I am beyond thrilled to share with you that our next poet laureate of Kansas is Wyatt Townley. While I’m including the press release sent out by the Kansas Humanities Council below, I wanted to share some perceptions of Wyatt and her work.
I’ve gotten to know Wyatt through the last decade or so, and especially during my term as poet laureate because she and her husband, the wonderful poet and children’s writer Roderick Townley, participated so soulfully in Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, To the Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices, the poem of the week project (now at http://150kansaspoems.wordpress.com), and many other collaborative writing community projects. What I find in Wyatt is a kindred soul: someone who communes with the deeper beauty and magic of the living earth and sky in her writing and life, and someone who embodies, in every aspect of that word, what it means to live with an open heart and graceful voice.
Wyatt loves the wind, and and no wonder that the subtitle for her website is “words in the wind.” Read an excerpt from her exceptional poetry collection The Afterlives of Trees, and you’ll feel that wind in the breath alive in each poem. I also love the wind, and so it was a joy to explore the windier and wilder edges of Kansas with Wyatt, traveling with her, Roderick and other poets a year or so ago to way-out-western Kansas, all the way to Ulysses (which I now know is beyond the edge where the world ends). There, I saw her charm and move an audience composed mostly of elders when she discussed the nuances of a poetic form. With humor, dedication and approachability, she elaborated on the potential of poetry to help us feel our own pulse and verve.
I’ve also burned a prairie with her on our land when she and Roderick were game enough to follow me back from a reading at Johnson County Community College one spring day, despite a crazy traffic situation on K10 that day. She’s easy to laugh with as well as delightful to talk shop with, and her vision – on the page or in the field – always lifts me.
Please join Wyatt and many others of us at the Lawrence Arts Center for her welcome reception and for our poetic transition in full at 5:30 p.m., Thurs., May 23. Celebrate not just the survival of the Kansas poet laureate program, but how this program is thriving and ready to grow in new ways, thanks to Wyatt Townley and the Kansas Humanities Council.
Press Release from Kansas Humanities Council
TOPEKA – The Kansas Humanities Council (KHC) announced that Wyatt Townley of Shawnee Mission, Kan., has been named the 2013-2015 Poet Laureate of Kansas. As Poet Laureate of Kansas, Townley will promote the humanities as a public resource for all Kansans through public readings, presentations, and discussions about poetry in communities across the state.
“Wyatt’s work, along with her knowledge of the craft and history of poetry, will guide Kansans as they make the connection between poetry and humanities at Poet Laureate events across the state,” said Julie Mulvihill, executive director of the Kansas Humanities Council.
“I’m humbled and honored to be asked to serve as Poet Laureate of Kansas,” shared Townley. “It’s wonderful that the laureateship has found its way home to the Kansas
Humanities Council – a natural habitat for it. The notion of ‘home’ is a long-held Kansas value, and I’d like to start a conversation around the state about coming home to poetry. Poetry is a place we can return to in all kinds of weather, with its innate power to heal and comfort, transform and inspire. Its porch light is always on.”
Wyatt Townley is a widely published, nationally known poet and a fourth-generation Kansan. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio’s “The Writer’s Almanac” with Garrison Keillor, in US Poet Laureate Emeritus Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry” column, and published in journals ranging from “The Paris Review” to “Newsweek.” She has published three collections of poetry: “The Breathing Field” (Little Brown), “Perfectly Normal” (The Smith), and “The Afterlives of Trees” (Woodley Press), a Kansas Notable Book and winner of the Nelson Poetry Book Award.
A founding board member of The Writers Place in Kansas City, MO, Townley has served as a teaching artist with Young Audiences and Writers in the Schools program, and has appeared at writers’ conferences and literary festivals in the Midwest and Northeast.
To request a Poet Laureate of Kansas presentation with Townley, visit http://www.kansashumanities.org.
Support for the Poet Laureate of Kansas has been provided by Lon Frahm of Colby and Friends of the Humanities.
The Kansas Humanities Council is a nonprofit organization that supports community-based cultural programs, serves as a financial resource through an active grant-making program, and encourages Kansans to engage in the civic and cultural life of their communities. For more information or to donate to the Poet Laureate of Kansas program, visit http://www.kansashumanities.org.