What is home and where is home?
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Poets & Poets-To-Be With Kansas Roots

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

Submissions Now Closed:
A Note from the Poet Laureate

Dear Fellow Poet,

Submissions are now closed for HomeWords.  The column is completely booked and will run through National Poetry Month (April) as I finish out my two-year term as Poet Laureate of Kansas.

What a wonderful experience it has been editing this project.  We’ve published 105 poems (for 105 counties of Kansas) by Kansans for Kansans in 14 newspapers across the state, corresponding with minds far and wide on the important topic of home:  what it is and where it is.  It’s been a profound conversation, and from the abundance of (over 1500) poems in my inbox, a productive one.  Thank you for participating in it.

To read some of these fine contributions, click here.

Toward the cause,
     Wyatt Townley
     Poet Laureate of Kansas

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.

The theme is big, but the form we’ll be exploring is small: the American Cinquain. Invented 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

Click here  for a list of participating Kansas newspapers.

For more information about “HomeWords,” contact HomeWordsKS@gmail.com