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WORDS | Poet Laureate 

Spokane's first-ever poet laureate plans to champion the city's burgeoning literary scene

click to enlarge Thom Caraway: Spokane's first poet laureate.

Sarah Wurtz

Thom Caraway: Spokane's first poet laureate.

Thom Caraway has a new job — he's your official poet.

As the first-ever Spokane poet laureate, Caraway will be the go-to figure for all things literary in Spokane. He's also going to write about Spokane, something the West Central resident has been doing for years, winning awards for his work along the way.

Caraway, a senior lecturer at Whitworth University, got right to work. After being announced as Spokane's poet laureate over the weekend at the Individual World Poetry Slam championships, Caraway stood before the Spokane City Council meeting on Monday night. After a brief introduction, he read his poem "Ash," a piece packed with imagery, the title of which referred both to the street that runs across his city and vivid images of a fire burning on a winter day.

Caraway, who will be writing and reading more over the course of his two-year term, also is looking to champion a burgeoning literary scene in the city.

"For the poets in the area, the goal is to highlight and showcase them in a way that raises the public's awareness of what's going on around them," says Caraway, 40, who holds a doctorate in English.

Caraway had heard about the new position and encouraged several writer friends to apply. They said he should put his name in the hat, too. And soon, he got the call saying he'd be Spokane's poet laureate.

He's glad to be the champion for poets in a city where there's no shortage of them — but there's sometimes a shortage of recognition for their works.

"There are a lot of poets in this area, and they're all contributing to the local arts community in several different ways. If anything, [the poet laureate] gives Spokane a place to go to know what's going on and who's doing what," he says.

Panel of Poet Laureates • Wed, Oct. 23 at 7 pm • Auntie's Bookstore • 402 W. Main • In addition to Caraway, features Washington poet laureate Kathleen Flenniken, Boise poet laureate Diane Raptosh and U.S. children's poet laureate Kenn Nesbitt

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