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Logan City
Poet Laureate
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Beckwith Violet Murrays Hill April 1 201
Forget Me Not Baxter Ridge April 24 2019
Maguires Primrose Logan Canyon May 6 201

Welcome to A Celebration of Cache Valley Voices, Shanan's Logan City Poet Laureate Project! All the following poems were written by current or former Cache Valley residents and include poems by community members, Utah State University undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty. 

If you are a current or former Cache Valley resident and would like to have your poem considered for publication on this site, please e-mail Shanan at  

Yellow Bell Orange Baxter Ridge April 24

Ars Poetica

        Joshua Lew McDermott


Poems are disgusting
like a profound
whisper, a subtle grand
gesture, expectations
must be met and upset
and subverted, it is
show it with a moment,
make the moment
humble and boastful:

In Lumley, I give my loaf of bread
to a street dude curled on the sidewalk.

Does that make it simple
enough? people crave
cliches said in new ways.
There is no story.
There is no moment.
Fuck off. I gave the man
my bread out of hatred.

Joshua Lew McDermott is a poet and sociologist from Southeast Idaho. He lived in the Logan area from 2009-2014. While in Logan he published the monthly poetry publication Panacea. He was the co-founder and editor of the poetry website Line Rider Press from 2019-2021. His first book of poems, Codex, was published by Hand to Mouth Books in 2019. He lives in Louisiana. 


Cache Valley Poem

              Joshua Lew McDermott


Sometimes you spend 
a 3-foot winter with bronchitis
in a warm attic room.

Other times you walk
through your dad's garden
full of dying stalks of corn.

Sometimes it's a house party
in the spring where our eyes meet
across the kitchen

But I'm too shy
to say hello.

I counted out everything:
2 oblong coins Brian brought from Germany
that we used to throw our hexagrams

Before I read my future in desperation
and pretended it was surety.
Even tattooed it on my arm.

And then we went on a walk
across the town where I
came of age.

But Tyler wasn't on the sidewalk
rolling discount cigarettes,
and Loo Jean had been fired from The Owl.

So I sat at the kitchen table
and thought of my grandmother
while you baked blueberry muffins.

You hung a floury arm around my neck
and whisperered you were always there for me
but I never really

believed you. Blame it on
the mountains out the window.
Maybe on the Spring.

The valley is the start
and end of everything.

The Wandering Minstrel

                   Jared A.B. Monson


Winding through the canyon

just you and I,

that perfect Fall afternoon after poetry class,

How bout we go for a drive, see

where the road takes us, I say.

Always down for the open road

you hop in,

flecks of auburn and crimson flashing by,


in the Geo we cruise

with Petty and Dylan and the rest of them,

like a couple of free fallin' spirits

just runnin' down a dream,

past First Dam

Second Dam, third, and before long

the whole damn canyon.

There will never be another voice

like Bob Dylan, you say, or

Tom Petty, I say,

or Leonard Cohen.


On crescendo of angels we rise

over Bear Lake, shimmering in November,

a rippling body of life,

like descending on another world

another chance, untainted.

Romping through Garden City like kids

after school, grab a brisket bite at a quaint

joint just you and I,

it's your birthday.


Winding back the way we came

we get out at an overlook,

wind chill biting the ridge,

midafteroon Bob Ross clouds drifting over

the lake, casting shadows along the barren shore.

Taking turns for the camera in sepia gold,

gazing into the unknown, eye level

with happy clouds, wild mane and grizzly

beard poking out from your hood, grinning,

the rims of your glasses glinting

in the fading of the light,

magesterial on the mountain


little Logan pulsates tonight without

its wandering minstrel, poncho-clad,

caught between worlds, a rebel with a cause

armed with pen and paper over the heart

searching for meaning along jagged cracks

in sidewalks in alleys in dim rooms,

delivering stanzas on the corner of Cafe Ibis

in between coffee and cigarettes and whiskey dreams,

echoing through the halls of the library,

like a bird on the wire,

you tried in your own way to be free.

Frigid Logan trembles tonight without

its gentle son, wandering and wondering

without Tyler.

Jared Monson found refuge in Cache Valley while attending Utah State University and gained many meaningful experiences and relationships along the way. He graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in English, Creative Writing, and instead of attending his graduation ceremony, he hiked the Crimson Trail with Shanan Ballam. Jared sought solace exploring the mountains of Cache County on solo adventures or with friends, and his poetry often reflected those experiences. Jared is currently working as a freelance writer based in Happy Valley, Utah, where he is discovering that true happiness lies within.


