How Many Poets Does It Take To Go to the End of the World, Begin Again, and Spring Poetry on Strangers?: Everyday Magic, Day 445

Evidently, it takes 8 poets, which is what we had for our Southwest Kansas Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems caravan, which took us across Kansas and over the edge of the world. Traveling in my van with Wyatt Townley, Roderick Townley, Liz Black, Ronda Miller and Karen Ohnesorge (whose last name, in German, literally means, “Whatever!”), I headed west, way west, early Friday morning. We were well-supplied: girl scout cookies, dark chocolate, gourmet rosemary-parmesan butter bookies, clementines, coffee, and in case of real emergency, two bags of frozen peas (for Liz’s knee).

First stop: Salina, where (after sharing stories of all the times any of us got arrested), I met the logical end result of telling Ronda I had never read poetry in Salina. Half-way through our sandwiches at Moka’s, Ronda had me up on the table reciting a poem to the lunch crowd after her shining introduction. Note to self: be careful what thoughts you say out loud but be ready to share a poem anywhere at anytime.

Next stop: Garden City. Here, we fell in love, remarking to each other that we could and might live here. Downtown was charming and full of life, the sky was large and loving, and Ramona McCallum, who organized all the Garden City events, was a sparkling fountain of delight, passion and joy. We also met up with Lee and Dennielle Mick from Cawker City (Lee is in the book with, of course, a poem about a giant ball of twine). After an astonishing Mexican dinner (Garden City: best restaurants in Kansas, and thanks to Ramona for raising funds to feed us), we gave a reading at the State Theater, a historic site being remodeled, where we had the pleasure of sharing poems with 70 people. Then, we marched down the street to the arts center, where we merged with a show of 10 fabulous women artists, sold books and ate too many cream puffs. Ramona soon has us whisked off to various homes, churches and guest houses for the night where each of us found two full gift bags: pens, pottery, lip balm and even stool softener from the local health food store.

The next morning, we trekked to Garden City Community College where I led a workshop on Writing in Community. Usually when I do such workshops, I get to meet with 10-15 people, but in Garden City, where people understand the value of poetry and Ramona is a whirlwind of outreach and purpose, we had 50 people ranging from tweens to elders. After moving the tables out and out and out, we immersed ourselves in writing, the writing life and the best cinnamon rolls on the planet (still hot too). Maybe it was the sugar talking, but after introductions, I was wondering if we had time to house-shop. The workshop was a feast of friendship and stories, and afterwards, of course, it was time to eat, so we went to the best Vietnamese restaurant in the world (Thanks for covering our lunch, special donor!).

Next up: Ulysses, where Liz grew up, and where the land changes to slopes of tumbleweed and stretches of endless skies and feedlots. The air dries out, especially in this drought year when the annual rainfall is closer to 2-3 inches, and the sky expands. The most beautiful sunset combined with more Mexican food in downtown Ulysses and then a reading at the lovely Artery, a cooperative gallery, where we met with several dozen Ulyssesians, drank wine, ate cookies and marveled at the art and hospitality. A night at Single Tree Inn (Sex and the Sing Tree, Roderick suggested as we played with the name) brought us sleep and a morning where many of us shared how much we don’t like or do morning well. Ulysses is especially stark and beautiful, and unlike any part of Kansas I’ve seen before. I loved hearing how Liz grew up in a dug-out without electricity and with an outhouse beneath the outrageous stars.

Next stop: Dodge City. Here, we were supposed to read at a local coffee shop, but no one in Dodge City seemed to know this. All was well because a) it was on our way, and b) we got to eat yet again. Having no actual audience who came for us, we assailed the strangers having lunch in a small room where we stood, one at a time reading a poem, between them and the front door. Most of them were quite polite even if they were surely realizing there were no escape routes.

The ride home was long, punctuated by more eating, and full of long talks about how we grew up, whether we preferred Mounds or Almond Joy, new ways to promote our writing, dancing days, growing up tall or short, young adult children and the marvels of migrating birds and rising Flint Hills.

