Happening nearby: State’s poet laureate coming to Edmonds Library Friday

Washington State Poet Laureate Tod Marshal
Washington State Poet Laureate Tod Marshal

Tod Marshall, Washington’s Poet Laureate, is coming to the Edmonds Library.

Marshall will read from his work and answer questions from 5-5:45 p.m., Friday, Sept. 30, at the library, 650 Main St., Edmonds. The Edmonds Bookshop will be at the library with copies of Marshall’s books available for sale.

Marshall is in town to participate as a presenter at the sold-out 2016 Write on the Sound writer’s conference presented by the City of Edmonds Arts Commission that runs through Sunday, Oct. 2. His presentation at the library on Friday is funded by the Friends of the Edmonds Library.

Marshall will also available to sign books at the conference Book Signing Reception from 5:15-6:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 1, in the Edmonds Plaza Room, directly above the library. The reception is free and open to the public.

An English professor at Gonzaga University, Marshall’s two-year appointment as the state’s poet laureate began this year in February. The role includes building awareness and appreciation of poetry through public readings, workshops, lectures and presentations across the state.

And Marshall is taking the statewide part of that mission to heart. He is presenting at the conference on Saturday morning, zipping north to Bellingham for a Poetry Camp, then heading back south for sessions in Edmonds later Saturday and Sunday.

“The previous three laureates have all traveled a great deal and so I think that (a lot of travel) is an expectation,” Marshall said. “Outreach in the arts – in the humanities generally – is something that I’m passionate about, and so although the long hours on the road can get exhausting, I’m always enthused by the encounters with people.”

To get to those encounters and help the miles go by, Marshall said he is getting plenty of podcasts, talk radio, sporting events and ’70s/’80s rock.

“I am continually reminded of how important the arts, the humanities, are to people,” said Marshall, who is attending his first Write on the Sound conference. “Poetry doesn’t just thrive at universities or in schools; from my many encounters with very young students and with old enthusiasts, I know that there is a powerful appetite for art, for philosophy, for history, for poetry – it’s great to encounter that.”

Marshall said the poet-laureate duties are an extension of outreach he’s been doing since his undergraduate days at Siena Heights University in Michigan. “I’ve always felt that education is both continual and for everyone,” he said.

Whatever the setting, Marshall said he tries to take the same respectful approach.

“Whether folks are enrolling in a class or taking time out of their evenings to hear me talk, that gesture is a profound one; I want to make whatever happens worth their time, their attention,” he said.

During his talks in Edmonds, Marshall said he’ll be talking about blurring of lines between different modes of writing. “Poetry, fiction and non-fiction all share so many qualities; I’ll try to help writers see how they can work on all those modes of writing,” he said.

And modes of presentation. Marshall said he believes poetry needs to be both read and heard.

“I think that it needs both forms to thrive. They are two different flowers – think radiant, exuberant sunflower and tiny, quiet orchid,” he said. “You know what, though? Both of them have the opportunity to achieve a similar sort of beauty – sometimes in the hush after a spoken line, there is a hushed echo of how ‘page’ poems function; sometimes in the raucous music of a Hopkins or June Jordan, there is a brash energy that unfolds in the mind.

“We need all of our poetries.”

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