Kansas Time + Place

Edited by Roy J. Beckemeyer and Caryn Mirriam-Golberg. Published by Little Balkans Press, 2017. Available at Little Balkans Review, and at Amazon

Explore this collection of Kansas as a place, state of mind, dream and reality, and center of the heartland. In over 230 pages of poetry, this collection brings to readers the best from the collectively edited website, 150 Kansas Poems.

Strongly anchored by wonderful and memorable poems from veteran poets Kevin Rabas, Frank Higgins, Stephen Hind, Laura Lee Washburn, and Myrne Roe (“Udall, Kansas” is a standout here), this anthology shows us the wide range of talent and sensibility of poets currently writing in Kansas. ~ Jeff Worley, author of Driving Late to the Party: The Kansas Poems

I've been gone from Kansas for nearly 30 years but reading Kansas, Time & Place:  An Anthology of Heartland Poetry, returned me quite viscerally to a place I once called home:  the seasons, the landscape, the night sky and persistent wind and punishing weather, but more than that, the people, the voices of heartbreak, of struggle, of nostalgia, of mystery. “I've always felt that/ late at night in the bed of the truck,/ in a Kansas field:  we were/ at the center of the universe.”  Throughout these poems run the appreciation of silence, reverence for what outsiders perceive as “nothingness,” and the timelessness of prairie life, its ancient fossils found alongside abandoned demolition derby cars and plastic cups. Here, “Nothing is lost, but so many things have to be found.”  Memory is a powerful force in Kansas.   In Kansas, there is always another story to tell. ~ Anita Skeen, author of The Unauthorized Audubon

We nominatee the following six poems for consideration for 2018 Pushcart Prize awards:

  • "Phone Call from a Movie Set Somewhere in Kansas," by Pat Daneman
  • "Good Housekeeping," by Melissa Fite Johnson
  • "Bright River," by Stephen Meats
  • " I Try to Write It for You in My Head," by Julie Ramon
  • "How It Is," by Wyatt Townley
  • "After a Snowless Winter," by Patricia Traxler

Sea Birds

My car’s radiator broken, the engine overheat light on,

we pull off the road and look at the ocean,

two young Kansans on vacation, nearly to New Orleans.

Bea says, “Look at those birds,” and our eyes swift

to the grey-tipped terns, their wings lazy Vs,

they drift on the winds above the white-capped sea.

They float, and our hands come together, clasp,

as if taken together by wind, and our troubles dissolve,

like sugar into water, and I tell Bea, if the radiator

catches on fire, I’ll take our patch-work quilt, douse

it in our jug of water, smother, and, like that,

the fire of our lips is doused with a kiss.

~ Kevin Rabas, 2017-19 Kansas Poet Laureate

An Introduction: What is Time + Place?

For many years, I thought I was mostly writing poems about place. As a Brooklyn-born, New Jersey-raised Kansan, I've been drawn all my life to the talismans that convey sense of place, from the Maple tree outside the Brooklyn triplex where I learned to play “Red Light, Green Light, 123,” to the vast brome field morphing into native prairie outside my window now, where I live just south of the Wakarusa River.

Yet in recent years, looking at the poems I love by other writers and what I'm drawn to write, I see how much there is to say about time, which seems to me more like a vertical sense of what seems like horizontal views of place. We live in time, or as poet Stanley Kunitz writes in his poem, “The Layers," “Live in the layers,/ not on the litter.” In a sense, I think we're like trees, the heart wood our birth, and each year adding new ring of experiences, perceptions, realizations, losses, and loves.

But trees are rooted in real ground, and place also holds within it the seeds and signs of time: we can sometimes find remnant of shark's teeth on the high plains, reminding us of the inland ocean that once whipped up its own wild weather in this part of the world. The stars—burning and burning out in the ultimate infinity of space—might seem to be on an even playing field, but they bring us light that both as old as 200 million years and, in the case of our sun, as young as 8 minutes old. Likewise, our ways of inhabiting the spaces and places of our days and nights are composed of insights, wounds, memories, joys, and questions from the first time we tasted dirt as a toddler to yesterday's glimpse of the blazing orange around the setting sun.

This anthology, lovingly edited by Roy Beckemeyer, explores who we are from the angles of history, geography, personal and community stories, traditions and innovations, and the spirit of life from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

We can best find the poetic at the core of our lives through community, and so I'm deeply grateful to all the guest editors who brought poets and their poems to the three years of Kansas Time + Place: Roy J. Beckemeyer, James Benger, Dan Bentley, Annette Hope Billings, Maril Crabtree, Pat Daneman, Dennis Etzel, Jr., Jose Faus, Kat Greene, Melissa Fite Johnson, Kelly W. Johnston, William J. Karnowski, Denise Low, Lori Baker Martin, Eric McHenry, Stephen Meats, Ronda Miller, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Al Ortolani, Kevin Rabas, Thomas Reynolds, Tyler Sheldon, William Sheldon, Cody Shrum, Ramona Vreeland, Diane Wahto, Laura Lee Washburn, Israel Wasserstein.

Many thanks to Roy for his insightful and caring editing and book and cover design, Stephen Locke for the very time+place cover photo, and Little Balkans Press for bringing this book to life.

Dear reader, I hope this book will give you a wider perspective on both your sense of place and time, and through that perspective, deeper and more enduring vision of the possibilities, even miraculous ones, for your lives and for Kansas as its own state of mind as well as a state of surprises over miles and minutes.