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  • Poets bring works to life Thursday night

  • Voices brought to life the words of poetry splashed across pages of a book, as the poets conversed of Kansas.

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  • Voices brought to life the words of poetry splashed across pages of a book, as the poets conversed of Kansas.
    Some of the poems in “To the Stars Through Difficulties” were performed by their authors in a reading Thursday evening at Pittsburg State University, giving those in attendance the opportunity to hear what editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg termed “a moving mosaic.”
    Mirriam-Goldberg serves as poet laureate of Kansas and coordinated 150 poems for the Kansas sesquicentennial, then began the project anew.
    This time, the project took the form of a renga, a traditional Japanese poem in which the poet would write a haiku, then pass it to the next poet, who would write another verse, and so on.
    She said she began the project at a time when the arts were under attack.
    “I needed something to help us come together,” Mirriam-Goldberg said.
    Thus the project, which culminated in the book “To the Stars Through Difficulties,” was born.
    “It’s like one poem in 150 voices,” Mirriam-Goldberg said.
    “It’s a project that brings poets together all over the state,” she said. “At a time when the arts are under attack it helps us stand up and say our piece and make something together.”
    She said the poets in the project had a private Google document and would receive an e-mail when it was their turn to compose. They then had two days or less to write the next installment in the conversation.
    “People wrote in very fast spurts but also with the slowness of being one poem,” Mirriam-Goldberg told those attending the reading.
    The poems then were posted on a public Web site, 150KansasPoems.wordpress.com, with a new installment every two or three days.
    Public readings of the project now give the poems yet a new and different type of life.
    “Each reading different poets show up,” Mirriam-Goldberg said. “This was a statewide project. Most of the people you’ll hear tonight have a really strong Pittsburg connection.”
    Jeremy Johnson, who teaches writing and literature at Pittsburg State, said the dynamics of the project made it enjoyable, even as he was pushed out of his comfort zone into the realm of published poetry.
    “Poetry a lot of times is a very private thing,” he said, but added that the time crunch and pressure helped, as did the ability to see what others had written before him.
    “We had a couple of days to write,” Johnson said. “You can’t think about it for long form. It has got to be immediately. Working under pressure worked well for me.”
    Professor Laura Lee Washburn also contributed poetry to the project and helped to facilitate the local reading as an extra installment of the PSU Distinguished Visiting Writers Series.
    Page 2 of 2 - “When an opportunity comes our way it’s really nice to say, ‘sure,’” Washburn said.
    Local authors scheduled to partcipate included Washburn, Johnson, Lori Baker Martin, Roland Sodowsky, J.T. Knoll, Larry Fleury, A. Lorean Hartness, Allison Berry, Melissa Fite Johnson, Stephen E. Meats, Chris Anderson and Olive Sullivan.
    The book may be ordered through Mammoth PUblications at mammothpubs@gmail.com.

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