Kerri Webster is the Writer in Residence for 2024-2025. She is the author of four books of poetry: Lapis (Wesleyan University Press, 2022), The Trailhead (Wesleyan, 2018), Grand & Arsenal (University of Iowa, 2012), and We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone (University of Georgia, 2005). She has taught at Washington University in St. Louis and Boise State, and as a Writer in the Schools for The Cabin. The recipient of honors including a Whiting Award, the Iowa Prize, the Lucille Medwick Award and a Chapbook Fellowship from the Poetry Society of America, the Lynda Hull Memorial Prize, an Alexa Rose Foundation Grant, and three Literature Fellowships from the Idaho Commission on the Arts, Webster’s poems have appeared in journals including Poetry, the Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, the Los Angeles Review, Colorado Review, Guernica, Indiana Review, Kenyon Review, Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Poetry Northwest.
According to Webster, “Through poetry I grapple with difficult questions, about place and other pressing matters: what it means to live in a democracy, what the role of the artist is, how to language sorrow regarding the declining natural world while writing toward a different outcome. The position of Writer in Residence will help make possible the time to write, and giving readings and workshops in towns across Idaho will inevitably deepen my understanding of this place I’m from.”
As part of her appointment Webster will travel throughout the state to conduct readings and talk about craft.
Writers in Residences – IdaPost
The Idaho Writer in Residence and the Idaho Commission on the Arts present an annual non-virtual writing event designed to build community, encourage creativity, and provide diversion. For more information about last year’s pen pal project visit IdaPost, Wish You Were Here.
History of the Idaho Writer in Residence
In 1923, spurred by the State Federation of Women’s Clubs and the State PTA, Governor C.C. Moore appointed Irene Grissom as Idaho’s first poet laureate—a life term. A native of Greeley, Colorado, and a graduate of Colorado State Teacher’s College, she wrote three novels and an equal number of verse collections with titles such as Verse of the New West (1931). Grissom lived near Idaho Falls until her death in 1946.
The position was vacant until 1949 when Governor C.A. Robins appointed Sudie Stuart Hager, an Oklahoman educated in Oregon who taught school in Kimberly, Idaho. Her best known collection was Earthbound (1947). Hager was the last of the laureates.
Following her death in 1982, Governor John Evans appointed a five-member panel of Idahoans, who were joined by western poets Brewster Ghiselin, Drummond Hadley, and William Stafford, to select a new laureate. Instead, the panel recommended the selection of a Writer in Residence to serve a two-year term; that the position be open to writers of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction; that the writer be required to give readings during his or her term; and that the writer be paid $5,000 annually. In 1983 their recommendations were adopted by an executive order establishing the Writer in Residence panel.
With guidance from the Governor’s panel, the program was initiated, developed, and administered by the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities. Financial support was contributed by the Idaho Commission on the Arts, the Association for the Humanities (now the Idaho Humanities Council), and private gifts. In June 1986, program responsibility transferred to the Idaho Commission on the Arts. The award was for $10,000 over two years and required twelve readings. In 1998, the Commission extended the term to three years and because of budget cutbacks reduced the award to $4,400 annually. In 2020, the Commission reestablished the two-year term with an annual $5,000 award.
Selection of the writer is made from Idaho applicants whose anonymous writing samples are judged by a panel of out-of-state writers. Submissions are judged 85% for artistic excellence, 15% for contributions to the field. The panel makes recommendations to the Commission and the Governor approves the choice.
Writers in Residence include: Kerri Webster, Boise (2024-2025), CMarie Fuhrman, McCall (2022-2023), Malia Collins, Boise (2020-2021); Christian Winn, Boise (2017-2019); Diane Raptosh, Boise (2014-2016); Brady Udall, Boise (2011-2013); Anthony Doerr, Boise (2008-2010); Kim Barnes, Moscow (2005-2007); Jim Irons, Twin Falls (2002-2004); William Johnson, Lewiston (1999-2001); Lance Olsen, Moscow (1996-1997); Clay Morgan, McCall (1994-1995); Daryl Jones, Boise (1992-1993); Neidy Messer, Boise (1990-1991); Eberle Umbach, McCall (1988-1989); Robert Wrigley, Lewiston (1986-1987); Ron McFarland, Moscow (1984-1985).