Shann Ray

MFA Alumni Bio

Shann Ray bio feature

Shann Ray grew up in Montana and spent part of his childhood on the Northern Cheyenne reservation. His work has been featured in PoetryNarrativeEsquireMcSweeney’sPoetry International, and Salon. Named a finalist with Ted Kooser’s Splitting an Order and Erin Belieu’s Slant Six, Ray’s debut book of poems, Balefire, won the High Plains Book Award in Poetry.

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, the Ruminate Short Story Prize, the Crab Creek Review Fiction Award, the Pacific Northwest Inlander Short Story Prize, and the Poetry Quarterly Poetry Prize. Ray is the author of Balefire: Poems (Lost Horse), American Masculine: Stories (Graywolf), American Copper: A Novel (Unbridled), and a book of political theory, Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity (Rowman & Littlefield). A member of a group educational Fulbright grant to South Africa, and a United Nations Sustainable Development Grant titled Intercultural Dialogues through Beauty as a Language of Peace, 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. He teaches leadership and forgiveness studies at Gonzaga University. Because of his wife and three daughters he believes in love. Learn more at

Here’s what Shann had to say about Eastern’s MFA program:

“I hold a handful of positions now after receiving the MFA from EWU. I want to say how grateful I am for the depth of immersion the program provided into authentic, uncommon, and vital aspects of humanity, ethics, and how art invigorates, strengthens, and helps heal the heart of the world. In the MFA, I received the irrefutable gift of greater personal, communal, and artistic understanding.”

Shann currently teaches poetry for Stanford, poetry for Princeton Theological Seminary, and is a full professor of leadership studies for Gonzaga University focusing on forgiveness in the wake of genocide. He has served as a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, a National Endowment for the Humanities Panelist, and as a visiting scholar of forgiveness studies in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. He has done collaborative work with the United Nations, as well as the Centers for Disease Control, and been honored to conduct writing workshops and research in both settings, including communal work focused on intercultural dialogues through the use of beauty as a language of peace.

Read a few of Shann’s poems: “Hesperus”  and  “My Dad, in America”  from Poetry   “Ecstasy” from Narrative Magazine