Shann Ray:

  What is the West

"I understand the West to be an essence, the spirit of God moving over the waters, a place of mountains, rivers, sky, and plains, a home of soul, the embodiment of ultimate expansion in people, a place robust with violence, a vessel of unconditional forgiveness and atonement, a humbling landscape, a land where mercy and justice meet one another, a place where truth and beauty kiss each other.  Sacredness exists in the wilderness of landscape, animals, forests, wildlife, and in the wilderness of the human heart.  The West summons this sacredness." 

Shann Ray grew up in Montana and spent part of his childhood on the Northern Cheyenne reservation. His work has been featured in Poetry, Esquire, Narrative, McSweeney’s, Poetry International, Montana Quarterly and Salon.  A National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, he is the winner of the American Book Award, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize, the High Plains Book Award in both poetry and fiction, the Western Writers of America Spur Award, the Foreword Book of the Year Readers’ Choice Award, the Subterrain Poetry Prize, and the Poetry Quarterly Poetry Prize.   Named a finalist with Ted Kooser’s Splitting an Order and Erin Belieu’s Slant Six, Ray’s Balefire won the High Plains Book Award in poetry.  He is the author of American Masculine: Stories (Graywolf), American Copper: A Novel (Unbridled), Balefire: Poems (Lost Horse), and a book of political theory, Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity (Rowman & Littlefield).  Shann has served as a research psychologist for the Centers for Disease Control, a panelist for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and as a visiting scholar in Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America.  A systems psychologist focusing on the psychology of men, he teaches leadership and forgiveness studies at Gonzaga University.  Because of his wife and three daughters he believes in love.