Astonished By Your Support: Everyday Magic, Day 442

When I launched the campaign to raise funds for the poet laureate of Kansas program, I was hoping we could reach a benchmark goal of $1,500 toward the $5,000 total for the program. Within a month, we surpassed that $5,000 (the extra will pay processing fees and for a van’s worth of gas to and from Western Kansas this weekend for the Begin Again tour).

What can I say? I’m astonished, moved, delighted and yet not so completely surprised because in visiting with Kansans and people who support our state beyond our borders I’ve continually seen how much we believe in the power of the arts. More specifically, we know about the power of words, and how what we read and write, alone and together, can change our lives.

I share this small poem I wrote and sent to contributors to remind myself of all the world gives us, all the time, and to thank everyone who helped.

In Gratitude

The wind thanks you, unfurling over the worn horizon

so it can billow into night. The stars too, whether talismans

of light dying or just being born, behind the small birds

arriving or staying behind, who balance gratefully

on thin branches of the coming winter. The squirrel

in the field, the hidden fox, the mammals under and over

ground, find a way out of no way. The world is composed,

is composing itself, anew even in a narrow time: flashes

of red on a gray day just before the red-winged blackbird

folds back in silhouette. Whatever act of kindness flies

lands in the heart of a moment, a seasonal marker

to illuminate why we live, a song of gratitude.

Raising Money From My Own Front Porch: Everyday Magic, Day 417

Always loved to be on the road even if it was just bumper cars at Coney Island

As many of you know, it’s been a long and dark road for the poet laureate program of Kansas in the last six months. In fact, the road has turned to gravel, then completely unpaved itself, and at times disappeared altogether. So now that I’m finding my way and seeing where to step next to keep this program alive, including doing a whole lot of fundraising from my front porch, I’ve been waking up more prone to elation than governmentally-induced despair.

How the program and I got here has been detailed in other posts and news reports, but in a nutshell, once the governor of Kansas laid off the employees of the state arts agency, shut the office and line-item vetoed the funding, this program slipped into limbo. The poet laureate program had been a project of the state arts agency for years. In recent months, I’ve been researching and presenting, writing proposals and plans, meeting with people and organizations, all to find a new organizational home for the program. My hope is that something solid will be in place within the next season or two, and then I can work with others to put out the word for applications for the next poet laureate to begin my terms ends next July.

Raising some flames with poet Wyatt Townley

Along the way, I also worked with others on designing a fundraising campaign, which launched last Wednesday, to raise as much of the $5,000 budget for this program as possible. Using indiegogo.com, an internet-based fundraising site, along with photos contributed by friends and family, I put together a video and all the words to try to convey what’s needed and why.

When I first hit the “go live” button on the site, I was a little afraid. What if no one responded? What if people felt the arts really were secondary to other needs (which are also vast)? My fears were also rooted in the nervy reality that I was raising my own funds since what is raised will reimburse me for mileage, expenses, and give me a small stipend for the many hours (tripled this year, it seems) I put into the poet laureate work. I took a breath, downed some tea, and hit the button.

Within an hour, I was sitting in my driveway at home, checking my email briefly, wondering if anyone answered the call. I was surprised, happily, by the donations — $17 here, $40 there, and what looked like $100, but when I looked closer at the indiegogo page, I realized this donation was actually $1,000. This is when I started crying.

Within a few days, the campaign met its first-stage goal of $1,500, and as of now, it’s nearing $1,782 with some additional checks coming in the mail. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude, and flooded with a sense of value for this work of keeping this position alive. Thank you, friends, family, acquaintances who have given or will give, and let’s hear it for how much Kansans and friends of our state care about the power of words.