To the Stars Through Difficulties

To the Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices

Buy through Mammoth Publications, 2012, ISBN 978-0-9837995-9-7.

Winner of the Kansas Notable Book Award. Purchase through Mammoth Publications.

Based on the renga unfolding at, this 150-part poem brings together poets throughout and beyond Kansas with a connection to this state of mind and geographical mosaic of place. A "renga" is a collaborative poem based on the Japanese haiku form, often about nature. Poets in the chain take readers across the mythological as well as physical landscape of Kansas. Each poet begins with the seed of an idea from the poem before, writes, and leads the way for the next poet, all the way to the end. Mirriam-Goldberg explains, “The renga draws together descendants of pioneers, lovers of dogs or cats or both, attorneys and people who've spent time in jail, old hippies and young activists, social workers and psychologists, mothers and grandfathers, mathematicians and dancers, college professors emeritus and current students. In our poetic conversation, we celebrate Kansas and make community with readers.”

Renga contributors include Lorraine Achey, Deborah Altus, Christopher Anderson, Amy Ash, Jackie Magnuson Ash, Marie Asner, Thomas Fox Averill, Anne Baber, Walter Bargen, Barry Barnes, K.L. Barron, Joseph Bast, Pat Beckemeyer, Roy Beckemeyer, James Benger, Dan Bentley, Allison Blevins, Elizabeth Black, Lori Brack, Greg Bryant, Callista Buchen, Stephen Bunch, Xánath Caraza, Shauna Carpenter, Benjamin Cartwright, Ignacio Carvajal, Matt Clothier, Cyrus Console, Maril Crabtree, Daniele Cunningham, Rebekah Curry, Brian Daldorph, Mary Stone Dockery, Elizabeth Dodd, Eric Dutton, Louise Eisenbrandt, William Emergy, Jose Faus, Greg Field, Larry Fluery, Reva Friedman, Louie Galloway, Linda Gebert, Greg German, Paul Goldman, Kat Greene, Matt Groneman, Tina Hacker, Anne Haehl, Bill Hagman, A. Lorean Hartness, Lisa Hase-Jackson, Jamie Lynn Heller, Bill Hickok, DaMaris B. Hill, Nancy Hubble, Kelley Hunt, Hazel Smith Hutchinson, Sally Jadlow, Jeremy Johnson, Maria V. Johnson, Melissa Fite Johnson, Lora Jost, Megan Kaminski, William J. Karnowski, Philip Kimball, J. T. Knoll, Susan Kraus, Shelly Krehbiel, Donna Lynn Lash, Ken Lassman, Analisa Lee, Gabriela Ybarra Lemmons, Linda Lobmeyer, Denise Low, Lydia Lowe, Dixie Lubin, Christina Lux, Lori Baker Martin, Lindsey Martin-Bowen, Ramona McCallum, Jim Crary, Jo McDougall, Deborah Ball McGeorge, Chris McKinney, Stephen Meats, Lee Mick, Ronda Miller, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Jacob Moore, Miguel M. Morales, Phillip Carroll Morgan, Michael Nelson, Peg Nichols, Thea Nietfeld, Amy Nixon, Mary O'Connell, Karen Ohnesorge, Al Ortolani, William Ottens, H.C. Palmer, Shawn Pavey, Susan Peters, Timothy Pettet, Dan Pohl, Matthew Porubsky, Kevin Rabas, Ardy Ramberg, Tom Reynolds, Korbin Richards, Susan Rieger, Kenneth Rishel, Linda Rodriguez, Judith Roitman, Rhiannon Ross, Craig Salvey, Mark Scheel, Elizabeth Schultz, Leah Sewell, Melissa Sewell, Tyler Sheldon, William Sheldon, Victoria Sherry, Gail Sloan, Sarah Smarsh, Roland Sodowsky, Olive L. Sullivan, Libeth Tempero, Roderick Townley, Wyatt Townley, Patricia Traxler, Cheryl Unruh, Gloria Vando, Timothy Volpert, Maryfrances Wagner, Dian Wahto, George Wallace, Nicholas Ward, Laura Lee Washburn, Izzie Wasserstein, Rachel White, Iris Wilkinson, John Willison, Peter Andrew Wright, and Pamela McMaster Yesner.

See Caryn's blog on writing the book.

Excerpt: First Two Rengas of To the Stars Through Difficulties

No other way most of the time, and yet the light

unscrolling from the milky horizon conceals what will shine

above, around, below us just hours from now on the longest night.

Snow, ice, and rain: what melts or refreezes clings to branches

and grasses. Did you think it would be easy to step outside,

to get on with the day and the weather of a collapsed blizzard?

Not when a beloved watches his life narrow to breath. Not when

the car barely starts, the windshield won't emerge from its ice, or

the dear ones long gone suddenly are close as sleet is to rain.

The veil lifted. On the bare branch, an inverse star, one bluebird.

~ Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg


And now—there—to the right—the red slash

of a cardinal’s wing, a momentary artery

of flight, flung lifeline from pine

to fencepost, sky to pulsing wrist. Who says

it’s difficult to get the news? Yes,

the cold has spikes, and frozen furrows

of last year’s cornfields stumble

to a blind horizon. But look up:

Big plans unroll on high, black twigs

written on a bright blue sky.

~ Rodney Townley