Kevin Rabas, chair of the English, modern languages and journalism department and Poet Laureate of Kansas, shared some of his poetry, music and advice on creative writing.
“When I lived in Kansas City I almost paid my rent as a jazz musician,” Rabas said. “I used to volunteer at the American Jazz Museum.”
Playing on a drum set, Rabas read several poems that explored his time as a jazz musician.
“I love the whole branches of poetry and the family tree of folks who influence others and I go back to them,” Rabas said. “But many of times, what really grabs my attention now, is what people are doing in the present moment. Much like being a musician where you have to know the tradition, but you also have to know what people are doing right now.”
A former student of Rabas, Katie Dold, senior English major, had previously seen Rabas perform.
“I thought the presentation was really good,” Dold said. “I love his enthusiasm and his blend of poetry. I had him for creative writing. He would always share his poetry with us and give really good feedback for us, and the works that we were writing. It was always a really open classroom and fun to go.”
Poetry is an important genre for people to listen to, according to Dold.
“I think that coming to poetry in general can really open your eyes,” Dold said. “For a lot of people when they think about writing they think about novels which are really big, but they forget about poetry.”
Rabas was the last visiting writer of the semester.
“Being able to gather with writers like this and gather students here like this is a really dynamic part of campus that we’re grateful for,” said Amy Sage Webb, professor of English, modern languages and journalism. “Our poetry program here is not like others and that is largely due to him…I’ve observed him teach many times and each of his classes are filled with…all of these elements to every class that he teaches. It’s quite extraordinary.”