Randy Used the Word

It’s the last week of National Poetry Month and time for the final poem from Odd Evening, the new book of poetry from Eric McHenry, Poet Laureate of Kansas™.

Randy Used the Word

April is not over yet! See Eric McHenry at three events this week, including an Odd Evening Book Release on April 28th in Topeka.

First Responder by Eric McHenry

The third week of National Poetry Month bring us “First Responder” by Eric McHenry, Poet Laureate of Kansas™.

First responder

Eric will be presenting at the Kinsley Public Library on Tuesday, April 19. Find more Poet Laureate of Kansas™ events on KHC’s Calendar of Events.

“Summer Mix” by Eric McHenry

National Poetry Month rolls on with another selection from Odd Evening by Eric McHenry, Poet Laureate of Kansas™.

Summer Mix-final

Find Poet Laureate of Kansas™ events on KHC’s Calendar of Events.

Street View

It’s National Poetry Month! Each week in April, KHC will be sharing one poem from Odd Evening, the new collection of poetry from Poet Laureate of Kansas™ Eric McHenry.

Street View

For more from the Poet Laureate of Kansas™, attend a Poet Laureate of Kansas™ event and follow Eric McHenry on Facebook.

Twelve Communities to Host Poet Laureate of Kansas™ Events

Eric McHenry Photo courtesy of Kelly Magerkurth

Eric McHenry
Photo courtesy of Kelly Magerkurth

KHC announced the 12 Kansas communities that will host Poet Laureate of Kansas events in 2015-2016. Presentations and discussions exploring the humanities through poetry will be led by Eric McHenry of Lawrence, Kan., who was named the 2015-2017 Poet Laureate of Kansas in May.

Sept. 19, 2015: Leavenworth Public Library (Cindy McGuire, project director)

Sept. 26: Glasco Community Foundation (Joan Nothern, project director)

Oct. 5: Newton Public Library (Dan Eells, project director)

Nov. 10: Cimarron City Library (Sara McFarland, project director)

Nov. 11: Dodge City Public Library (Michael Biltz, project director)

Jan. 21, 2016: Kansas Cosmosphere & Space Center, Hutchinson (Mimi Meredith, project director)

Apr. 8: Hays Public Library (Lucia Bain, project director)

Apr. 12: Pioneer Memorial Library, Colby (Melany Wilks, project director)

Apr. 19: Kinsley Public Library (Joan Weaver, project director)

Apr. 19: Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility, Larned (Lana Hopkins, project director)

May 7: Pioneer Bluffs, Matfield Green (Lynn Smith, project director)

June 16: Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library (Miranda Ericsson, project director)

Support for the Poet Laureate of Kansas has been provided by the Friends of Naomi Patterson; the Barton P. and Mary D. Cohen Charitable Trust; and KHC Friends of the Humanities.

For more information or to donate to the Poet Laureate of Kansas program, click here.

Eric McHenry named Poet Laureate of Kansas

Eric McHenry Photo credit: Kelly Magerkurth

Eric McHenry
Photo credit: Kelly Magerkurth

The Kansas Humanities Council (KHC) announced that Eric McHenry of Lawrence, Kansas has been named the 2015-2017 Poet Laureate of Kansas. In this role, McHenry will promote the humanities as a public resource for all Kansans through public readings, presentations, and discussions about poetry in communities across the state.

“Eric brings to the Poet Laureate of Kansas position an abundance of talent and enthusiasm,” said Julie Mulvihill, executive director of the Kansas Humanities Council. “As a writer, his words seem effortless, although we know how meticulously and thoughtfully he deliberates on each. As a teacher, his intelligence and humor make poetry come alive. The combination of these qualities will make Eric an exceptional poet laureate for our state.”

“There’s nothing I love more than sharing poetry with people, and I look forward to doing that in every corner of Kansas over the next two years,” said McHenry. “I think we’re all grateful when we encounter language that’s equal to life’s richness and complexity. Poetry can provide that.”

Eric McHenry is a nationally known poet and associate professor of English at Washburn University in Topeka. His work has been featured in publications such as Poetry InternationalSlateYale Review, and Topeka magazine, among many others. He also contributes poetry reviews for the New York Times and Columbia magazine. Odd Evening, his third book of poems, will be published by Waywiser Press in 2016.

A fifth-generation Topeka native, Eric has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for poetry seven times and received the Theodore Roethke Prize in 2011. His first book of poems, Potscrubber Lullabies, earned him the prestigious Kate Tufts Discovery Award in 2007, the largest American prize for a first book of poetry.

Outside of the college classroom, Eric has taught poetry in various settings, including K-12 teacher workshops, adolescent service agencies, local authors’ groups, and libraries.

Initial support of the Poet Laureate of Kansas program is made possible by the Friends of Naomi Patterson:
Carol Patterson Baldwin
David Patterson
Kent and Susan Garlinghouse
Russell and Jane Greene

Additional support comes from KHC’s Friends of the HumanitiesClick here to make a donation in support of the Poet Laureate of Kansas program.


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 HomeWordsKS@gmail.com.
    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 HomeWordsKS@gmail.com


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.

Humanities Happenings (8/31-9/4)

Incorporate some humanities into your Labor Day festivities! Film, poetry, and great discussions will make your holiday weekend complete.

Overland Park: Cinema Conversations

Did you know that National Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15th? Commemorate it early at the Rio Theatre with a screening of Mi Primera Boda (My First Wedding) a film described as “story of accidents, chaos, and errors; be prepared to laugh all the way.” Watch a 30-second preview:

The screening is followed by a bilingual discussion in English and Spanish led by Louis Imperiale of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The event is part of the Latin American Cinema Festival, a film discussion series that runs through September 21st. The Festival is sponsored by Sociedad Hidalgo. August 31st at 11:00 AM. Click here for details.

Wyatt Townley Photo by Terry Weckbaugh

Wyatt Townley
Photo by Terry Weckbaugh

Topeka, Harper, and Newton: One Poet Laureate, Three Events

There are three opportunities to see presentations by Wyatt Townley, Poet Laureate of Kansas in the coming week. On September 2, Townley joins past Poets Laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Denise Low for “Poets Laureate Three,” a reading and discussion at The Garden House in Topeka. Sponsored by Kansas Area Watershed Council. September 2nd at 11:00 AM. Click here for details.

On September 4th, Townley presents “Coming Home to Poetry” in two Kansas communities. Townley will be at the Harper Public Library at 2:00 PM and at the Newton Public Library at 7:00 PM.

Many more events are happening in September. Click here for the full KHC Calendar.

Townley named Poet Laureate of Kansas

Wyatt Townley Photo by Terry Weckbaugh

Wyatt Townley
Photo by Terry Weckbaugh

Wyatt Townley of Shawnee Mission has been named the 2013-2015 Poet Laureate of Kansas. As Poet Laureate of Kansas, Townley will promote the humanities as a public resource for all Kansans through public readings, presentations, and discussions about poetry in communities across the state. Click here to find out how you can request a Poet Laureate event in your community.

Wyatt Townley is a widely published, nationally known poet and a fourth-generation Kansan. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio’s The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor, in US Poet Laureate Emeritus Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry column, and published in journals ranging from The Paris Review to Newsweek. She has published three collections of poetry: The Breathing Field (Little Brown), Perfectly Normal (The Smith), and The Afterlives of Trees (Woodley Press), a Kansas Notable Book and winner of the Nelson Poetry Book Award. More information can be found on her website.

Support for the Poet Laureate of Kansas has been provided by the Friends of the Humanities. Donate Now and add your support to the Poet Laureate of Kansas program.