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Gonzaga professor Tod Marshall named Washington’s poet laureate

Spokanes own Tod Marshall has been selected as the Washington state poet laureate for 2016-2018. His term begins on February 1, and he succeeds the current laureate, Elizabeth Austen. (Humanities Washington)
Spokanes own Tod Marshall has been selected as the Washington state poet laureate for 2016-2018. His term begins on February 1, and he succeeds the current laureate, Elizabeth Austen. (Humanities Washington)

Tod Marshall, a Spokane poet and professor at Gonzaga University, has been named Washington’s state poet laureate by Gov. Jay Inslee.

His two-year term kicks off on Feb. 1. He is charged with building awareness and appreciation of poetry through appearances around the state, according to a news release from Humanities Washington, which co-sponsors the poet laureate program with the Washington state Arts Commission.

The job requires more than writing skills.

“We’ve been fortunate that all our past poets laureate –and now Tod – have been willing to travel the state meeting communities face-to-face,” Karen Hanan, executive director of the Washington state Arts Commission, said in the news release. “He or she must be a relentless advocate for the importance of poetry.”

It’s that desire for advocacy that drove Marshall to apply for the post.

“I believe in the mission of outreach connected to the arts,” Marshall said Thursday. “The laureate’s job is to try to take poetry out to the citizens of the state and celebrate the many ways that poetry can affect people, both through the ways that reading a poem can expose us to how other people see the world and how we can better understand ourselves, and also through the creation of poetry. It can help us find our own voices.”

This fall, Marshall won the Washington Book Award for poetry for his 2014 collection, “Bugle.” Humanities Washington awarded him the 2015 Humanities Washington Award for Scholarship and Service. He also is the Robert K. and Ann J. Powers Endowed Professor in the Humanities at Gonzaga.

Marshall was born in New York but raised in Wichita, Kansas. He has a master’s degree in Fine Arts from Eastern Washington University and a doctorate from the University at Kansas. He has been teaching at Gonzaga for more than 15 years.

Marshall is the fourth Washington poet laureate and the first who lives in Eastern Washington.

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