800 or so miles later, we’re landed back into our homes and lives, but already I miss my fellow caravan-ers and I love how when we get together, poetry prevails.

Finishing Begin Again: Everyday Magic, Day 432

Yesterday, the books came, marking the end of months of editing, proofreading, checking the proof, talking with designers and photographer, and hundreds of emails to and fro with the press, and the 93 contributors. When I thought of doing the 150 Kansas Poems site, the idea of a book was just a glimmer (as in, “This might be a cool book”), but as the site unfolded, the poems shone brighter, and Woodley Press indicated some interest in publishing an anthology, a book became inevitable.

The space between a book’s inception and the box of books arriving isn’t often pretty, and it’s always far more complicated and challenging than any writer or editor imagines. I learned even more how much I hate rejecting people’s poems, particularly when some of the rejectees take it personally. I struggled with how to organize 150 poems, finally settling on a seasonal approach, and then finding ways to fit the poems together like a puzzle that would reveal a narrative of moving through weather, places, changes and realizations. There were many details to check over and over. “Begin Again” isn’t just a title of a wonderful poem in the anthology by Nancy Hubble: it’s a way of life for anyone generic cialis in australia putting out a book.

At the same time, I worked with great people — Kevin Rabas and Dennis Etzel at Woodley Press, designing poets superb Matt Porubsky and Leah Sewell (who also fed me at the fabled Porubsky’s in Topeka), and photographer of the skies Stephen Locke. Holding this book in my hands, looking at how artfully the photograph wraps the cover, and how full the book is of poems of so many stripes and spots, I’m very happy……and happy it’s done.

Now that Begin Again is finished, we begin anew to do readings — over a dozen happening soon or in the works, and some in a city near you. I’m especially looking forward to a Southwest Kansas tour (Garden City! Ulysses! Dodge City!) where we’ll bring a little poetry roadshow to a corner of the state where there aren’t many readings (I’m told our reading in Ulysses will be a first).

The book is beautiful, the poems are gorgeous, and where the book leads us now will bring many writers in this state and beyond together in ways we’re just glimpsing at the moment, kind of like the notion of this book itself less than a year ago.


Begin Again: Everyday Magic, Day 398

Read Nancy Hubble’s amazing poem, “Begin Again,” which is also the title poem of the forthcoming anthology, Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, being release in November by Woodley Press.

I started this post on the back deck in high winds on a day approaching 102 degrees, but the hot wind drove me inside, where I begin again. Last night, our Wabi Sabi group shared stories of what it means to begin again. Trying to drive home in a straight line, I encountered a stretch of Iowa Street closed because of a fatal motorcycle accident, so I had to begin again toward home another route, but that was nothing compared to those who love the young man who died, who face the ultimate challenge of what it means to begin again.

Begin again living. Begin again rising in the morning. Begin again feeding yourself something and getting yourself out the door. Begin again returning. Begin again learning something you thought you knew or had long forgotten.

Life is a series of do-overs, each moment completely new, and each moment asking us to in some ways to begin again: when plans fall through, when they don’t, when unexpected guests arrived, when the hurricane keeps them away, when the driveway freezes over, when the fields bake in the months of hot sun.

Everywhere I look, I see how much we live in begin again. After losses and before new ventures. In hard times and when the living is easily. When the chips are piled high and when the chips are down. I think of my friends and family who, between them all, are beginning again in these varieties: piano lessons, Italian lessons, lessons in how to live after a divorce, a new job, an old job that needs new dedication, a body that needs new repairs to old parts, a new year of college, a close-to-final year in the workplace, a new way to make a living after an old career ends, recovery from surgery or cancer or long days of illness, discovery of love or livelihood or luminosity.

As I finish this, I hear my hairdresser of 28 years talking with my daughter as Natalie gets her long hair trimmed. Natalie is about to begin again college while Debbie is about to begin again her superb hair art in a new salon. Both shine with the thrill of new beginnings. No same old same old except when we’re limited by our bright new imaginations which, let free, can show us how to see with new eyes the shining beginning as well as the courage, creativity and faith to begin again.