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Archive: Arts & Culture / Spokane and North Idaho

Spokane’s Marshall named Washington poet laureate

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 and 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.

“The Washington State Poet Laureate must be more than a talented writer,” said Karen Hanan, executive director of the Washington State Arts Commission, in the news release. “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. He or she must be a relentless advocate for the importance of poetry."

This fall, Marshall won the Washington Book Award for poetry for his 2014 collection, "Bugle." Humanities Washington also 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. His credits include the poetry collections "Dare Say" (2002) and "The Tangled Line" (2009), a finalist for the Washington Book Award. He also published a series of interviews with poets, "Range of the Possible" (2002) and an accompanying anthology "Range of Voices" (2005).

Marshall was born in New York but raised in Wichita, Kansas. He has a Master of Fine Arts degree from Eastern Washington University and a PhD. 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. He follows current laureate Elizabeth Austen, Kathleen Flenniken, who served from 2012-14, and Sam Green, laureate from 2007-09.

Above: Tod Marshall, photographed by Amy Sinisterra

Escape the winter dark for ‘eightysevenminutes’

Above: Participants at a global peace fellowship held in Thailand.

I'm classifying this blog post as "Arts & Culture," not because it has anything particular to do with any of the standard arts — literature, painting, cinema, etc. — but because no other heading quite captures it.

"Life Lessons" is not something Spokane7.com typically addresses with any specificity.

But this is the time of year that begins to weigh on people. It's dark and cold and it feels, to some of us at least, soul-searchingly oppressive. So what better time can be found to focus on the actuality of daily life and our place in it?

That's what my friend Kent Hoffman does on a daily basis. And that's what he has tried to share with his multi-dimensional online essay he's calling, simply enough, "eightysevenminutes." (It has a rather lengthy subtitle, "What we were never told about why we suffer and how to live with tenderness," but that message gradually becomes clear as you scroll through it.)

So, this falls under the "More" part of my blog. Though, truth be told, it sits at the heart of everything I write. And try to be.

If it helps you weather the next couple of months, until spring begins to again revive the Earth, then Hoffman will have achieved at least part of his purpose. To go on from there is up to each of us alone.  

GSI asks you to #BuyLocal on Saturday

While the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) once signaled the start of the Christmas shopping season, many retailers opened their doors on Thursday evening and online discounts have been advertised for weeks.

Our friends at Greater Spokane Incorporated want community members to think differently during the holiday season. If you still have some shopping to do this year, GSI encourages shoppers to #BuyLocal and support local business owners with Small Business Saturday on Nov. 28, 2015.

"Because local shop owners are more likely to do business with other local companies, shopping with a locally owned small business means your money stays right here, in our community, where it matters most," said Heather Hamlin, Small Business Programs & Services Manager at GSI, in a recent press release.

They have been highlighting Small Business Saturday participants on Facebook throughout November, and have outfitted participating businesses with bright blue SHOP SMALL posters, banners and balloons.

Here are a few participating businesses that you may want to visit on Saturday to show your support for local commerce:

For more information, visit greaterspokane.org.

Warm up to Christie’s first novel tonight at Auntie’s

Reports are that, despite the hard work put in by those intrepid Avista workers, many area residents are still without power. I write this post from the warmth of my sister-in-law's house in York, Pa., but I can relate: During Ice Storm of 1996, my house went without power for nine long days.

I began to think about that when I was looking over the Spokane-area public offerings. You know, public events that offer people a chance to get in and out of the cold, even if that isn't the primary reason?

And one I came up with involves Auntie's Bookstore. It's the store's Mystery/Thriller Book Group, which meets tonight at 6 and features a discussion of Agatha Christie's first published novel, 1920's "The Mysterious Affair at Styles." The novel marks the debut of one of Christie's most notable characters, Hercule Poirot.

Here is one of the more sterling critical commentaries, even if it is of the audiobook edition :

The Boston Globe: "Though first released in 1929 this murder mystery is every bit as entertaining now as it was then…This is just one in a series of audio adaptations from Audio Renaissance, the only US publisher approved by the Christie estate to adapt her stories for audio format…Hugh Fraser was well chosen as the narrator…Best of all is the Belgian accent he uses for Poirot. Not only is the accent spot on, but Fraser speaks with a flourish and a lightness in tone that befit the brilliant, if preening, little detective."

Quite a warm reception. As warm as Auntie's itself.

Tis the season to think of Boo Radley’s

Thanksgiving and its unholy mercantile partner Black Friday, are still more than a week away. But some early birds, when they're not arguing with Starbucks and other cultural touchstones about what the real reason for the season is, are already filling out their Christmas gift lists.

Me, I like to wait until Christmas Eve before I give holiday gift purchasing any thought at all.

But whether you buy weeks in advance, or at the last second, one dependable place to find offbeat gifts is Spokane's favorite novelty store, Boo Radley's. Or, if you prefer something a bit more upscale, its partner Atticus Coffee & Gifts just a couple of doors to the south.

