Last night, I read poetry for about 45 minutes to over 120 kind people who left the lush night air to sit in an auditorium at Pittsburg State University. Having just read to very small groups, I was a little surprised (I was hoping maybe I’d have 20), but delighted. Men and women, students and faculty, international students and long time residents listened as I read from each of my four poetry books. I felt a real kinship as I looked into the eyes of people — a young Indian woman, a dark-haired pony-tailed man, another man with a thick white beard, some of the astonishingly good students I had met with earlier in Laura Lee Washburn’s poetry writing seminar. I was also thrilled to see my uncle and aunt-in-laws from Joplin, Missouri, who made the trip. Not only was I was treated to this audience, but we were all treated — thanks to the PSU English Department — to a reception afterwards that even featured a sheet cake that said, “Welcome Poet Laureate.” On my way out with a box of leftover books in hand, two young women from China held the door open for me. One said, “You know, we couldn’t understand all the words, but we really liked your poetry.” The other told me, “With poetry, it’s not the language so much it’s written in because you can feel it,” as she placed her hand on her heart. I couldn’t agree more.
Special thanks to Laura Lee for organizing everything. And I also want to give a shout-out to one of the best literary magazines in Kansas, Little Balkans Review. Thank you to all who keep that going.