Poetry of Kansas Here & Now, There & Then

My grandfather is a picture,05_10_1

Boxed in by a solid oak frame,

Staring with inscrutable gaze

From my aunt’s faded flower print.

He is not the imperious patriarch.

He neither intimidates into silence,

Nor beckons with benevolent gaze

This small collection of name-bearers.

How often I sat at the table as a child

Staring at those eyes squinting at the light,

Head cocked as if hearing an inner voice,

One he never seems quite able to place.

Maybe it is our faces he strains to see,

The timber of our voices he leans to hear.

What to make of this new breed of Kansans.

He appears perpetually to withhold judgment.

As judges go, he’s not a gavel beater,

But he’s Kansas shrewd, taking us all in.

In cases involving imposters, you see,

Looks don’t cut it. Nor voices.

Rather some indefinable tilt of the head.

The glacial drift of conversation.

A beckoning of ancient blood.

A quality of silence.

~ Thomas Reynolds

Thomas Reynolds is an associate English professor at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, and has published poems in various print and online journals, including New Delta Review, Alabama Literary Review, Aethlon-The Journal of Sport Literature, The MacGuffin, Flint Hills Review, and Prairie Poetry. Woodley Press of Washburn University published his poetry collection Ghost Town Almanac in 2008. His chapbook The Kansas Hermit Poems was published in 2013.

Guest editor: Denise Low, 2nd Kansas Poet Laureate, is author of twenty-five books, most recently Mélange Block (Red Mountain Press, Santa Fe). Low is past president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs board of directors. Cream City Review nominated her fiction for a Pushcart Prize, 2014. She writes articles, blogs, and reviews; and she co-publishes a small press, Mammoth Publications. She teaches private professional workshops as well as classes for Baker U. Her MFA is from W.S.U. and Ph.D. is from K.U. She has British Isles, German, and Delaware Indian heritage. See more: www.deniselow.net http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/denise-low http://deniselow.blogspot.com

The sun drags worlds behind itWyatt-Townley-Headshot-color

planets at its ankles

it hauls you out of bed

into the kitchen where

spoon by spoon the sun

draws itself through your body

this goes on and on one foot

after another through the usual rooms

while stars are dropping off the map

the sun drags the pen across the page

and out the sides of your eyes

the sky spins your tears

into a poem that falls back

on graves of lovers

and gardens of strangers

the sun without fail

pulls the coat of loneliness over your arms

as you walk in your own footprints

until you reach the place

where we can read these words together

~ Wyatt Townley

from The Afterlives of Trees (Woodley Press)

Wyatt Townley is the fourth Poet Laureate of Kansas. Her work has been read by Garrison Keillor on NPR, featured in Ted Kooser’s syndicated column, and published in journals including The Paris Review, North American Review, and The Yale Review. She has published three books of poems, most recently The Afterlives of Trees, a Kansas Notable Book and winner of the Nelson Award. The confluence of poetry and poetry-in-motion has shaped Wyatt’s life. (www.WyattTownley.com)

Double Trouble for Poetry Month: During Poetry Month, we are featuring a poem weekly from each of Kansas’s poets laureate in addition to our weekly poems.

Genesis by Diane Wahto

Diane WahtoWhen those two people, cold, armored, fortified

against the assaults they had fought and conquered,

when those two faced each other, foundered,

grasped hands to make promises, to forge an accord,

in the almost empty church in front of the preacher

on a Saturday night, in front of her mother, his mother,

his father dead, her father deaf to anyone’s needs

but his own small ones,

when they left the church and went to the small

apartment just down the block that they would call

home until the first baby started to crawl,

when they shared a bed for the first time,

unfamiliar touches, awkward kisses, crossed a line

that she had not crossed before, he making a fine

show of manhood the first time. Then came the sun,

a bright light in the bedroom. They arose, put on

their wedding clothes, and went to church,

as was their habit.

~ Diane Wahto

Diane Wahto has an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University. Her poem, “Someone Is Always Watching,” won the American Academy of Poets award. Recently, her poems “The Conspiracy of Coffee” and “After the Storm” were published in Active Aging. She, her husband, and two dogs live in Wichita, Kansas.

Guest editor: Denise Low, 2nd Kansas Poet Laureate, is author of twenty-five books, most recently Mélange Block (Red Mountain Press, Santa Fe). Low is past president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs board of directors. Cream City Review nominated her fiction for a Pushcart Prize, 2014. She writes articles, blogs, and reviews; and she co-publishes a small press, Mammoth Publications. She teaches private professional workshops as well as classes for Baker U. Her MFA is from W.S.U. and Ph.D. is from K.U. She has British Isles, German, and Delaware Indian heritage. See more: www.deniselow.net http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/denise-low http://deniselow.blogspot.com

Hues by Denise Low

I look into my lover’s eyes. Denise

Like lit sumac, they catch fire.

Our glances kindle scarlet.

 

My tongue tastes sea-blue.

My hands dip in purple water.

Elderberry blooms next to us.

 

Alfalfa blossoms spread lemon.

Mountain winds smell of snow

blown through miles of sage.

 

Our legs entwine in brambles.

When we kiss, fragrance becomes

the skin’s sun-heat smell.

 

 A cinder pyre burns away the west

until again we are blind.

~ Denise Low

Denise (Dotson) Low is the 2007-2009 Kansas Poet Laureate, with 25 published books of poetry, personal essays, and scholarship. Melange Block, poems, is from Red Mountain Press (2014), and A Casino Bestiary, poetry and fiction, is forthcoming from Mouthfeel Press (2015). She has been visiting professor of creative writing at the University of Richmond and the University of Kansas. At Haskell Indian Nations University, she founded the creative writing program. Currently, she teaches courses for Baker University as well as independent creative writing workshops in Kansas City and online. She has awards from the NEH, Lannan Foundation, The Newberry Library, Academy of American Poets,Sequoyah National Research Center, and Ks. Arts Commission.

