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Aesthetics, community...chickens?
This Whitworth poet can't be penned in

Thom Caraway sits behind a tablet computer in a classroom. He smiles as he talks.On Senior English Lecturer Thom Caraway's website is a list of things he values that includes, in no particular order, community, typography, vinyl, Jesus, chickens, a dearth of adverbs, bacon and passionate artists.

Caraway himself is a passionate artist: his poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and literary journals; he is the author of the poetry collection A Visitor's Guide to North Dakota; he is co-editor of the anthology Railtown Almanac; and he is the founder and publisher of Sage Hill Press.

His love of poetry and his devotion to Spokane led to him being named the city's inaugural poet laureate, for 2014-16. He also serves on the board of directors for Project Hope Spokane, an urban farm job-training program for youth in the West Central and Emerson-Garfield neighborhoods.

At Whitworth, Caraway teaches creative writing, editing and book design, and he is editor-in-chief of the university's literary journal, Rock & Sling, whose success depends upon a crew of dedicated students.

"There are very few national magazines staffed by undergraduates, so our students have tremendous experience when they enter the job market or apply to graduate schools," Caraway says. "They hold advanced ideas about aesthetics and how they apply to actual texts, and the students are able to form coherent arguments about their ideas."

The staff's Wednesday editorial meeting is Caraway's favorite day of the week, as students engage in high-level debate about whether to accept a submission to the journal. "It's a weighty responsibility," Caraway says, "and the students are always up to the challenge."

At his busy home, whenever possible, Caraway retreats to the writing studio he created above his family's garage (which overlooks a chicken coop in the backyard). "I stenciled text on the wall, so when I'm at my desk I look up and see, 'Write more poems,'" he says. "That keeps me focused. Usually."