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Ralph Salisbury

  • 1926-2017

October 12, 2017

Yesterday, I got the sad news that Ralph Salisbury, Professor Emeritus and once Director of Creative Writing, passed away at home on Monday evening.

When I came to direct the Program in the Fall of 1989, Ralph was among those who welcomed me warmly. He was still teaching and advising, directing a couple of theses and generally being a cheerful presence as he was about to retire the following year.

With him goes a lot of what the Program had been, back since the Sixties and through the late Eighties. With John Haislip, Salisbury created the character of that initial MFA—free-wheeling, interdisciplinary, rambunctious, open to innovation and nuttiness both. Two of the graduates during that time were poets Brigit Pegeen Kelly and Olga Broumas, both of whom won publication as Yale Prize winners. Another was Lawson Fusao Inada, once Poet Laureate of Oregon and the first Japanese American poet published by a major New York Press.  And another the poet Ira Sadoff, the poet at Colby College.


—Garrett Hongo, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Creative Writing


Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing and Literature, Ralph began his career at the University of Oregon in 1960. Early on he directed the MFA in Creative Writing program (which he helped to develop) in addition to serving as editor-in-chief of the Northwest Review for six years. He also edited A Nation Within, an anthology of contemporary Native American writing (Outriggers Press, New Zealand) and won many accolades in poetry, including a Rockefeller Foundation Residency at the Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio, Italy; the Chapelbrook Award; the Northwest Poetry Award; three Fulbright professorships to Germany and Norway; and an Amparts (USIS) lectureship in India.

Click here to read more in The Register-Guard (Sunday, October 29, 2017).


“We have to go,” I said at last,
tensed for the protest,” There are cookies, there is milk—
there is so much to talk about.”

“But we have a lot to do, I had to say.
It was true.  Still is.

A last breath years, months, days, or moments away,
I say—that shortening of “God be with you,”—“Goodby.”

—Ralph Salisbury,
from “Red Blossoms, Black Stems, a Final Picking”



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