THE NEWS, NOT JUST FROM KANSAS BUT ALL THE WORLD
“Biologists have a technique of plotting a given amount of land and recording every member of a species within it during a specific length of time,” begins Denise Low’s preface to 30 Kansas Poets (1979). She continues, calling that collection of poems “more a record of what is occurring within the perimeters of the state … than an attempt to define or categorize ‘Kansas’ poetry.” We follow Low here in offering a small sample — perhaps more akin to a snapshot than a record — of contemporary Kansas poetry.
As with Low’s collection, it was not possible to include the work of every member of the species writing in Kansas today, though Low herself, a former Poet Laureate of Kansas, is included. Two other former Poets Laureate, as well as the current Poet Laureate, are also represented. In addition to these poets, all who at one time or another have exercised the responsibility of their office to promote both the writing and the appreciation of poetry in Kansas, we have included the work of a librarian poet, and a poet who works for an electric company. While most of the poets have taught or continue to teach creative writing, three are currently students — two undergraduates, and one graduate.
Some of the poems here investigate our relationship to the land, a theme one would expect to be addressed by Kansas poets; tornadoes, of course, make an appearance, in both the form of the havoc that remains in the wake of one and in the experience of having lived through one. Our relationship to the rest of the world, and to the universe, gets examined, in terms of spirituality, from observations made by the Zen poet Ikkyu, to a meditation on Adam’s naming of the animals. Still, most of the poems reflect on our relationships with the people in our lives, many providing portraits and vignettes about aunts and neighbors, children, students, even historical figures, and yes, even politicians. In short, the news, not just from Kansas but from all the world, is here.
--M. R. Pelletier