Writer’s Voice Spotlight: Peggy Shumaker


CSU, Chico’s Writer’s Voice Reading Series is proud to present the acclaimed writer, Peggy Shumaker. Peggy Shumaker’s most recent book of poems is Toucan Nest, a book of poems set in Costa Rica.  Her lyrical memoir is Just Breathe Normally. Professor emerita from University of Alaska Fairbanks, Shumaker teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop. She is founding editor of Boreal Books, publisher of fine art and literature from Alaska.  She edits the Alaska Literary Series at University of Alaska Press.  Peggy Shumaker was Alaska State Writer Laureate for 2010-2012.

Shumaker’s prose in Just Breathe Normally is rhythmic and lyrical, organized in small chapter sections. Her memoir invites the reader to consider the ways genre can blend, overlap and elevate past a single set of conventions or constraints. Her short prose-shaped chapters, consider the poetic image as well as the story threaded between them. The reader is invited to witness the way writing constantly moves, evolves, and anchors itself to the stories we share with one another.

As a poet, Peggy has published seven poetry books, two chapbooks, and is featured in twelve anthologies. In her most recent book, Toucan Nest: Poems of Costa Rica, Peggy uses the Costa Rican landscape and its inhabitants to remind us how to re-examine our world with new ways of seeing—questioning and observing, as in her poem, “Ramon’s Eyes”:


Ramon directs us

to the roadside stand

where on the last day


he picks up queso,

mango, heart shaped

milk candies. Home.


If you ever fly north,

Ramon, nuestro casa

es su casa.


Ramon’s eyes fill—

Y mi casa es suyos…

is small, my house,


but yours.

Ramon, whose daughter chose

for her quinceanera


six friends from school,

a cake her mama baked,

and her family.


Ramon glances cloudward

for the rains, season

when he rests


in his own nest

after months on the road

barely blinking.


Please join us Thursday, November 14th, 7:30 pm for Peggy Shumaker’s reading in Trinity 100. On Friday, November 15th, 3:00-5:00 pm, she will be part of the Humanities Center discussion, “Looking Both Ways: Translation in the Literary & Visual Arts,” also in Trinity 100. We look forward to seeing you at both of these exciting events.