Anyway, the sign above — which sits on the sidewalk outside the store named after a Harper Lee character — pretty much says it all. Boo Radley's presents do equal joy.

Veterans Day: This photo needs no cutline

The appropriate response: respectful silence.

Author Ray unveils first novel at Bing tonight

It's not often that a first-time novelist earns words of praise such as the following: It "fuses tragedy into rebirth, covering a timeline of nearly four decades in a narrative as natural, pure, and clear as water flowing from a snow-covered peak."

That is what Kirkus Reviews has to say about "American Copper," a novel written by Shann Ray. "American Copper" will be the focus of a release party at 7 tonight at the Bing Crosby Theater; Ray will appear with another well-known author with regional credentials, Sherman Alexie. Click here for more information.

Actually, calling Shann Ray a "first-time novelist" is a bit of a misnomer. Ray, a licensed clinical psychologist who teaches at Gonzaga University, has written short stories, poetry and nonfiction. So, writing a novel seems like a logical next step.

Logical next steps, though, don't always qualify for sterling reviews.

Author/historian Nisbet to visit Moscow tonight

When I was a kid, history wasn’t so much involved with actual facts as it was in perpetuating myths. Not that myths are bad. But they’re analogous to the truth, not a substitute for it.

Which is why it’s so satisfying – for me, at least – to check out the work of historians/naturalists who delve into actual science to reveal the past. And one of those historians is Jack NIsbet, Spokane-based author of such books as “Visible Bones,” “Sources of the River” and the collection of essays “Ancient Places: People and Landscape in the Emerging Northwest.”

As reviewer Tim McNulty wrote in the Seattle Times, “Nisbet combines historic research with field work, personal interviews, and the kind of local knowledge that is gained only through decades of living in a place. He pays attention to stories told by longtime residents and tribal people, as well as geologists, paleontologists, anthropologists and university researchers.”

Nisbet will share and sign copies of “Ancient Places” at 6 p.m. tonight at Moscow’s BookPeople,  521 S. Main St. He will be joined by Dennis Baird and Diane Mallickan, co-edtors of “Encounters with the People: Written and Oral Accounts of Nez Perce Life to 1858 (Voices from Nez Perce Country).”

The event is free and open to the public.

Oops, Bradley book event is tonight

Asa Maria Bradley's launch of her novel "Viking Warrior Rising" will be held at 7 tonight at Auntie's Bookstore. In a blog post below, I'd written that the event was set for Monday. That was an error.

Everything else, though, is just what Joe Friday would have said: just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts.

Is there life beyond Earth? Hand may have the answer

One of my favorite movie/book genres is science fiction. From "2001: A Space Odyssey" to Alastair Reynolds' "Revelation Space" series, I enjoy it all. And, too, I enjoy learning about the actual science behind the fiction.

Astrobiologist Kevin Hand is someone who works in that science. As a member of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Hand is involved in the search for extraterrestrial life. He is part of the team that is overseeing a planned mission to Jupiter's moon Europa, the ice-bound sphere that some suspect could harbor primitive forms of organic life.

In his presentation "The Search for Life Beyond Earth," which he will present at 7 tonight at the INB Performing Arts Center, Hand will discuss his work — from the Europa mission to his treks across Earth to seek out life in the most inhospitable spots, from ocean depths to the frigid shores of Antarctica.

Hand's presentation is part of a four-part series titled "National Geographic Live!" Future presentations include photographer Steve Minter and “On the Trail of Big Cats: Tigers, Cougars & Snow Leopards” (Feb. 9); photographer Vincent J. Musi on “Where the Wild Things Live” (March 8); and filmmaker/rock climber Cedar Wright on “Sufferfest: 700 Miles of Pain and Glory” (April 19).

Click here for ticket information. And check out the embed below to get a preview of Hand's work.

Meet ‘Viking’ author Bradley tonight

Note: This event is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 4. The date mentioned below is in error.

Used to be that genres of literary fiction were pretty simple. Crime and mystery, Western, romance, "serious," etc. But those days are long past.

For example, one example of a contemporary fiction sub-genre will be on display at 7 tonight at Auntie's Bookstore. Asa Maria Bradley, who splits time between teaching physics at Spokane Falls Community College and writing novels, will read from her paranormal romance "Viking Warrior Rising."

The "paranormal" part involves this (courtesy of Bradley's website): "Leif Skarsganger and his elite band of immortal warriors have been charged to protect humanity from the evil Norse god Loki."

The Viking part? Bradley is originally from Sweden. And who doesn't love Loki?

One way or the other, check out ‘Hour of Lead’

If you live in Spokane, you're not likely to drive the 70-some miles to the Whitman County town of Endicott, even if the purpose was to listen to an award-winning writer read from his book.

So you might not take advantage of Bruce Holbert's reading at 6 tonight at the Endicott Library.

But you know what? You could do the next best thing. You could pick up a copy of Holbert's novel "The Hour of Lead," which won the 2015 Washington Book Award for fiction. Here are some comments about the book from various reviewers:

Adam Woog, Seattle Times: "a portrait of a disappearing way of life, lovingly told in gorgeous and moving prose."

