New Kansas Poet Laureate Embraces Plains Imagery, Spoils System

harrietsweetharrietpoetryreadingDid you know Kansas had its own poet laureate? Yeah, neither did I. Isn’t that just like the Sunflower State, though? Always has to its own thing, since the days of abolition. Anyway, K-Seb created the program back in aught-4, and a new poetess is preparing to take the throne.

The current holder of that position, Denise Low, ends her two-year term Wednesday. She’ll be replaced by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. Both women live in Lawrence and are longtime friends.

Wait, what? First of all, way to perpetuate the image that Kansas is divided into Lawrence and everything else. (True though it may be.) Second of all: passing the torch to her friend? Not cool. Apparently there’s some kind of secretive poetry cabal in KS that the rest of us don’t know about.

Anyway, here’s the new poet laureate’s site. She looks skeptical in that photo. Here’s how she describes herself — it’s just a portion of the 1,191 words (!) in her “about me” section.

I write in the field, sitting in my house in the center of a west-sloping circle of half-brome, half-native prairie surrounded by hills of forest. Sometimes I sit in the grass and write in the wind. Sometimes I huddle behind my desk staring at the ten or more shades of tan that create winter in the distance.

… and sometimes the writing of poets is insufferable. Here’s hoping C M-G makes the one change the poetry world is desperately needing: transforming “poetry slams” into intense, rap battle-esque competitions, and doing away with the banal semi-sonnets and half-rhyming tripe which populate most such events and which are snapped at infuriatingly by aging hipsters and would-be Brownings. Ugh.

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7 Comments

Filed under In the News, Poetry, The Arts

7 responses to “New Kansas Poet Laureate Embraces Plains Imagery, Spoils System

  1. Hmm, after visiting the rising ‘queen’s ‘ blog and such…well, I suspect your hopes for intense poetry slams increasing via the efforts of CM-G will NOT be fulfilled in the slightest. I could be wrong about that…but something tells me NOT. Why? Because poetry slams require PASSION, Intensity, and daring–does CM-G strike anyone as ‘daring’? Was Denise Low? Hold your own Poetry election and raise up a SLammer Deluxe to challange the ‘ladies of selection’ –not for their offical state status–ooo no,,,, for the hearts and minds of young poets becominggggg….

  2. Ryan

    [blank stare]

    • blank staring at what? the Poetry Queens or the comment??? yeah, I’m curious about blank stare..either way…LOL.

      • Ryan

        I suppose I just didn’t understand the cryptic syntax and letter repetition of not for their offical state status–ooo no,,,, for the hearts and minds of young poets becominggggg….

  3. fair enough—okay, straight and neat then–indeed there is a rather ‘closed’ poetic community in Lawarence and indeed often they’re not too open to the rising slam poetry scene–for ooo so many reasons–therefore–if something new and vital is desired then don’t expect it from such quarters–a while back in Milwaukee I ventured into an open mic session for slammers and THEY WERE ELECTRIC–with intensity and the power of poetry to communicat about issues from poverty to poltics to passionate love—and NONE of the poets were ‘academics’….ball in your court…

  4. Glad to see someone cares what goes on. I do want you and your readership to know that there were no other applicants for the position of poet laureate. I personally called folks in western Kansas especially to apply, because I think it’s important that all the state be represented, not just NE Kansas. Please everyone, be ready to apply for the position in a year. Information is on the Kansas Arts Commission site. Yes, Caryn M-G, a fine credentialed poet, is my friend, as well as many others like Joan Nothern of Osborne, Harley Elliott of Salina, Steven Hind of Hutchinson, Albert Goldbarth of Wichita, etc. I’ve been around the state many years and have enjoyed the AWP affiliate Ks. Writers Assn., now defunct, and other groups. I encourage you to build your group, and please do not embarrass the poets of Kansas by ignoring applications to the poet laureate position next time. The KAC has a very transparent system and can verify this information. Christine Bial is the contact person. And no, I haven’t slammed much in my life–came in 2nd once to Barry Barnes, who is a terrific performer and poet. Viva la difference.

  5. Hello all — Denise told me about this site, and so I’m writing to clarify some times. First, I have slammed quite a bit, and I was the Lawrence and then the Kansas grand slam champion in the early 1990s. I appreciate slams quite a bit, and I encourage you all to organize your own, and also let me know so I can publicize the slams on my blog. Second, please note that Denise was not on the committee making the poet laureate decision and had no say in this matter. The committee, set up by the Kansas Arts Commission, was composed of five people, including Ted Kooser, a former national poet laureate. I was chosen for this position only because I met the criteria, which included a careful look at my poetry, community service, publications, education, etc. The whole process was and is open, and if you have questions, instead of making accusations, please contact Christine Bial at the Kansas Arts Commission. They might even have public transcripts of the committee meeting. Finally, I’ve been giving community writing workshops for 18 years to all kinds of people — at-risk teens, people of color, low-income women, people living with mental or physical illness, the Latino community, kids, and many adults. If you take the time to look at my site, you’ll see that my main focus is reaching out beyond the usual suspects when it comes to poetry.

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