Jessica McDermott is an educator and writer originally from Idaho. She received her BA from Utah State University and her MFA in creative writing from the University of Idaho. She is an avid hiker and environmentalist who has also written on environmental and political issues. Her most recent work can be found in The Country Fried Panda Fest Poetry Anthology by Green Panda Press. Currently, she lives in Southern California.

We’re Dancing like Planets Now

                            M. Tyler Esplin

Hey Loo, whose slang

are you spinning these days?


I met a deadbeat last week.

He sympathized with

writing being a miserable business

and whiskey being a

filthy delight.


I miss your witchcraft.

We’ve just passed the

Saturnalia parallax

and tonight I’ll be

howling at the full moon,

with or without you.


In the endless afternoons

I’ll find you

burned like a martyr

or a dirty saint.


The crops will die of laughter

and the jester will vomit on the king.


But think of all the people

who are fucking right now.


Yeah, the world is an ugly place,

but there’s always hurricanes.

The mystics will leave their caves

and scream for the sunlight

with the voices of lepers.


The arcade is drowning

under the weight

of its own sadness.


Let the mountains burn down

and see if I care.


-M. Tyler Esplin


M. Tyler Esplin was a poet and musician from Logan, Utah. He died at the age of 27. Tyler completed two collections of poetry in his lifetime, World War Infinity and the hand-made zine Musings from Merbot Central. A posthumous publication, We’re Dancing Like Planets Now, was released in 2019. Yet, the vast majority of his writings can be found hand-scribbled in moleskin notebooks, typed out on haphazard pages via his vintage typewriter, on the backs of café receipts or bar napkins, or in a small company-notepad. His work is a testament of a young man who felt deeply and beautifully.


And the Parties Lasted Forever.

                      M. Tyler Esplin

The last time I saw you

we ate pizza

and drank high point IPA,

shivering with cigarettes

in the brisk end of October.

A “ye”


from behind

your crooked smile.

And right then

we seemed so divine

in our weary wisdom,

and now I guess it’s over.


And we never had

a formal goodbye,

so I guess

all I can say is

good luck exploring

the eternal void.

I hope you find

what you’re looking for.

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Hypothetical Babies

  Joshua Lew McDermott


was the first thing
I said to our
pulled from your
now hollow

this is a soft and
white blanket
this is your mommy
i am your

I never asked to be
I never knew what
to ask
I said a prayer the

my mother died
suddenly and
I was born
again but this time
it was not
a celebration

life is full
of people it is
really crazy
to think

why you happened to
be my baby
and I your
dad and she
your mother

it is an honor
to meet you,
I hope one day
you will understand

there is nothing
to hold onto
out here our only
orientation is each
other and still

it is not enough.
You will cry alone
one day by an open
window in a city
in Mexico, 

The rain
This is your mother,
you know her blood.

I am your father.
you will know me
by my love.

House Recital in Logan, Utah

                                    Jessica McDermott


That room must still exist, behind a white door,

a wood floored parlor with French doors that open

into a piano room.


In the corner, three bottles of opened Merlot, a plate with

sliced carrots and broccoli next to a saucer of hummus

and a pot of warm cider.


On your cheek, a flicker of candlelight. Me on your lap,

my fingers tracing up and down your arm.


The hum of Debussy’s L'isle Joyeuse. The other guests

mere outlines and ghosts.


That 1870s house with the golden etched wallpaper and lazy

crystal chandlers. It hasn’t dissolved back into reality. Back

into nothing.


The rustle of programs floating onto laps and the clap of hands.

The young performer’s bow- he would be past thirty by now.


A black scarf looped loose around your neck, dark rushes of curly

hair down to your shoulders.


The smell of fire, white paned window heavy with fallen snow.



I visited the Basilica de Guadalupe,

For Tyler Esplin

                          Jessica McDermott

at request of your mother. I mumbled a prayer, repeated

it in the chapel with Chilangos and tourists and beside the pilgrims

walking grounds of roses. A tour guide with a gold tooth


pointed out the original chapel, the sinking foundation. In

broken English he described Lake Texcoco and the history

of death and sacrifice from where it reemerged


white-washed and Catholic. It was meant to be holy 

passing miracles pinned to the wall and wisps of hair, I carried

my backpack on my chest. When your mother went,

she said it was her only spiritual


encounter – this city built on a city built on the belief that god

can make us whole. Stopping at the cracking walls,

standing below the cross, the courtyard clock,

I thought of your poetry collected in boxes, even the nameless

ones you won’t finish

have become this empty chapel.

Ramblings From A4

                        M. Tyler Esplin


This is crazy, ain't it?

One minute I'm a poet, the next I'm a convict.

Staring at whitewashed walls, trying not to feel nothing.

I already miss everyone.

I guess it's time to quit playing martyr, eh?

Time to step down off the burning cross

and into a necktie.

