Monday, February 26, 2007

Holden Shoptalk Rescheduled for April 3

Kansas Poets “Shoptalk” Series invites everyone interested in poetry to join featured guest, Jonathan Holden, as he reads from his work, answers questions and discusses poetry. This will be the last event in this series during Jonathan's tenure as Kansas' Poet Laureate. Teachers and students at both high school and college levels are encouraged to participate. This event is offered FREE to the public at 24 sites across the state via video conference TELENET-2. This event will also be taped for television at the Manhattan, KSU location -- To join the "live" studio audience for the taping, please contact Telenet.See Feb.9 for further information. Contact Greg German to find the site nearest you:

Mapping Kansas Writers Website!

A new site celebrating Kansas writers is a project of Washburn University's Center for Kansas Studies. It includes very good, in-depth coverage of writers, including interviews and sample works, and photographs of book covers as well as authors. The selection includes historic as well as contemporary authors. This is a work in progress, but definitely a good start.

Tom Averill writes about the project:
"The class, team taught with Carol Yoho, came about as part of my attempt to teach Kansas Literature in a different way. I've done maps of Kansas literature before, but they are quickly out of date. I have so much material about so many writers, that I thought this would be one way to get that up and available to others. So students each learned Dreamweaver and Paint Shop Pro, worked off a template, and then decided whom to focus on. We want, also, Stafford, Hughes, Parks, Holden and others. I plan to teach the class again in the Spring of 2008, and I have one student now, Miranda Ericsson, who is continuing some work and might make it her honors project."
The URL is:
Authors include:
Thomas Fox Averill, Topeka;
Edna Walker Chandler, Macksville
Bruce Cutler, Wichita
Robert Day, Atwood
Edythe Draper, Oswego
Harley Elliott, Salina
Amy Fleury, Topeka
Marcet & Emanuel
Haldeman-Julius, Girard
Steven Hind, Hutchinson
William Inge, Independence
Denise Low, Lawrence
Margaret HIll McCarter, Topeka
Nancy Pickard, Kansas City
Kenneth Porter, Sterling
May Williams Ward, Osawatomie
Max Yoho, Topeka

Friday, February 16, 2007

Ken Irby Reads Poetry at the Spencer Museum of Art Feb. 15

I have heard Ken Irby read poetry for most of my adult life--since he moved back to Lawrence in the 80s. Each time I cannot find the right words to describe the effect: a 360-degree word map that must be viewed from all angles at once; a fractal skin of words; if math posits 8 or 12 dimensions by now, Irby's poetry oscillates among 5 or 6 of them at least; a looping double helix that recharges with new matter every 3 minutes. I recall lush images from the "Homage to Gerrit Lansing": "citrine crisp" and cedar waxwings and blossoms in an enclosed garden that suffuse into the background. When I have leisure, I want to write about the birds that appear in Irby's work.

A new poem is from Jan. 4, 2007, beginning with a wait in the post office line--which sets the pace for the entire day seeming to be slow; then also sets the pace for the entire piece. I continue to learn from Irby with each such reading and each conversation. Photography by Denise Low.

Billy Harris Reads Poetry at the Spencer Art Museum Feb. 15

Billy Harris, KU English professor, read a chronological selection of poetry, including a poem he presented to his teacher Wendell Berry. He read strong poems about his strong mother (the topic was road rage and I wish I could reproduce the sense of narrative conveyed in compressed word bytes) and a science fiction trilogy, which created an eerily familiar and distorted reality. Among the pieces was "The Famous Colored Writer":

"Are you the famous colored writer?"
"Funny. You look just like him."

Harris writes with clarity, wit, intelligence.

Joseph Harrington at the Spencer Museum Reading Feb. 15

Joseph Harrington, KU professor, led off a trio of poets at the Spencer Museum of art at KU Feb. 15. He read "Parrots of Kansas"; a poem composed of one-syllable lines; "Flag" (2 prose-poem sections plus a verse section); and an image & text presentation of his ongoing project about his mother's life and how memory re-presents the past. "Parrots" was not completely ironic, but it did focus on the inverse of colorful plumage in birds like starlings, grackles, sparrows, and mourning doves--so it developed a nice tension. The text-image piece "It Goes On" worked with images of letters his mother received from Al Gore, Sr., postcards, photos, text-maps: each image was unexpected and singular, yet all worked toward an accretion of meaning and created an emotional sign-bundle.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tim Janicke Star Magazine 4 Feb. 2007 Link

The Star Magazine of the Kansas City Star honored me with an article last week. This was not posted on the Star site until just the last few days. As I waited, I realized how entitled I have come to feel to immediate electronic access to news publications! I can just barely remember the days when I was typing out a zillion revisions of poems on a typewriter.

I cannot reprint the copyrighted article without permission, but here is the link. They omitted wonderful illustrations by Allan Chow, a KC Art Inst. grad. He will feature the oils at a master artist show in a Manhattan, Ks. in May, and I don't want to miss them. My thanks to Tim Janicke for his care and all the time he spent with the text and photo. Here is the link:

And here is one of the poems:

At Flint Hills National Grasslands

for Daniel

Our eyes travel into blue haze

forty miles, and I tell my son

about our several-great grandparents

who lived just west of this summit.

Their graves lie in a far distant fold,

a valley where their voices mix

into a blur of lost wind gusts

like those rushing into our ears.

I tell him about a photograph

of our Indian grandfather—

his jet hair and deep black eyes

looking at us from a quiet face.

It must have been springtime

because of the flat dry bluestem

crushed around him in ripples

half a lifetime before his marriage.

