Emporia State hosted 15 of Kansas’ premier poets March 1 in the PKP room of the Memorial Union. Emporia native and former Kansas Poet Laureate Denise Low was one of the writers in attendance.
Low recalled growing up in Emporia, her education in the Emporia School District and working for The Gazette under William Lindsay White. Low said that much of her childhood was spent on the ESU campus in Beach Hall and Albert Taylor Hall.
“It was always about Emporia State, in one way or another, or what (William Lindsay) White’s done this time, in his editorials,” Low said, “so it’s sort of like being back in my fish tank.”
The event was also a celebration of sorts for the release of “To the Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga In 150 Voices,” a book of poetry written in renga style, a Japanese poetry form where each poet writes in response to the previous poets’ lines. The poets each read their works from the book.
The reading was co-sponsored by the English department, the ESU 150th celebration committee, the creative writing program and Quivira. Kevin Rabas, co-director of creative writing, said the event was particularly exciting for ESU, as it marks one of the first times in the past 10 years with so many poets from across the state reading in the same place at the same time.
“We actually had set up this reading a year ago but had to cancel it because of a tornado,” Rabas said.
In addition to the renga reading, the event also included an improvised poem by the current Kansas Poet Laureate, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. Mirriam-Goldberg took several words suggested by the audience and used them created a poem detailing college life. She also compiled and edited “To the Stars.”
“During 2012, when things were really falling apart with arts funding, there was a lot of turmoil in the arts community, and the state motto seemed to fit, so I started these projects on-line,” Mirriam-Goldberg said. “Throughout 2012 it unfolded, and we decided to put together a book of it.”
An estimated 60 people were in attendance. Kayla Dugan, senior English major, said she was excited to hear the poets speak, as well as also having networking opportunities.
“Since I’m a senior, I do want to make connections to published writers, and that was a big draw, since there are a lot of professional poets here tonight,” Dugan said.
Natalia Barb, senior English major, said she felt the night was a success. Barb, who is also the co-president of Quivira, said they had been approached by the creative writing program to help with the event. Barb also said that Quivira was proud that an ESU student, Tyler Sheldon, junior English major, had been able to read with the rest of the poets.
“It’s really great to have Tyler involved with this project,” Barb said.
Sheldon, along with his father, ESU alumnus Bill Sheldon, were two poets who were featured in the book. “To the Stars” is currently available for purchase through Mammoth Publications’ website, at Mammothpublications.com.