Harshman Is Poet Laureate

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin appointed Marc Harshman of Wheeling as West Virginia’s poet laureate, filling the vacancy left by Irene McKinney who died in February.

Harshman’s appointment is effective immediately.

“I’m pleased Marc has accepted this unique opportunity to serve as poet laureate,” Tomblin said Friday. “Whether it’s one of his children’s stories or a prose poem, Marc’s creativity serves as a reminder of the immeasurable talent of West Virginia’s authors. I hope, in this new capacity, he will continue to challenge himself and inspire a new generation of writers.”

Harshman said he is humbled and honored by the appointment, observing that it is “very humbling to follow in the footsteps of Irene McKinney whom I knew personally – a great poet and marvelous supporter of writers in West Virginia.”

He said Friday, “It is a special pleasure to be named the laureate in a state with such a fine community of great writers in all genres, as well as to reflect upon the great legacy of writers gone before.

“I was especially pleased that the governor’s kind words noted my work for children, as I have always felt that there is really no divide between my work as a poet and my work as a children’s author. There is a succinctness of form that characterizes my work for children that is not dissimilar to my work as a poet,” Harshman said.

As part of the Wheeling Arts Fest on July 14, the new poet laureate will lead a workshop of prose poetry and give a reading with several other Mountain State poets and storytellers at the Ohio County Public Library.

Reflecting upon his selection as poet laureate, Harshman said, “I’m also overcome with a great sense of debt and gratitude to all kinds of folks, from my mother and father and the amazing example they set me as readers and library patrons, to friends and colleagues in the arts who have sustained me throughout the years in all kinds of ways. Thanks to booksellers for their special kindnesses, and librarians everywhere, and news journalists who have likewise been kind and generous.”

Harshman and his wife, Cheryl Ryan Harshman, a librarian, artist and writer, reside in Wheeling. They have a daughter, Sarah, who is attending graduate school in New York.

A poet and storyteller, Harshman has written 11 children’s books including “Only One,” a Reading Rainbow review title on PBS TV, and “The Storm,” a Junior Library Guild selection, a Smithsonian Notable Book for Children, a Children’s Book Council Notable Book for Social Studies and a 1995 Parent’s Choice Award recipient. He has published three volumes of poetry.

Two new children’s titles are forthcoming. He is at work on several other projects in both poetry and children’s books.

He graduated from Bethany College with a bachelor’s degree in 1973, Yale University Divinity School with a master’s degree in religion in 1975 and the University of Pittsburgh with a master’s in English in 1978.