April 12, 2016

Saturday, May 22, 2010

50 State Tour: The Sunflower State

Kansas State Poet Laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg continues her visit today. She's got some great advice for teaching poetry in the classroom.

Does Kansas have a poet-in-the-schools program and do you visit schools?

We have an Arts on Tour program, and schools can contract with me to come in and do workshops for their students. I generally try to help students discover that writing can be something specifically for them to help them clarify who they are and celebrate their options in life. 

What tips do you have for teachers?

I would suggest to teachers that they try out exercises such as having students pick a place in the world, and then write about themselves living there as if this was where they were from. They might also use fairy tales and folk tales as writing prompts, asking students to write from the perspective of quiet characters or objects in the poem (such as the pumpkin in "Cinderella" or one of the dwarves in "Snow White.")

There's a model poem at Poetry 180 -- a Sleeping Beauty retelling called "Immortality," by Lisel Mueller.

Caryn, did you have a favorite book of poetry as a child?
I didn't really have a favorite book of poetry as a child, but as a teenager, I loved e.e.cummings and T.S. Eliot, and eventually, Adrienne Rich, William Stafford and many others.

Tell us about the literary community in Kansas. Who are some poets we should check out?

We have a widespread literary community, and many of our top writers can be found at

In Lawrence, KS., where I live, there's quite a community of experimental poets because of William Burroughs having lived here for many decades until his death. His residence here brought many artists and poets to town regularly, such as Anne Waldman, Allan Ginsburg, Phillip Glass and so many others. Poets in this tradition include Jim McCrary, Judy Roitman, Joseph Harrington and especially Ken Irby

You'll find an interview with Burroughs here.

There are also many who identify particularly with writing about Kansas, such as Denise Low (past poet laureate), Steven Hind, Bill Sheldon, Kathleen Johnson and others. We have cowboy poets such as Jim Hoy and Mike Johnson. We also have very complex, internationally-known writers such as Albert Goldbarth.

If you'd like to read Caryn's poem "Self Portrait as Hand" and try the related writing exercise, it's in yesterday's post.

Thanks for stopping by, Caryn.

We're heading east for a stop in West Virginia next. Enjoy your weekend!

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