canary, The Colorado Review, The Columbia Poetry Review, Cutbank, The Denver Quarterly, The Georgia Review, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, Narrative, New England ReviewPoetry East, Poetry Northwest, Shenandoah, The Southern Review, Smartish PaceVolt, Whitefish Review, and Willow Springs.

Marshall teaches at Gonzaga University, Spokane, Washington, where he holds the Robert K. and Ann J. Powers Professor Chair of the Humanities and administers the Visiting Writers Series.


Photo Credit: Humanities Washington

All Poetry Excerpts © Tod Marshall

* Quoted from "Gonzaga Professor Tod Marshall Named Washington State Poet Laureate", NewsWise, Gonzaga University, January 8, 2016

** Quoted from "Tod Marshall Recommends...", Poets & Writers, December 30, 2014

*** Quoted from Marshall Interview at The Spokesman-Review (See link below.)

Marcie Sillman, "Washington State's New Poet Laureate Wants to Build Bridges", KUOW, January 7, 2016 (Audio Available)

"Spokane Poet Tod Marshall Named Washington State Poet Laureate", Spark (Online Magazine of Humanities Washington), January 7, 2016

"Gonzaga Poet, Professor Tod Marshall to Receive Humanities Washington Award", Gonzaga University News, April 21, 2015 (A related article, "Gonzaga Prof and Poet Tod Marshall Receives Humanities Washington Award" appeared April 17, 2015, at the Inlander weekly.)

Tod Marshall Profiles Online: Poetry Foundation and Washington Artist Trust

Tod Marshall Poems Online: "Admit Possession to Rent", "Describe Turner to MLK", and "The Book of Failed Descriptions", All at Poetry Foundation; "Never One to Paint Space, I Paint Air" at Poetry Northwest; "Metaphysic, with Applebee's" and "Daedalus Retires" (Excerpts), Both at Washington State Magazine; "Cranes" (Excerpt) at Project Muse; "Lecture on Creation" at Rock & Sling (Pushcart-Nominated Poem, 2015); "Manners" at The Literary Review; "That Ongoing Work" at Washington State Poet Laureate Website; "Eclipse: The Variations" at Iowa Review; "Scars" (Excerpt) at Narrative (Entire Poem Available to Subscribers)

Also listen to the audiocast of Marshall reading "Three Dreams from the Eastside of the Mountains" at KUOW, January 14, 2015.

"Constructing a Poetic Talk", Daily Evergreen, February 23, 2015

Rich Smith, "The New Washington State Poet Laureate Is Funny at Interviews", Interview, The Stranger, January 8, 2016

Carolyn Lamberson, "Book Notes: Book Launch Trumpets Marshall's 'Bugle'", Interview, The Spokesman-Review, December 7, 2014

Chey Scott, "Mining the Mind", Interview, Inlander, December 3, 2014

Angela Sams, "Tod Marshall: A Contemporary Poet and His Work", Interview, Washington State Magazine, November 12, 2010

Devin Baker, "'Bugle' by Tod Marshall", Review, Coldfront, December 1, 2015

Julie Marie Wade, "'Bugle' by Tod Marshall", Review, The Rumpus, March 7, 2015

Tod Marshall Reading at University of Oklahoma, 2010, YouTube Videos 2 and 3

Dare Say: Poems on GoogleBooks

Eastern Washington University Press closed June 30, 2010. Part of the EWU Press catalogue resides at Carnegie Mellon University Press. See the archives. (Marshall's Range of the Possible is listed in Nonfiction Titles.)

University of Georgia Press

Washington Artist Trust (FaceBook)

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