Student poets get creative tips from the top

Tod MarshallDozens of poetry-minded WSU students took the opportunity to learn firsthand about creative writing from Washington state’s top poetry advocate in two recent events at WSU Pullman.

In “Ask a Poet/Write a Poem” held in the Bundy Reading Room, Tod Marshall, Washington’s poet laureate, led students in exercises for cultivating creativity and nurturing the poetic muse. He shared tips and insights about the writing process and divulged some of his favorite creative prompts.

Later that day, Marshall met with students and community members and read from his poetry and others’ work in a kickoff to the English department’s Open Mic at the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center.

Student Basheera Agyeman with her Civic Poet Award
Agyeman with her Civic Poet Award

The evening event also featured the English department’s presentation of its first Campus Civic Poet Award, which recognizes an undergraduate student’s commitment to poetry and civic engagement. This year’s recipient was Basheera Agyeman, who joined other students and community members in reading from their work.

The free, public events were hosted by the Department of English and cosponsored by Humanities Washington and the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA). The English department hosts a monthly Open Mic at Café Moro in downtown Pullman. Throughout the school year.

“Tod Marshall’s visit provided great opportunities for students and the community to learn more about poetry, to write and read their own creative works, and to hear the voices of poets who take part in the literary life on the Palouse,” said Linda Russo, a poet and clinical associate professor of English at WSU.

Marshall (sWSU students get writing tips from Washington poet laureate Tod Marshall.
Marshall (standing) shares writing tips with WSU students in the Bundy Reading Room.

“I thought it was super cool,” said Sophia Giles, one of Russo’s students who attended the midday workshop. The exercises in developing imagery and exploring the question “what is?” will help her generate creative ideas, Giles said.

“I never had thought about starting an idea that way, but when Tod was going through it, I really liked his idea of writing down things like that.”

About Washington’s poet laureate

Washington’s poet laureate helps build awareness and appreciation of poetry—including the state’s legacy of poetry—through public readings, workshops, lectures, and presentations in geographically diverse areas of the state. Marshall chronicles his travels and the poetry he encounters in various communities in an online blog at

Top photo: Tod Marshall (by Amy Sinisterra).

By Adrian Aumen, College of Arts and Sciences