Spokane's John Does in newsprint and poetry

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The first portion of the new poetry collection by local writer Nance Van Winckel is inspired by the time, as a cub reporter years ago, she wrote about unidentified bodies — John Does — discovered in spring as the snow melted.

I wrote about that new collection and some of her other projects for this week’s Get Lit! coverage. Van Winckel told me it was a story in The Inlander several years ago that reminded her of that reporting experience.

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“It just jogged my memory of when I had written pretty much the same exact article, and how my safe little happy life was just forever shaken by that,” she said. “And, I think, so was my trust that journalism — even though I value it a lot — was really capable as a language of getting across that subject, and everything that it meant and how it felt.”

Back at Inlander HQ, I mentioned the story to staff writer Jacob Jones — and it turns out the exact Inlander issue was on his desk after it had recently come up in a news meeting. The story, written by our now-editor Jacob Fries, was published in October 2008. It includes a full spread of 23 John and Jane Does listed on the medical examiner’s website at the time.

One of those people has since been identified as Jeffrey Weinandt. The rest are still listed.

Willow Springs, the literary journal from Eastern Washington University, has several poems from the book available online. The whole powerful collection is worth your time, but at least read this one.

Van Winckel is part of the writer-artist collaboration on display at the Chase Gallery, and she is participating in multiple Get Lit! events

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