The end of a month long celebration of poetry

Dr. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg typing
a poem to send out into the world

Last night I had the pleasure of meeting the charming and brilliant Poet Laureate of Kansas, Dr. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. We invited her to do a reading at the library to celebrate the end of National Poetry Month, and she shared new and old work with an engaged audience for about 45 minutes and took questions at the end. I was certainly impressed with her eagerness to share especially her most intimate and personal titles, which included self portraits and reflections on her experiences with cancer.

At one point in the reading, she asked for the audience to give her a number of words, to which we responded with “inland,” “South America,” “transcendence,” “middle school” and several others that seemingly had no relation. She then improvised and recited an impressive poem using each one – this was my favorite part of her presentation. In her question and answer session at the end, she shared her thoughts on the creative process and her own writing techniques. She compared it to any art form and explained that as you practice, you’ll find that you’ll improve and develop your own style, and the more you practice, the more easily the language of poetry will come to you.

Miss Conception’s awesome poetry
slamming skills won her the grand
prize – an iPad 2!

I’m really glad hat I had the opportunity to work with the programming librarian and the Lawrence Arts Center to develop the Poetry Off the Page series of events. On Wednesday the 11th, I taught a few poets how to create a chapbook using Microsoft Publisher in our computer lab. I had hoped that they would be able to finish and print out a copy, but we ran out of time. Those who participated, though, were grateful that they now knew a much easier way to put one together. Later that evening we hosted a Poetry Slam. We had 9 poets – from teenagers to older adults – compete for a couple of gift certificates to The Raven Bookstore and the grand prize, an iPad 2.  The most coveted prize, though, was the bag of frozen burritos we gave away to the audience’s favorite slammer not included in the final three! Mark Hennessy volunteered to come back and sit in as our semi-famous guest judge, and he even donned a gorilla suit! I sent him out to the lobby of the library to slam some poems, and I guess I should have given some forewarning to the rest of the library – someone from circulation called the security guard on him!

The following Wednesday, we had our normal, monthly Poetry Social. This didn’t draw a very big crowd – three poets – but we had a good time creating, sharing and discussing work focused on the theme of “Transcendence.” Last night’s reading by Dr. Goldberg was the final program in the series, and I’m happy to say it was a great end to our month long celebration. In talking with her afterward, she expressed how great she thought it was that the library worked with the arts center on these events, and I think everyone who attended and participated in them felt the same way. I’m looking forward to next April and great things we can do then! Here’s to poetry!

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