“Poetry month is hell,” says one poet laureate to another, who nods in earnest recognition. “But it’s also heaven,” we confess to each other. Everyone I know in what my friend (and poet laureate emeritus) Denise Low calls “the Po Biz” would agree. For me, this April has encompassed a whole lot of driving, rounds of antibiotics, the purchase of a snazzy new portable weather radio and wheeling my little red suitcase of books through parking lots all over Kansas.
What happened? I’m not sure, but counting from March 24th (when poetry month started for me) and paraphrasing Woody Guthrie, I’ve been rambling and roaming all over this big land of Kansas:
- Reading with student, faculty and community poets at Garden City Community College (thanks, Ramona!)
- Presentation at Finey County Library.
- Reading in the Band Shell with the Begin Again poets Ronda Miller, Rick Nichols, Nancy Hubble, Karen Ohnesorge and Lee Mick in St. Francis, plus numerous meals at the gas station.
- Judging the Poetry Out Loud competition in Lawrence.
- Writing workshop for people with serious illness, and a few weeks later, a workshop for people living with metastatic disease in Mission.
- Reading with marvelous audience in Hutchinson (thanks, Mark and Bill)
- Talk on poetry in Wichita (thanks, Dixie, Roy and other KAC people)
- Library readings both in Overland Park and Lawrence (different dates, thankfully — and thanks to Jeanie and William)
- Reading with poets Mary Stone Dockery and Cassie Premo Steele (the night of the women with three names each) at the Raven in Lawrence.
- There was also the all-star readings, which would have featured 30 poets, in Emporia that was cancelled due to the night of 97 tornadoes (some of which followed the highlight to and from Emporia).
Mostly, I’ve been reading poetry to people, or listening to poetry, or talking about poetry, or trying to succinctly describe the finite (I hope) limbo of the poet laureate program in Kansas without confusing people too much. Because everything in life goes better with food, I’ve also been eating my way across the state: Mexican food in Garden City and Hutchinson, fried chicken in St. Francis, Lebanese food in Wichita, Chinese food in Kansas City, and a whole lot of pie here, there and yonder.
Always, these encounters are a gift of immense proportion, a way to dwell together in the depth and expanse of words and, in doing so, to emerge a little clearer and more alive……which, beyond concepts of heaven and hell, is what poetry month is really about.