Q and A with Ellensburg Poet Laureate Marie Marchand


Marie Marchand poses with her Ellensburg City Poem “This Valley, Our Cradle” at its unveiling. Photo courtesy of Marie Marchand

Katherine Camarata, Lead Editor

Tell us a little about your background and what led you to be the poet that you are today. 

Writing poetry helps me process the world around and within me. Since high school, poetry has been a safe place where I can explore, discover, question, resist, wrestle, and accept. It’s been an invaluable part of my healing journey. Poetry’s hopeful, salvific value is part of what I seek to share during my term as Ellensburg Poet Laureate. If you haven’t found your window or doorway into poetry yet, keep reading and writing. I truly believe that no matter where you are in life, or what you do for a living, poetry can shelter and inspire you.   

What does the position of Ellensburg Poet Laureate entail, and what’s your favorite part of the job?  

The Poet Laureate’s role is to enhance the presence and appreciation of poetry by making it accessible to everyone. I’ve given readings at Pacifica Senior Living, Ellensburg High School, the library, and Gallery One. I’ve also led poetry nature walks at local state parks. My favorite aspect is making connections with creative folks. I wrote my poem “Witnesses of Dawn” for the CWU Chamber Choir and their director Dr. Nicole Lamartine. They performed the poem at their candlelight concert last December, which was magical. They also performed at the unveiling of the City Poem in April. I love this collaboration! 

When writing the Ellensburg City Poem “This Valley, Our Cradle,” what was that process like?  

At first, I was intimidated by the idea of writing something for 20,000 people. But, as California Poet Laureate Lee Herrick reminded me, poetry has a transcendent and unifying power. During the pandemic, I spent time walking the land, which is a theme in “This Valley, Our Cradle.” While it’s impossible to capture every historical detail, I wanted the poem to express the spirit of the land and people. I did a lot of research and am grateful to those who shared stories and perspectives. I’ve learned so much about the ecology and history of the area through the process.  

Favorite passages or messages in the Ellensburg City Poem, “This Valley, Our Cradle”?  

People seem to like the metaphors of our inner jewel and our inner radiance. Some have reflected on the message of inclusion that the poem closes on. I’m glad these are resonating with folks. One woman came up to me and remarked, “This poem makes me love Ellensburg.” This filled my heart with joy! “This Valley, Our Cradle” seeks to inspire that kind of pride and affection for this beautiful place we call home. 

 What do you hope to see for the future of poetry in Ellensburg?  

One of my dreams is for Ellensburg to have a Poetry Center where people can carve out a space to write poetry. Like the Sims Library of Poetry in LA, there could be workshops and performances, along with a library dedicated to poetry. When Ross Gay spoke at CWU, he talked a lot about the importance of connection, which is a theme throughout his poems and essays. A local Poetry Center would boost connection and community for many.  

See full City Poem “This Valley, Our Cradle” here: https://ci.ellensburg.wa.us/1181/City-Poem