Let us now praise university presses, publishers of books of real value too many commercial presses wouldn’t touch.

The University of Washington Press continues to do its share. Some recent titles of note….

Voices of the dead

The Inland Empire’s literary scene has a national reach: Spokane resident Nance Van Winckel is one of those who make up an impressive constellation east of here.

Her sixth book of poetry, “Pacific Walkers,” comes in halves. The first part features voices of the dead; the poems are footnoted with chilled excerpts from the Spokane County medical examiner’s records. Beneath the poem “Annunciation,” for instance, is this: “Found at the Spokane City Sewer Treatment Plant, approximately 3-4 months premature infant female.” And in the poem: “Even the boldest headlines bleach and bleed.”

The second half restores imaginary voices to the forgotten faces in a photo album bought at a secondhand store. Van Winckel’s intersections of then and now, other and us, are the stuff of real poetry.

Van Winckel will read at Open Books (2414 N. 45th St.) on Tuesday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m.

“Pacific Walkers,” by Nancy Van Winckel. Hardcover, 80 pages, $24.95.

A voice of the imprisoned

Here’s a long-awaited and richly satisfying memoir that emerges from a dark place in Northwest history. “A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States” tells the story of Gordon Hirabayashi (1922-2012), who, as a University of Washington student in 1943, was imprisoned for defying the forced removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Hirabayashi’s brother James and nephew Lane brought together the prison diaries and wartime letters of the man whose conviction was vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987.

The book puts you there, as a good novel does. We experience injustice enshrined during those years, seen through the eyes of a man who did not submit. As Hirabayashi has stated, “I never look at my case as just my own or just as a Japanese-American case. It is an American case, with principles that affect the fundamental human rights of all Americans.”

“A Principled Stand: The Story of Hirabayashi v. United States.” Hardcover; 232 pages, 43 illustrations, including archival photographs. $29.95.

 

Native voices

In “Seekers and Travellers: Contemporary Art of the Pacific Northwest Coast,” author Gary Wyatt, gallery owner and curator of the Northwest Coast collection at the Inuit Gallery in Vancouver, B.C., has juxtaposed artwork and firsthand statements from three-dozen First Nation artists on both sides of the Canadian border.

“Seekers” is arranged in three sections: Traditional, Cross Cultural and Contemporary; the work ranges from woodcarving and glasswork to weavings and jewelry. This is a beautiful, radiant book.

“Seekers and Travelers: Contemporary Art of the Pacific Northwest Coast. 160 pages, 68 color illustrations. Softcover. $20.95.

 

Returning voices

The University of Washington Press has issued two popular back numbers in paperback. Christopher Howell’s “Dreamless and Possible: Poems New and Selected,” published in hardcover in 2010, gleans the Spokane resident’s best work from eight books and his haunting newer work (224 pages; $18.95).

The classic memoir by Lawney Reyes, “White Grizzly Bear’s Legacy: Learning to Be Indian,” first published in 2002, also gets new life as paperback. Reyes, whose brother Bernie Whitebear founded United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, tells the story of growing up poor in Inchelium, near Kettle Falls, in Eastern Washington. Grand Coulee Dam flooded both sites. 

This is a quietly dignified book about a family dealing with very tough odds. All three kids went on to make impressive marks in the world (216 pages. $19.95).

‘Gathering Bones’ May 18-19, 8 p.m.

Choreographer Maya Soto presents an hour-long dance work featuring nine dancers that explores the themes of personal power and feminism through female archetypes. Audience members can also participate in an interactive gallery space. Velocity Dance Center, 1621 12th Ave. Tickets: www.BrownPaperTickets.com