Last night I had the privilege of participating in the Governor’s Arts Awards, the annual honoring of artists and communities who have helped illuminate the arts in our big, wide prairie state of mind. I am always amazed by the depth of talent and commitment, particularly in places many would consider “fly over country.” There’ so much here, and so I wanted to honor that with the poem I delivered (below). I also was moved by Governor Mark Parkinson’s excellent speech about how legislatures and government officials aren’t remembered years, decades and centuries from now, but art (and in some cases, the names of the artists) endures.
What’s Right Here
It’s all right here, they show us, the seemingly invisible
right on the cusp of our peripheral vision,
like the slender moon faded into the late afternoon sky,
ready to come forth once the light vanishes.
All the art that endures is always expanse of horizon
and pantina, letting the layers of what is, what could be,
in film of we could have lived had the Confederates won,
or the deep river call of a single saxophone note that
gathers us out of what we were thinking to who we are.
The coppering of a 1960 Dodge truck, illuminating how
time angles through rust and memory. The dream of
a space open enough to hold children learning to sing together
as well as elders viewing gallery offerings of place and texture.
Or further west, a town where cellos merge with violins upstairs,
a woman calls out “first position” across the street, and
a group of friends paint what’s lost and found around the corner.
working artists, showing us the layers and colors,
shifting risks in singular places, here all along.
Just like one photograph of golden hills, the light against
the curving stretch of grass, lifting up to us what’s right here,
a glimmering world generous with motion, earth and sky,
wishes and breath, ready at any moment to reveal itself
and the art of how to live right here where we’ve landed.
Top photo: The governor, Mark Parkinson, and me. Some of the the recipients: (from top) Kevin Wilmott, filmmaker; Susan Craig, archivist and librarian; Emporia Arts Council; Jim Richardson, distinguished artist award for photography.