Double Trouble for Poetry Month: During Poetry Month, we are featuring a poem weekly from each of Kansas’s poets laureate in addition to our weekly poems.

10885210_10203995076012065_23950373450041338_nWhere tongues of stone stand between green lips burned brown,

where moon and sky have turned mean backs on our disasters,

 

we are alive, bawdy and brightly dressed, yearning, plotting still.

If I could, I would reach for you, Elmer Bland,

 

drowned while hunting rabbits down by the falls.

I went twenty-two years without your stone tongue and wooden hands,

 

without your disappointment in me, the bride who did not make you rich,

did not keep you young with children. And now we are together again,

 

cattle grazing in our faces, chewing our paltry shade down into pulp.

The hot dime of the noon sun can cackle to the stars at our mistakes,

 

but I cannot release one word from my lips. I cannot move, when all I want

is to touch a finger to the fine blue wool of your Sunday coat.

~ Pat Daneman

Pat Daneman has lived in Lenexa, Kansas since 1986. Recent work appears in The Moon City Review, I-70 Review, Bellevue Poetry Review, and The Comstock Review. Her chapbook, Where the World Begins, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. She is poetry co-editor of Kansas City Voices magazine.

Guest editor: Denise Low, 2nd Kansas Poet Laureate, is author of twenty-five books, most recently Mélange Block (Red Mountain Press, Santa Fe). Low is past president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs board of directors. Cream City Review nominated her fiction for a Pushcart Prize in 2014. She writes articles, blogs, and reviews; and she co-publishes a small press, Mammoth Publications. She teaches private professional workshops as well as classes for Baker U. Her MFA is from W.S.U. and Ph.D. is from K.U. She has British Isles, German, and Delaware Indian heritage. See more: www.deniselow.net http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/denise-low http://deniselow.blogspot.com

Dawn releases creatures afraid of the dark,

looks for others along borders in shadow.

Night retreats, dreams dissipate

with mist rising from the lake.

Crows hurry from the sun

like ideas cast out by Enlightenment.

There is safety in numbers

even among the exiled.

Vultures patrol a higher plane,

marking subsets of acreage below,

assessing flight paths of each crow

for purpose, discovery, sustenance –

to be first to the prize.

Vultures see me

as a blip on radar, wonder

when I will become carrion,

whether coyotes will compete

for my bones.

~ Kelly W. Johnst

Kelly Johnston is a life-long Kansan, who was born in Lawrence in 1955. After graduating from law school in 1979, he put his poetry on the back burner after majoring in creative writing as an undergrad at WSU. About 5 years ago, Kelly began writing again, and in 2011 his poem, “House Sitter”, won 1st place in the Kansas Writers Asso. Poetry contest. In 2014, his poem, “Landmarks”, won 2nd place in the Kansas Authors Club Poetry contest, narrative verse category. And just recently, his poem, “Trails”, won 1st place in the Kansas Authors Club District 5 Poetry contest. Kelly still practices law, but also loves to spend time on his land in the Chautauqua Hills near Cross Timbers State Park, where most of his poetry is inspired.

Guest editor Eric McHenry’s new book of poems, Odd Evening, will be published by Waywiser Press in 2016. His previous collections include Potscrubber Lullabies, which won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award in 2007, and Mommy Daddy Evan Sage, a children’s book illustrated by Nicholas Garland. He also edited and introduced Peggy of the Flint Hills, a memoir by Zula Bennington Greene. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, Yale Review, Cincinnati Review, Field, Orion, The Guardian (U.K.), Poetry Daily and Poetry Northwest, from whom he received the 2010 Theodore Roethke Prize. Since 2001, he has been a poetry critic for The New York Times Book Review. He lives in Lawrence with his wife and two children and teaches creative writing at Washburn University.

Matthew Manning PhotoA secret society of cattle refuses

to be anyone’s property.

They don’t recognize the uses

of their every ounce.

 

Their flanks have never been mixed

with the powder packet

in your Hamburger Helper

or the off-brand that

almost tastes like the real thing.

 

The Hindus haven’t collected their urine

and distilled it to cure illness.

The cattle don’t like the term bovine

because bovine’s too generic.

In fact, because they’re cows,

they use no words at all.

 

Spread out and confident,

they graze the large land

never scared, standing tall.

A dead beefwood tree lies sideways

in the middle of the pasture.

The cattle are drawn to its stillness.

Silent and white,

it keeps their perfect attention.

~ Matthew David Manning

Bio: Matthew David Manning is a poet from Pittsburg, Kansas where he teaches at Pittsburg State University in the Intensive English Program. Matthew holds degrees in creative writing from Arizona State University and Pittsburg State University. Matthew is passionate about educating non-native English speakers about poetry, and recently returned from spending two years in Suzhou, China.

Guest editor Eric McHenry’s new book of poems, Odd Evening, will be published by Waywiser Press in 2016. His previous collections include Potscrubber Lullabies, which won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award in 2007, and Mommy Daddy Evan Sage, a children’s book illustrated by Nicholas Garland. He also edited and introduced Peggy of the Flint Hills, a memoir by Zula Bennington Greene. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, Yale Review, Cincinnati Review, Field, Orion, The Guardian (U.K.), Poetry Daily and Poetry Northwest, from whom he received the 2010 Theodore Roethke Prize. Since 2001, he has been a poetry critic for The New York Times Book Review. He lives in Lawrence with his wife and two children and teaches creative writing at Washburn University.

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