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“The Gift Must Move” and the Changing of Kansas Poets Laureate: Everyday Magic, Day 705

Updated: Sep 29, 2023


This moment is especially sweet for me. My term, which has been easing to a close with the announcement of Wyatt’s appointment at the end of April and now this ceremony tonight, ends, appropriately enough, poetically.

I’m also inspired to write more about some of what I experienced over the last four years, so much of it an honor and a gift. The gifts were sometimes literal. When a former colleague interrupted a faculty meeting I was in at Goddard College, where I teach, to give me a lovely painting featuring a Kansas stamp to celebrate my laureateship, I told my colleagues, “Oh, yeah, people often give the poet laureate gifts.” They laughed with me at this, but it was true: I amassed wonderful books, an occasional bouquet of flowers, a hand-made vase, a whole lot of dinners, a few beautiful stones, a Navajo rug, and most of all, moments of connection with people I never would have met otherwise.

“The gift must move,” one of my favorite prose writers, Lewis Hyde, writes in his superb book The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World. The gift filled me up, and I reciprocated however I could along the four-year journey.

Tonight, we honor Wyatt Townley, who not only has the distinction of having one of the best possible first names for a Kansas poet laureate but who writes with power, precision, an eye for the magical underpinnings of the ordinary and an ear for the music that poetry gives us. I’m grateful for the gift of her poetry and presence, and I’m ready to bop her (lightly, of course) on the head with a certain giant fake sunflower at this changing of the poetic guard. Praise to all who made this happen, and may the overall gift of the poetic power of language continue to imbue our lives with meaning and light.

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