Award-Winning Author, Bethany College Graduate Marc Harshman Named West Virginia Poet Laureate

BETHANY, W.Va. — Bethany College graduate Marc Harshman ’73 has been selected as West Virginia’s poet laureate — an honor recently announced by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, who cited Harshman’s creativity and contributions to the “immeasurable talent of West Virginia’s authors.”

Harshman has published 11 children’s stories and numerous poems for children and adults, drawing on his experiences growing up in Indiana and living in Appalachia’s foothills along the Ohio River. With vivid detail and sensitivity, his work demonstrates a deep reverence for the local landscape and explores issues such as community, moving, nature and gardening, addiction and peace.  

“Not only does Marc possess incredible talent as a writer, but he also has a unique ability to connect his readers to the natural beauty and culture of our region,” said Bethany President Scott D. Miller. “As a liberal arts college, the literary arts are of great importance to Bethany. We’re pleased that alumni like Marc are making such valuable contributions to the field and inspiring others to further their own appreciation of literature, as both writers and readers.”

He earned his bachelor’s degree in literature from Bethany in 1973. He went on to receive a master’s degree in religion from Yale University and a master’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.

Harshman’s awards include the West Virginia English Teacher of the Year, Parent’s Choice Award, and West Virginia Arts Commission Fellowship in Poetry. His poems have also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His book “Only One” was a Reading Rainbow review title on PBS TV. “The Storm” was selected for the Junior Library Guild and as a Smithsonian Notable Book for Children. He received the Ezra Jack Keats/Kerlan Collection Fellowship from the University of Minnesota for research on Scandinavian myth and folklore.

His children’s books have been published in Swedish, Spanish, Korean and Danish.

Harshman maintains a profound commitment to sharing his love of the written word and presents regularly at workshops and seminars. He has nurtured the potential of generations of writers through his work in the region’s schools, having served as both teacher and guest artist. His favorite line from Thomas Merton, he says on his web site, is the following: “The peculiar grace of a Shaker chair is due to the fact that it was made by someone capable of believing that an angel might come and sit upon it." Harshman remarked, “I like to have that chair in mind when I think of our children, their chairs, and the tables around which they gather. Which of us knows how precious each of those lives may be?”

Harshman is a long-time Wheeling resident, where he lives with his wife Cheryl Ryan, who is also a writer. They have a daughter, Sarah. His web site is

Poet, storyteller and children's author Marc Harshman was named West Virginia's poet laureate on Friday by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

Harshman, a Wheeling resident and former West Virginia English Teacher of the Year, has published 11 children's books. He has received awards including the Smithsonian Notable Book for Children prize and the Parent's Choice Award.

Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.