I tell my son about Grandmother

mostly Irish and German and

lots of questions about her past

but she was born in Ottawa

and now lies in the quilt layers

of hills around us, next to him

and next to twin baby girls.

My mother’s ashes are buried here.

Under the stalled sun, afternoon

also seems to last forever—

the solar fire just past zenith,

the clouds heaped to the heavens

above flint-smooth edges of horizon.

Below, monarchs flicker a trail

as they migrate through the Hills

far, as far as any of us can see.

I dedicated this to my son Daniel Low because we traveled to the National Grasslands Park at the Z Bar Ranch in Chase County (see Wm. Least Heat Moon's book Praryerth for more about Chase County, Ks.), and as we looked over the Flint Hills, I realized how much family history he had not heard. Like my parents before me, I assumed he magically knew what I knew without telling the stories! But after law school, in 2002, he spent a year in Kansas clerking for Judge Deanell Taha. At that time we had the opportunity to spend time together and travel to the Flint Hills, where I grew up.

Like most younger generation folks, he's on a projectory into the future, so I tried to recapitulate some history and emphasize how this land is made sacred by the histories of our forbears--their narratives and seemingly endless days spent living in this place--and also by their lingering spirits, even if these are just subtle traces. And I hope there's more in the poem, as well.

At my age, I have over 50 years of memories wadded into the curlicues of my brain matter. Sometimes I feel like a walking museum. I remember when I would visit my grandmother when she was in her 90s, and how I marveled at how far back her memory went. From her stories, I have first-hand accounts of events into the 1890s, the time of the Wounded Knee deaths.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Kansas Poet Laureate 2005-2007 Jonathan Holden Final Shoptalk Feb. 13, 7-8 pm

Holden has been a guiding example for me through almost 30 years. I recommend this event highly. Holden advocates for American and Kansan poetry in all his verse and critical writings. He has encyclopaeidic knowledge about verse. He also, besides being insightful and syncretic in his thinking, can recite from memory pages of poetry. See the link to the left to his home page.

One of my favorite of Holden's essays is about William Stafford, at this link:

Don't miss this chance to see a master poet!

Here is information from, maintained by Greg German:

Jonathan Holden, First Poet Laureate of Kansas and distinguished Kansas State University professor, will be the evening’s featured guest.

The author of many award winning books, Jonathan will read select poems, answer attending guests’ questions and provide unique insights to poetry.

Everyone interested in poetry is invited to participate. Likewise, this is a great opportunity for college and high school students to interact with the Kansas Poet Laureate.

This live video conference broadcast is FREE. To reserve your seat at one of the TELENET-2 locations and to inquire about the exact location of the video conference in your area…Please call the following # ASAP that the location nearest you can be notified of your attendance plan.

Toll Free: 1-866-379-2279
(or E-mail:

Locations Include:

Arkansas City, Belleville, Chanute, Colby, Concordia, Dodge City, El Dorado, Emporia, Garden City, Great Bend, Hays, Independence, Leavenworth, Liberal, Manhattan, Marysville, Overland Park, Pittsburg, Pratt, Salina, Sublette, Topeka and Wichita.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Douglas Crawford-Parker Wins LH Award

Feb. 1, the Raven Bookstore and the Lawrence Arts Center sponsored a reception to honor winners of the Langston Hughes literary prizes. Jean Grant won fiction, and Doug Crawford-Parker won poetry. This 11-year-old contest carries the name of the famous Lawrence and Harlem Renaissance poet who grew up in Lawrence.

I was honored to introduce Doug at this event. I had heard of him years ago when he was a McNair Scholars tutor who helped one of my former Haskell students as she prepared for a college teaching career. And he and I have crossed paths through the years, as we do in smaller communities. He had gone to Wichita State University several years after I did, where he studied with Albert Goldbarth and Janet Sylvester. He and I were in a non-fiction prose writing group, Stranger Than Fiction, 8-10 years ago, until most the members moved--a downside to college towns. And now he frequents my coffee shop, La Prima Tazza, where I have seen him studying for comps, drafting his dissertation, and apparently also writing poetry. The judging for the LH contest is blind, and I had no idea this was his work.

The Lawrence J-W did a story on this event, at:

I'm reprinting a few poems here. Doug has not published much, but now that his English doctorate is in hand, he will have time for more poetry. He adjuncts in the KU English dept. They are lucky to have him. Photo by Denise Low

By Doug Crawford-Parker

The smells that swirl up, sizzling out of the kitchen
and into the bar, sounding out sandwiches
past the TV rumbling the news, the stubbled men,
some pink, some burnt, days inside or out,
hands full from days spent moving, lifting,
grabbing, the glasses sliding small foam
along their thick bottoms as evening brings forth
its low-angled dusk.


By Doug Crawford-Parker

Ask me. Ask me, without fail, where I was,
when I was, how I was, what I did when
I was where. Ceaselessly. Repeatedly. Let go
of assumptions, hold tight to desire, hope
of knowing, uncovering what once was in
darkness, occluded. Tirelessly wonder. Put
me under the lights to discover all
that I hide only from myself.


By Doug Crawford-Parker

Latin lends us words like transportation,
words which carry us across and bear
meaning. They allow us to move
across land and sea, inside our vehicles
(literally carried by them), wheeled or keeled.
They convey (com- jointly + via way) to us
what we might know, what we
could carry along, what can carry
us to each other as we transfer,
transmit, or transition from one
place or idea to another, as we
place those items in the cart
that will carry us and all
we mean to each other.