My cellmate is a convicted murderer.

I want to ask what it's like to kill someone,

but that seems like a touchy subject.

I need coffee, sex, and cigarettes,

but I don't get any of those here.

Just bad bread and hard water.

Hurricane Isaac is hitting Louisiana, I hear.

I chuckled myself to madness at the coincidence.

I can't fucking sleep at night.

I'll be laying in the half-dark, dizzy/feverish,

with the strangest dreams of sex and smoking

and breathing real air, eating real food.

The only book in this whole pod is by Louis L'Amour. God dammit.

It's been 48 hours and

I already wanna call it quits.

In my mind's eye, I'm walking down an

empty Main Street with a can of gasoline, ready

to burn everything down and

start over.

the day after the beginning of the war

For W.

          Jessica McDermott

you wear a blue sweater

the color of rain clouds


like the ones gathering swiftly outside


when the drizzling starts we don’t

notice its tapping on the pavement


nor the scent of water hitting dry ground

you heat up tortillas on the comal


while i set the table with white ceramic bowls

eating albóndigas by the fireplace


you add chile to your soup its red color

expands like muzzle glow in the broth


and music from the speaker talks of love

with a melody so upbeat


for an evening we forget


the soft potato melts in my mouth

and i sip broth straight from the bowl


hunger for the meal lasting

and lasting even as i suck the limes

clean to the rind

This is All-American, I Think.

                                 M. Tyler Esplin


Blue sky death

of pharaohs and cowards and

men with no teeth in

sketchy public restrooms


the cryptozoologists are

rearing their heads in

their dreamland

petting zoos


talking apocalypse and salvation

oceanic disturbance on a

Friday winter afternoon

praying for answers blues


so take my

hand in yours and

walk into the

rising tide with me


prying open lotus blossoms

with crowbars in

empty hotels


so leave the meadowlark

in its den of

courtyard roses

and it’ll sing a little

song of empty churches

with the Eternal Virgin

plastered on the wall in

stained glass windows


the dark basement absinthe

days of winter are

dissolving into

sin-flesh garden fruit


when we tangle in

floral sheets and

we make gods of ourselves

in the snowblind December

in swampland apartments

outside of town


and the way we

ecstasy at midnight

when we gnash our fangs

hook and claw and anchor

growing farther from

the rotten bark of

weeping willows crawling

out of concrete


the mailbox hangs open

early in the

fog dawn morning

and it’s quiet, quiet

until the addicts

slam tetanus on

dirty vomit couches

and hide their eyes

from harsh crisp

sunlight afternoon

winter’s bane, winter’s bane

I curse the cigarettes that

lure me to the place where

narrow veins end and

Sunday shoes begin


but I suck dry the pockets

of the witches with larkspur

growing like a

peaceful crescendo in

forests of sacred ambition


you America with such

revelatory grace in your

booty shorts and

Marlboros and

Bettie Page eyes


behind closed doors and

coffee and high-school

nostalgias of

jumping out windows, the

broken ankles of

whiskey days in spring


when the grapes hang

lifeless on vines like

shriveled old man testicles

drained of dignity and

pride by the

malevolent freeze


the dead are

gathering to the beat of

woman-king end of days nonsense

and everything important

has been done


there’s no more film, the

paintings melted to

puddles of oil and

the songs bleaked to

static of wasteland radio


lighting candles to the

mother of Christ and the

harlot He talked into



you Ritalin on

rainy afternoons with

closet ardor and

laundry determination


but instead you

call me to your chamber

and we fuck like

animals for

days on end

ceaseless immaculate

like waves, great

climbing tides that

crest where the

sky rocks the cradle of

the infant sun

and then exhausted we

lay back into a

patient still rest of

skin and cotton and

pillow talk


with the last leaf

contouring to the

quiet forgiving ground

and it’s trampled and

shredded and we

drink beer in the morning

and smoke pot

‘til the moon is the

only solace in

the gargantuan night


there’s no war when

you’re young and

immortal and life is

both wicked and wonderful

harmonic and literate


walking to the fence

in the hour of

rats and semaphore


waiting for redemption

in the Chapel of

the Wounded Martyr


deadbeat drunk by

candlelight tickling

tarot cards and

guitar strings


and I am lost

potential, a

wunderkind with a

habit of

reckless self-destruction

and I can’t understand how

things can be so perfect when

everything is in ruin


and the sea empties into

fishbowls and the

diving-bells speak in

ancient aquatic tongues


to sailors and saints

wrecked mosaics of

little Mexican children

under overpasses


but now tonight

it is December and

we are in bed

together again


the moon is in Capricorn

and you’re in luck

because there’s

parties to attend and I

know how elegant you like to be

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