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Garrison, Philip 1942–

Garrison, Philip 1942–


Born April 19, 1942. Education: University of Missouri at Columbia, B.A., 1963, M.A., 1964; University of Iowa, one year of Ph.D. coursework.


Home—Ellensburg, WA. Office—Central Washington University, 400 E. University Way, Ellensburg, WA 98926. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer, essayist, poet, translator, community activist, and educator. University of Texas at El Paso, instructor, 1965-67; Central Washington University, Ellensburg, professor of English, 1967-2007; emeritus professor of English, 2007—. Universidad Nacional Autónoma, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, instructor, 1991; Universidad Latina de América, Morela, Michoacán, Mexico, instructor, 2002, 2004. APOYO (a volunteer nonprofit advocacy group), cofounder, 1995 (served as president).


Associated Writing Programs Award for creative nonfiction, 1990, and Washington State Governor's Award for literary excellence, 1992, both for Augury; San Francisco Poetry Prize finalist and Pulitzer Prize finalist, for Away Awhile.



Augury, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1991.

Waiting for the Earth to Turn Over, University of Utah Press (Salt Lake City, UT), 1996.

Because I Don't Have Wings: Stories of Mexican Immigrant Life, University of Arizona Press (Tucson, AZ), 2006.


The Deer Paintings, Prensa de Lagar Press (Portland, OR), 1969.

A Woman and Certain Women, Trask House Press (Portland, OR), 1971.

Lipstick, Grosseteste Review Books (Staffordshire, England), 1974.

Lime Tree Notes, Grosseteste Review Books (Staffordshire, England), 1975.

Away Awhile, Lynx House Press (Cambridge, MA), 1985.

Contributor to books, including Between Fire and Love: Contemporary Peruvian Writing, Mississippi Mud Press (Portland, OR), 1980; and Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, Whereabouts Press (Berkeley, CA), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including North American Review, Georgia Review, Fourth Genre, Colorado Review, Puerto del Sol, High Plains Literary Review, Witness, Creative Nonfiction, Willow Springs, Iowa Review, Southwest Review, and Northwest Review.


Poet, essayist, and educator Philip Garrison is emeritus professor of English at Central Washington University. His lengthy academic career found him teaching in the United States as well as at Central Washington University's programs in areas throughout Mexico, including Guadalajara, Mexico City, Vera Cruz, and Merida. As an educator, Garrison's work focused on topics such as American and world literature, Chicano literature, multicultural education, and the Latin American novel. His own academic work focused on creative writing and British and American poetry of the nineteenth and twentieth century, as noted in his curriculum vitae on Philip Garrison's Web Pages. Garrison has translated the work of several Spanish-speaking authors for inclusion in anthologies and journals.

Garrison is also a dedicated community activist concerned with the welfare of the Mexican community in Central Washington. He is a cofounder of APOYO, a grassroots volunteer organization offering interpretation services and general advocacy for some 400 persons a month, stated a biographer on the University of Arizona Press Web site. APOYO also provides its Mexican clients with a food and clothing bank.

Augury, Garrison's first collection of essays, won the Associated Writing Program award for creative nonfiction in 1990 and a Governor's Writers Award from the Washington Commission for the Humanities and the Washington State Library in 1992. In this collection of often deeply personal essays, Garrison remaps the world from a physical to a mental landscape punctuated by "odd discoveries, haunting juxtapositions, and shifting perceptual boundaries," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer. In one essay, Garrison considers his father, recently dead from cancer, and the relationship they had built over the years. In another, he joins a group of Huichol Indians on a spiritual quest through the Mexican desert. Another essay considers Garrison's concept of the Rio Grande River as a stark physical border between poverty and affluence. He muses on the meaning and purpose of ritual, superstitions, and folk beliefs, profiles the aging poet Walt Whitman, and writes about the Grand Coulee Dam. Within these fifteen essays, wrote the Publishers Weekly critic, Garrison "is in perfect control of his medium."

His second essay collection, Waiting for the Earth to Turn Over, contains Garrison's consideration of the sometimes stereotypical, sometimes archetypal aspects of the American West. The West of the post-Cold War era is considerably different from the mythic land of cowboys and gunslingers, and Garrison explores these differences with resonances of both new world and old.

The essays in Garrison's third collection, Because I Don't Have Wings: Stories of Mexican Immigrant Life, concentrate on the often difficult, displaced lives of Mexican immigrants living in the Central Washington and Cascade Mountain areas. Garrison's experiences with the advocacy organization APOYO provide realism and truth to the stories he relates. He looks at the many centuries of history that are packed into the immigrants' lives, from their origins in Michoacan to the intricate customs that give their lives meaning, to their modern struggle to keep their important religious and cultural traditions alive. He relates episodes of hardship and horror in the nature of failed border crossings, difficult living conditions, backbreaking labor, and separation from their homeland. Garrison identifies at their core a complicated belief called "el pinche mexicano, a state of mind that means one is simultaneously cursed and blessed," and which he believes accounts for their persistence and resiliency in a foreign land, observed Deborah Donovan in Booklist. "Offering glimpses of offhand remarks and family spats and plain gossip, it presents the complicated emotional life of those who immigrate," commented a Get Lit! Web site reviewer. The significant insights on this community that Garrison offers, commented a Reference & Research Book News critic, are "rarely presented in television and print journalism."



Booklist, March 1, 2006, Deborah Donovan, review of Because I Don't Have Wings: Stories of Mexican Immigrant Life, p. 50.

Journal of the West, fall, 2006, Jessie L. Ambry, review of Because I Don't Have Wings, p. 84.

Library Journal, June 15, 1991, Mary Margaret Benson, review of Augury, p. 77.

Publishers Weekly, May 10, 1991, review of Augury, p. 268.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2006, review of Because I Don't Have Wings.


Get Lit! Authors, (April 10, 2008), author profile.

Philip Garrison's Web Pages, (April 10, 2008), curriculum vitae of Philip Garrison.

University of Arizona Press, (April 10, 2008), faculty profile.

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