Thursday, March 24, 2016

Nick Twemlow, Kevin Young, Amy Fleury, Gary Jackson, Ed Skoog--Topeka Poets

Why do so many poets of note come from Topeka? Fellow poet Michael Harty brought to my attention the recent article about Robyn Schiff's new book of poetry and the New Yorker article about it. Then he mentioned her husband Nick Twemlow, filmmaker and poet, is from Topeka. I was not
familiar with Twemlow, who now teaches at Coe College in Iowa. He co-edits 
Canarium Books, a publisher of contemporary poetry in English and translation, and he is a senior editor for The Iowa Review. He is author of Palm Trees (2013), which won the Norma Farber first book award from the Poetry Society of America. Michael, and I discussed Topeka, a city of 123,000, and what water everyone must be drinking. Lawrence, just downriver 20 miles, does not have this kind of record for townies--the University of Kansas, of course, fosters many wonderful poets. Harty, though, has perspective on the Karl Menninger Foundation, where he once worked as a psychologist. When it was at its height, many well known doctors staffed the facility. Their offspring are some of the most gifted poets working today. Harriet Lerner (The Dance of Anger) and Steve Lerner are parents of Ben Lerner.  Other Menninger babies are Kevin YoungCyrus Console, Thomas Fox Averill (yes, he also writes poetry), and maybe others I am not aware of (please add comments). Many other poets in Topeka do not have direct Menninger connections. Perhaps I need to give credit to Topeka schools and the library, which has always been a bright spot. I'm not sure the state government contributes much, since most of the legislators are transients. 
For an article about the amazing number of poets to come out of Topeka,  read "Is Topeka the Most Poetic City in America," by Amy Brady. She has four theories: the contradictory nature of Topkea, political resistance, Menningers, and Esprit de Corps. Whatever the causes--perhaps a synergy of several lay lines--viva Topeka. More Topeka poets are:

Poet Laureate of Kansas Eric McHenry , Anne Boyer, C.A. Conrad,  Amy Fleury Leah Sewell