Poet Laureati: What Happens When You Mix Together a Bunch of Poets Laureates?

I’m not sure what happens, but I’m exciting about finding out very soon when we bring together a bunch of poets laureate to spend two days visiting, giving a reading, hanging out with the public and generally descending upon my hometown, Lawrence, Kansas. The idea for a Midwest Poets Laureate Convergence — which we’re calling Poet Laureati — came to Mary Swander, poet laureate of Iowa and me when we were visiting last fall on the University of Iowa State campus, where she teaches and directs a fabulous MFA in environmental writing. We started joking about a poet laureate slumber party, and our jokes soon turned into plans. We also wanted to do an event open and free to the public that would help support local businesses and organizations, a great way to encourage the poetry-in-motion good works of community.

Now we have a good group coming to join the two of us, including Walter Bargen, former poet laureate of Missouri; Marilyn L. Taylor, poet laureate of Wisconsin; and former Kansas poets laureate Denise Low and Jonathan Holden, plus who knows who else may drop in? We’ll be starting with a reading at 4 p.m. at the Spencer Museum of Art (in the central court), followed by a reception, provided by our long-standing food co-op, the Community Mercantile, plus books for sale by our long-standing independent bookstore, the Raven. After that, we poets laureate go to dinner at Free State Brewery, and then the next day, after wandering around downtown Lawrence for a while, we have Lunch Laureati: Brown Bag it with the Poets Laureate, a more casual time for conversation with people from the community. The rest of the day, we’ll be off in the country, taking a prairie walk and talking about our laureate experiences, and what else we might collectively do together.

So what happens when you toss together a bundle of poets laureate in Lawrence, Kansas, a place where anything that can happen usually does? We’ll find out, and if you’re around, be sure to join us for the reading and lunch laureati. As far as we know, there’s never been an event like this, and I think it’s likely this first event will spur many more.

The event is sponsored by the Kansas Arts Commission, Lawrence Public Library, Free State Brewery, Community Mercantile, Raven Bookstore, Lawrence Arts Center, and Spencer Museum of Art.