Humanities Happenings – 3/28-3/31

March is coming to an end, but not before a film screening, book discussions, a speaker presentation, and a major poetry event take place in Kansas.

Wichita: Big Story, Big Screen

The Road to Valhalla, a documentary film from Lone Chimney Films, tells the story of the  conflict on the Kansas-Missouri border during the Civil War. The film will screen at 6:30 PM on March 28th at Old Cowtown Museum. Click here for details.

David E. Seibel

David E. Seibel

Basehor: For the (Love of) Birds

Kansas has produced some of the nation’s foremost experts on birds, men and women who have devoted their lives to studying and portraying avian life with a passion that few might understand. David E. Seibel’s talk, “Ornithologists, Artists, and Bird Paparazzi of Kansas,” examines the rich and colorful history of ornithology as a profession in Kansas and the significant contributions of artists, photographers, and cinematographers who focus on birds as their subjects. Is there a particular psyche that drives “bird people,” and what is the unique interplay between professional and amateur bird people? Scientists, artists, and hobbyists directly influence the field or ornithology and the greater scientific world at large. March 30th at 2:00 PM at Basehor Community Library. Click here for details.


Stafford Final Green 2Topeka: Celebrating Stafford

Kansas-born poet William Stafford would have turned 100 this year. Washburn University is commemorating Stafford’s birth with a day of poetry and film, featuring Kim Stafford, Ted Kooser, and Poet Laureate of Kansas Wyatt Townley. March 31st from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Washburn Union. Kim Stafford’s keynote is at 7:00 p.m. Contact  tom.averill(at) with questions. Note: this event is not sponsored by KHC. 



Haysville, Mount Hope, Parsons, St. John, and Ulysses: TALK, TALK, and more TALK

TALKLooking for a book discussion? You don’t need to look very far to find a Talk About Literature in Kansas (TALK) book discussion happening in Kansas. The Ida Long Goodman Public Library in St. John is hosting a discussion of “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini on March 30th. On March 31st, Parsons Public Library will discuss “Dance of the Dead” by Tony Hillerman; the Grant County Public Library in Ulysses will talk about “Prodigal Summer” by Barbara Kingsolver; Mount Hope Public Library will meet about “Once Upon a Town” by Bob Greene; and Haysville Public Library explores “Anil’s Ghost” by Michael Ondaatje. Click here for details.

More humanities events can be found on KHC’s Calendar of Events.


Click here to download a pdf version of the information on this page.

Poems for “HomeWords”

Calling: All Poets & Poets-To-Be With Kansas Roots

A weekly poetry column to be published in newspapers across this great state
Edited by Kansas Poet Laureate Wyatt Townley
Sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council

You are invited to come home.

The concept of “home” is a resonant one, and a Kansas value. From our state song, “Home on the Range,” to the Wizard of Oz mantra, “There’s no place like home,” it’s bigger than a location. And smaller.

Home may be invisible. “It’s really a piece of soul rather than a piece of soil,” said author Pico Iyer. It may be portable. According to Emily Dickinson, “Where Thou art–that–is Home–.”

Home is especially relevant at this time of change–with soldiers coming and going to war, Americans moving every five years, and workers losing longheld jobs. The shift from rural to urban has left Kansas with 6,000 ghost towns. Home–leaving home and coming home–may be a daily journey, but it is also a mythic one.

Naturally, home depends on point of view–as diverse as the nearly 2.9 million Kansans who live here. We’ll be exploring home from micro to macro: from the mobile home of the body, to the room or house we live in, to the land that anchors us, to the sky that envelops it all.

"Pastoral Dreamer" by David Phelps (For scale, note Roderick's hat by armpit)

“Pastoral Dreamer” by David Phelps
(For scale, note Roderick’s hat by armpit)

What is home? Where is it?

Home is our subject–in four contexts.

1. Home as body–the mobile home that has gone everywhere we go, the place we’ve lived in all our life and maybe ignored until it hurt, or maybe worked from sunup to sundown, or maybe built and beautified, or all or none of the above.

2. Home as house–or room, or apartment. The building that holds us and to which we return, no matter what else is going on in our lives. Where we sleep, eat, and refuel for the next adventure…and where the adventure continues.

3. Home as land–the earth that anchors us. What’s underfoot, and what we see, hear, smell when we walk out the door. The trees that bend over us, the gravel that crunches below. Our block, our farm, our woods, our yard, our fields, our landscape–small, big, rural, urban, or otherwise.

4. Home as sky–the sky that contains us, and that we contain. We think of it as overhead, but it’s right here under our noses. We’re breathing it, we’re spinning in it as we head to work or school. It holds everything we can point to and name.

Apply the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.

The theme is big, but the form we’ll be exploring is small: the American Cinquain. Invited by Adelaide Crapsey in the early 1900s, it’s just five lines long. The first line has two syllables, the second four, the third six, the fourth eight, and the last drops back to two.

In other words, the lines comprise, in order, 2,4,6,8, and 2 syllables. Here are a few samples.

Which breath
is the last this
one or the one after
all you have undergone what’s not
to love

One eighth
of an acre
of Kansas is enough
to love a woman in, make art,
keep faith.

What is 
the color of 
moon yellow white or ice
blue well you have to close your eyes
and smell

Follow these submission guidelines.

