Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Kansas City Literary Scene Is Diffused throughout the City

As a 30+ year veteran book reviewer for the Kansas City Star, and a writer/publisher myself, I have watched 
the literary arts developments on both side of the Muddy Mo. KC is a very literary city, as well as one populated by musicians and artists.The KC scene is diffused and vibrant, with many foci of interest:
  • UMKC, which has an MFA program with Hadara Bar-Nadav and Michelle Boisseau (they co-edit the important text Writing Poetry); novelists Michael Pritchett, Christie Hodgen, and Whitney Terrell; and Robert Stewart, essayist and poet.
  • Robert Stewart also directs the New Letters suite of media: New Letters journal; New Letters on the Air (nationally syndicated); and BkMk Press. A national contest and annual writing conference are also sponsored by NL
  • Rockhurst College sponsors a first-rate poetry reading series, The Midwest Poets Series, that sponsors nationally recognized poets
  • The Kansas City Art Institute has distinguished poets and a reading series. Faculty includes Anne Boyer, Cyrus Console, Rush Rankin, Ben Furnish, Jordan Stempleman, Trey Hock, and Phyllis Moore. There is a creative writing degree program. 
  • Other area universities with MFA programs/graduate programs in writing include U. of Ks. (1 hr. away) and other Ks. universities (Pittsburg St. U., K. State, Wichita St. U.); Mo. U. (3 hrs. away); U of Neb.-Omaha (3 hrs. away); Des Moines U. and Drake (3 hrs.), Iowa U. (4 hrs. away), Iowa State, and other Iowa universities; Washington U. in St. Louis (5 hrs. away) and other St. Louis universities.
  • Latino Writers Collective is at 3607 Pennsylvania, and they sponsor readings, workshops, and publications. Their website is:
  • The Writers Place is a literary writing center that works actively with school children as well as providing an ambitious slate of adult classes and programming. The WP has meeting rooms and a library of literary prose and poetry. The excellent old mansion is host to ghost explorers on occasion as well as writers.
  • The Recipe, Spoken Word / Jazz, Hip Hop / Blues, R&B in Kansas City, MO and the Natasha Ria El-Scari Recipe Poetry Guild  The Black Poetry Collective of KC seems to have disbanded. These organizations are new incarnations.
  • The Kansas City MO Public Library hosts many book events—it is 5th nationally in programming, it is rumored. CSpan records some of their events, and they archive these and many more. They have ten active locations.  The Johnson County library system also has active events, including the Thomas Zvi Wilson reading series.
  • National Storytelling Network (NSN) has national headquarters at the Woodneath Story Center located in Kansas City North. 33-acre Woodneath Library Campus. Its mission is to “celebrate the art of story and its power to help people communicate more effectively, connect and build community, preserve personal and cultural histories, and develop creativity and self-expression.”
  • Prospero’s Bookstore (several locations) in KC sells new and used literary books plus sponsors a monthly publication series through their own Spartan Press--called Pop Poetry Series. Their events include monthly book launches with $10 admission that includes the book. They are into their third year. The press sells out of the 300-500+ printings of their titles. They have civic grants plus person-power of their own designers and typesetters.
  • Rainy Day books is a major sponsor of reading events and book groups
  • Poetry slam venues in KS/MO include the KC Jazz Museum. More poetry slams are:  Pound SLAM at Uptown Arts Bar (first Wednesday of every month at 9 PM). There is also a non-competitive showcase called Nique, which features Spoken Word artists, that also performs quarterly at the same venue (dates subject to change).Uptown Arts Bar is a performance art venue with a focus on poetry and spoken word; events include: Poetic Underground open mic every Wednesday at 9 pm, Blue Mondays Poetry Open Mic with guest feature every 2nd Monday at 8 pm, and many more literary and poetic events. Contact Art Jones for information.
  • KC Fringe Festival--KC Fringe is a Missouri-based not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support artists, celebrate expression and engage the community. Spoken word is featured among other performing and visual arts

  • Many other private and community literary events take place throughout the metro. Kansas. Please add to this list!

Many literary figures spent time in KC or grew up there—but that’s another list. Lawrence, of course, is just a short row up the Kansas River.