Poetry is a universal art form that helps people from all walks of life relate.
About 30 people from around the community came together last Sunday on the porch of the William Allen White state historic house for the fifth annual Poetry on the Porch reading.
“(We) set up these readings so we can recreate the spirit of the William Allen White porch,” said English professor Kevin Rabas, co-director of the creative writing program. “This was once a safe haven for artists to hang out (at) but also to further their art.”
Eric McHenry, an English professor at Washburn University, read from his latest book of poetry, “Mommy Daddy Even and Sage,” which was inspired by his own children, as well as his first book “The Potscrubber Lullabies,” which won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award.
“It might work with a panther,’ Even said, ‘but if you see a vulture. Don’t play dead,” McHenry read from his latest book. Many of McHenry’s poems had the crowd laughing.
McHenry’s poetry has appeared in The New Republic, Harvard Review, Northwest Review, Orion and Agni. He also reviews poetry for The New York Times.
“I liked him,” said Ashely Feist, sophomore music major. “I liked that he talked about his kids all the time.”
After McHenry’s reading, Rabas began an open mic session by reading one of his own poems, followed by a several poets from the community, including McHenry’s father, who read an award-winning poem from “The Potscrubber Lullabies.” The readings ended with Feist and Kari Bowles, a graduate student in English.
“I came by choice,” Feist said, “but I heard about it in class.”
Feist read a poem that she said had begun as a class assignment.
Rabas said that the WAW porch readings are beneficial to the community because poetry is a way to tell stories to an audience and create a unique energy.
“This gives students and community members a chance to read their poetry and hear other people’s poetry and share in a community of the word,” Rabas said. “This is one of the oldest ways of telling stories and we get to connect to that lineage of communication through poetry.”
The event concluded with a group poetic project written by everyone in attendance. Rabas called it the “consequences game,” which consisted of passing around a sheet of paper where everyone wrote one to two lines from looking at just the line before, without being able to see the entire poem.