  • Submit 1 to 4 cinquains (total, together in one submission). Feel free to pick from any/all of the four contexts–body, house, land, sky–as you like. If you would like to submit more than once, please wait 4 months between submissions.
  • Email your cinquains in the body of your email, along with a one-sentence bio that includes your hometown, to
    No attachments please, email attachments will not be read.
  • Surprise us. We’re looking for originality of approach and grace of execution. The cinquains do not have to hook together into one larger piece. Or they might. Submit your best work.
  • Your submission is permission to be published. Your poem(s) may be selected to appear online and in newspapers across Kansas.
  • Payment. No money is changing  hands in this project. Your payment is in the creation of your work, and, if published, in spreading the love of poetry across the state.
  • Notification. Please do not write to ask about the status of your poem(s). Wyatt will get back to you. She is slow–this may be her most redeeming quality. She may notify some folks slowly, some less slowly. She may need to wait to make choices until more poems come in, or she may be swamped. The speed of her response has no bearing on the quality of your work.
  • Acceptance/Rejection. Acceptance and rejection are two sides of the same coin that can land either way for writers. Rejection isn’t personal. It’s a part of the process we undergo in getting the word out. As the wise one said, put the “yes” or “no” in your pocket and keep walking (or in our case, writing).
  • Eligibility: Kansas residents and folks with Kansas roots, all ages. Translation: if you have lived or set foot in Kansas, or have ancestors from this great state, you qualify for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

For more information about “HomeWords,” contact


Humanities Happenings – Spring 2014


Spring is here! For KHC, Spring means commemorations, oral histories, poetry, and lots and lots of humanities events.

Brown v. Board & StoryCorps

To honor the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision and to consider changes in Topeka’s schools since 1954, thirty-six Topekans will participate in a special StoryCorps national oral history project to document, preserve, and share their reflections, school experiences, and perspectives. The interviews will be recorded in Topeka and archived at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Interested in being part of the StoryCorps interviews? Contact Donna Rae Pearson, Local History Librarian at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, at (785) 580-4510 ASAP.  Read more…


Calling all poets and poets-to-be with Kansas roots for a weekly poetry column, edited by Kansas Poet Laureate Wyatt Townley, to be published in newspapers across this great state. Read more…

Pin-Up Poetry

Celebrate April’s National Poetry Month with Pin-Up Poetry, an easy, free statewide project that encourages Kansans to write, read, and share their own poetry and the poetry of others on Pinterest. Read more…

Banner Image Credits: 1) Mrs. Hunt’s first grade class at State Street Elementary School, Topeka, January 1955. Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society. 2) Wyatt Townley. Photo by Terry Weckbaugh.

StoryCorps is Coming to Topeka

Integrated_School_KSHSMay 1-3, 2014

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its first Brown v. Board of Education ruling declaring public school segregation unconstitutional. This year, May 17 coincides with graduation day in Topeka. Imagine the difference.  

To honor the changes in Topeka’s schools over the past 60 years, thirty-six Topekans will participate in a special StoryCorps national oral history project to document, preserve, and share their reflections, school experiences, and perspectives. The interviews will be recorded in Topeka and archived at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The project is a collaboration among the Kansas Humanities Council, Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, and the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. Interested in being part of the StoryCorps interviews? Please contact Donna Rae Pearson, Local History Librarian at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library at (785) 580-4510 ASAP.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, tens of thousands of people have participated while millions listen to weekly StoryCorps broadcasts on the radio and at

The project is made possible with support from the Capitol Federal Foundation, Fairlawn Plaza, Security Benefit, the Greater Topeka Fund of the Topeka Community Foundation, and Westar Energy.


Pin-Up Poetry 2014

KHC_FINAL_LOGOS-04Celebrate April’s National Poetry Month with Pin-Up Poetry, an easy, free statewide project that encourages Kansans to write, read, and share their own poetry and the poetry of others.

How it works

1. Print postcard templates and writing prompts, beginning April 1.
2. Share poetry – original and by others – on the postcards.
3. Scan & Email postcards to leslie(at)
4. Visit KHC’s Pinterest page to see your Pin-Up Poetry!

Need inspiration? Click here for samples.

Promote Pin-Up Poetry

Want to promote Pin-Up Poetry at your organization?

  • Download this pdf version of the Pin-Up Poetry promotional postcard.
  • Displaying the postcards? Download this KHC Logo Poster to hang alongside them.

The project begins April 1. Questions? Contact Leslie Von Holten, director of programs, at leslie(at) for more information.

New Humanities Catalog Available

AUG 18 SB Catalog copyJust a click connects you with Kansas speakers presenting over 50 new topics in KHC’s new Humanities catalog. The catalog showcases both traditional and innovative lectures and civic engagement opportunities available free to Kansas nonprofits, as funding allows. These Speakers Bureau topics are broad in spirit with more diverse themes, ideas, and approaches that look toward the future while we also respect and learn about the past. Inside you will find talks and events that address important themes for Kansans today:

Created Equal: Commemorate fifty years since the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 with presentations about the Civil Rights Movement, the rights of Native Americans, and the actions of the Supreme Court.

Our Shared World: Presentations explore the history, policies, and personal stories that come about when different cultures intersect.

Commemorating World War I: 100 years after the “war to end all wars,” these presentations examine the great complexities faced within the trenches, in the air, on the home front, and after the Armistice.

Culture in Context: Presentations highlight the varying ways literature, film, the visual arts, and popular culture are used to signify our place in time.

The Civil War: Talks and readers theater opportunities focus on the people who lived during the Civil War, bringing their triumphs and struggles to life.

Heritage and Traditions: From foodways to quilting, music to cowboys, these presentations look at how our traditions identify and connect us to our Midwestern roots.

Uniquely Kansas: These presentations – ranging from fun to fascinating, heartbreaking to inspiring – are unified by the common theme that Kansans have impacted our world.

Click here to find out how you can bring a KHC Speakers Bureau event to your community. Contact Leslie Von Holten, director of programs, at leslie(at) for more information.