My first radio show on High Plains Public Radio is up and ready! You can listen to the podcast or visit the the HPPR page featuring the show. Here’s the text of the show, highlighting Denise Low, poet laureate of Kansas from 2007-09, including seeing her poem, “Place,” along with a writing prompt you can try on your own, and then share your response below. For more on these writing prompts, please see the Write From Your Life pages.
For those of us who live here, the word “Place” brings to mind expansive vistas unfolding all directions DeniseLow and a whole lot of sky. In a sense, you could say that when it comes to place, we have front row seats to one of the biggest views in the country. No wonder that many writers from this region aim their writing toward place, asking not just what a certain place looks like but what living in this place says about those of us who live here. Denise Low, past Poet Laureate of Kansas and a writer known for in-depth poetry and essays on place and the Great Plains, often mixes memory and observations of particular places and places in time to illuminate where we live. In her poem, “Place,” she begins with a larger view of eagles landing and then funnels down to our most local home, the bodies in which we live.
Low is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, anthologies, and a collection of essays called Touching the Sky. She teaches at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas She brings to her writing perspective from being a 5th generation Kansan of mixed German, British, and unaffiliated Lenape (Delaware) and Cherokee heritage. Listen to the questions she asks in this provocative poem:
Is it the eagles returning to Lecompton, Old Eagle town,
that stretch of lookout cottonwoods on the Kaw River,
or is it the rivers we measure towns by,
where we wait for flood and drought tides?
Or finding my grandfather during a storm,
clouds and lightning and his face by the window?
Is it the house I grew up in,
the way sun slanted through the front window,
warm bars of winter dust and light?
Is it the locus inside a muddy muscle,
the heart squeezing rivelets of blood
again, again, again?
One of the great gifts of living here is that all of us have stories about what place has been, is and could be to us, whether it’s memories of panoramic storms, quiet moments watching “warm bars of winter dust and light” or stories of “flood and drought tides.” For this month’s writing exercise, please put aside thoughts of grammar, spelling or making sense momentarily and, using Low’s poem as a prompt, ask questions about what place is. Start with the phrase, “Is it the….” and then fill in the blanks, drawing from moments you’ve lived.