Kirkus Reviews: "Holbert’s work rings out with the hard, clean truths of love and loyalty, family and friendship, all flowering from thickets of poetic language, some simple ('work was praying the same prayer everyday'), some gut-wrenching ('When he finally took the baby from her and held her bloody stillness in his hands, he wept')… a masterpiece."

Carolyn Lamberson, The Spokesman-Review: "Holbert’s writing brings a lyrical sense to even the most gruesome scenes as he traces the history of the Grand Coulee country through the first half of the 20th century. It’s a severe and gorgeous place to visit, and Holbert makes for a fine tour guide."

And if you're feeling ambitious, pick up Holbert's other novel, "Lonesome Animals." You can see a list of all Holbert's writing by clicking here.

Walter’s story in ‘Best American’ debuted at Bedtime Stories 2013

Two years ago, Jess Walter was among the writers invited to participate in Bedtime Stories, the annual fundraiser for Humanities Washington. The four writers that night (the others were Sharma Shields, Shawn Vestal and then Washington poet laureate Kathleen Flenniken) were tasked with writing and reading a new short story based on the theme “Pillow Talk.”

That night, Walter introduced “Mr. Voice,” a story about a girl whose mother marries “Mr. Voice,” a local radio announcer whose basso profundo “narrated our daily life in Spokane, Washington.

Looking for AM/FM-deluxe-turntable-8-track-stereo-speaker sound with psychedelic lights that rock to the music? Come to Wall of Sound Waterbed on East Sprague, next to the Two Swabbies —”

It’s a bittersweet tale about the families we fall into. It’s also full of the Spokane details we love. After hearing the story that night, I walked around for weeks with the old “Two Swabbies – shoes!” commercial running through my head. 

The story was published the fall 2014 edition of Tin House, a literary journal. Soon, it caught the attention of T.C. Boyle and Heidi Pitlor, editors of “The Best American Short Stories 2015.” That esteemed collection, which came out earlier this month, features Walter’s “Mr. Voice” alongside works by Louise Erdrich and Thomas McGuane. 

As Boyle noted in his introduction, “Mr. Voice” was a first-round choice, a story “about what it means to be family, with one extraordinary character at the center of it and a last line that punched me right in the place where my emotions go to hide.”

All of this is meant to remind folks that Bedtime Stories 2015 is coming up. Friday, in fact, at 7 p.m. at the Spokane Club. The theme is “A Hard Day’s Night.” Walter is back this year, as is returning writer Shields. Newcomers to the show Kris Dinnison, whose novel “You and Me and Him” came out this summer, and Sam Ligon, whose new book, “Among the Dead and Dreaming,” is set for release next year. Also, Tod Marshall, the Spokane poet and Gonzaga University professor, will receive the Humanities Washington Award for service and scholarship. My candidate for Spokane’s current Mr. Voice, KSPS general manger Gary Stokes, will emcee. 

Bedtime Stories 2015

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Spokane Club, 1002 W. Riverside Ave.

Cost: $75 (registration is closed)

Info: (206) 682-1770 or www.humanities.org/

Dragons and more are inhabiting Riverfront Park

When you attend a festival that is designed to "celebrate" another culture, it's worth attending that festival with actual members of the culture in question. That's what I was able to do on Friday at the Spokane Chinese Lantern Festival.

My wife and her colleague Ann, both of whom are professors at Gonzaga Law School, arranged the date with two Chinese students who are taking law classes through a special international program. The students, who were introduced to me as Yin and Li, are young (Yin is only 18). But they proved to be able guides as we walked through the various set-ups and they explained the significance of both the Chinese symbols at every display and their overall meaning: the traditional importance of family during marriage ceremonies, the annual thanks given for bountiful harvests, etc.

When it came time to eat, both were polite with our waiter, correcting his pronunciation of the dishes — which he seemed to appreciate. And they seemed to enjoy the food that came with the Jing Cuisine from the Beijing region: Peking Duck with pancakes, Hot & Sour soup, Roujiamo (shredded pork and veggies served on a bun) and a dessert called Sugar-coated Haws. In fact, they seemed to enjoy them far better than I did (especially the steamed rice that came with the meal, which by the time it arrived at our table was both cold and dried out).

What they seemed to most enjoy, though, were the displays that had nothing to do with China at all — the various zebras, giraffes and especially the kangaroos. "Kangaroos aren't from China," Li laughed. "They are from Australia!"

We stopped and took obligatory photos in front of the large dragon, which the young women marveled at. And then we left.

If you haven't yet attended the festival, you now have two extra weeks in which to do so. News just broke that the festival's run has been extended for two weeks. If you do go, see if you can't find some actual Chinese to accompany you.

They'll love the kangaroos.

Religious author Young to read at Auntie’s

The Canadian author William Paul Young will present his latest book, "Eve," at 7 tonight at the Bing Crosby Theater. Young's previous books include "The Shack" and "Cross Roads." Admission is $3.

Click here to read (or hear) an interview with Young on National Public Radio.