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Poet Laureati: 2011 National Convergence

Karla Morton, Texas Poet Laureate, and Mary Crow, Colorado Poet Laureate Emeritus

The 2011 National Convergence of Poets Laureate — Poet Laureati — was held March 13-14 in Lawrence,Kansas. Over 130 people braved a sudden snow storm from eight states to celebrate poetry with 20 poets laureate from Alaska to Alabama, Rhode Island to Texas, Wyoming to South Carolina. Please visit this site for forthcoming links to readings and public radio shows about the event.

The event included museum tours at the Spencer Museum of Art (of the University of Kansas) with a poet laureate sharing his/her perspective and poetry; two all-star readings featuring 10 poets laureate at each; a conference with panels/discussion on poetry as it relates to sense of place, making a living, spirituality, healing, publishing and the writing process; and a panel featuring all the poets discussing and performing poems that changed their lives.

The event was organized by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, poet laureate of Kansas, with assistance from Denise Low, Walter Bargen, Marilyn L. Taylor and Mary Swander. Following are the poets who participated. Scroll down to see the cosponsors.

Ted Kooser is one of the nation’s most highly regarded poets and served as the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 – 2006. During his second term he won the Pulitzer Prize for his book of poems, Delights & Shadows (Copper Canyon Press, 2004). A Presidential Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he is the author of twelve full-length collections of poetry. Over the years his works have appeared in many periodicals including The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, Poetry, The Hudson Review, The Nation, The American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, and Antioch Review. Koosers’ poems are included in textbooks and anthologies used in both secondary schools and college classrooms across the country. He has received two NEA fellowships in poetry and many other national and regional awards.

Walter Bargen has published thirteen books of poetry and two chapbooks. The latest are: The Feast, BkMk Press-UMKC, 2004, winner of the 2005 William Rockhill Nelson Award; Remedies for Vertigo (2006) from WordTech Communications; West of West from Timberline and Theban Traffic (2008) WordTech Communications. In 2009, BkMk Press-UMKC published Days Like This Are Necessary:  New & Selected Poems. His poems have appeared in Elder Mountain, The Gingko Tree Review, Margie, New Letters, Pleiades, Poetry East, Rattle, and River Styx. He was appointed to be the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009).

Joyce Brinkman, Indiana Poet Laureate 2002-2008, believes in poetry as public art. She creates public poetry projects involving her poetry and the poetry of others.  Her own poetry is on permanent display in a twenty five foot stained glass window in an airport, in lighted glass at a library and on a wall in the town square of Quezaltepecque, El Salvador.  Joyce has received fellowships from the Mary Anderson Center for the Arts and the Indianapolis Arts Council.

W.E. Butts is the author of several poetry collections, including Sunday Evening at the Stardust Café, which was chosen as a finalist for the 2005 Philip Levine Prize in Poetry and selected winner of the 2006 Iowa Source Poetry Book Prize, and the chapbooks What to Say if the Birds Ask, Sunday Factory, White Bees, and A Season of Crows. He has received two Pushcart Prize nominations and a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Award, and has taught in poetry workshops at the University of New Hampshire and has been a featured presenter at several community events and conferences.  In 2007, he was a visiting writer at Cornell College, Iowa.  He is a member of the faculty of the BFA in Writing Program at Goddard College.

Mary Crow: Raised in Loudonville, Ohio, and educated at the College of Wooster, Indiana University, and the Iowa Writers Workshop, Mary Crow came west to begin a creative writing and teaching career at Colorado State University. She also served as Poet Laureate of Colorado. Along with teaching Creative Writing and Contemporary Poetry, Women Writers, Latin, South American and World Poetry, Crow also served as director of CSU’s Creative Writing Program. Now Emeritus Professor of English at Colorado State University, Mary Crow has been awarded Poetry Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Colorado Council on the Arts.

Bruce Dethlefsen has just been appointed as the Wisconsin Poet Laureate for 2011 and 2012. He has published two poetry chapbooks, A Decent Reed and Something Near the Dance Floor. Breather is his latest full-length poetry book. He was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2003 and 2009. Two of his poems were featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac on public radio and several poems on Your Daily Poem website. He wrote and performed original music with Bill Orth as Obvious Dog on Cathryn Cofell’s CD, Lip. Bruce, a retired educator and public library director, lives in Westfield, Wisconsin.

David Allan Evans, the poet laureate of South Dakota, Evans was born in Sioux City, Iowa in 1940. He married his high school girl friend Jan and started college on a football scholarship. He has grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bush Artist Foundation, and the South Dakota Arts Council. He was the 2009 recipient of the South Dakota Governor’s Award for Creative Distinction in the Arts. A Fulbright Scholar twice in China, he taught at South Dakota State University for 39 years. He is the author of eight collections of poetry, the latest being This Water, These Rocks. He and Jan, who live in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, have three grown children.


Jonathan Holden was the first poet laureate of Kansas, serving from 2005-07. His book The Sublime won the 1995 Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry; Against Paradise won the 1989 Utah Competition; The Names of the Rapids won the 1985 Juniper Prize; Leverage was co-winner of the 1983 AWP Award Series for Poetry; and Design for a House won the 1972 Devins Award. Holder is also the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship and numerous other awards. He teaches at Kansas State University.

Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda served as Virginia’s Poet Laureate from 2006-2008. She is also a painter, sculptor a nd educator. In 1969, she graduated from Mary Washington College (Mortar Board and Phi Beta Kappa) with a BA in English. She holds two masters degrees and a Ph.D. from George Mason University, where she received the university’s first doctorate and a Virginia Educational Research Award for her dissertation. Her award-winning poems have been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a ppear in numerous magazines and journals, including Nimrod, Hispanic Culture Review, Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Mid-American Review, Antioch Review, Passages North, and Anthology of Magazine Verse & Yearbook of American Poetry. She has published five books of poetry, Contrary Visions, Gathering Light, Death Comes Riding, Greatest Hits, River Country and is the co-editor of two anthologies, In a Certain Place and Four Virginia Poets Laureate.

Norbert Krapf was born in 1943 in Jasper, Indiana, a German community. He taught at the C. W. Post Campus of Long Island University 1970-2004, where he is now emeritus Professor of English, was Poet Laureate 2003-2007, and directed the C. W. Post Poetry Center.  In June of 2008, he was appointed to a two-year term as Indiana Poet Laureate, in which capacity he plans to continue his efforts to reunite poetry and music, try to bring Indiana poetry to TV and radio, give readings and talks in libraries and other venues, and visit schools to share with students his enthusiasm for reading and writing poetry and prose memoir.

Denise Low, Kansas 2007-2009 Poet Laureate, has 20 books of poetry and essays, including Natural Theologies: Essays on Literature of the Middle Plains, Words of a Prairie Alchemist : Essays; Ghost Stories of the New West, and Thailand Journal: Poems, a Kansas City Star notable book. Three Voices is a text, image, and videography project. She is vice president of and a board member of the Associated Writers & Writing Programs. She has taught creative writing at Haskell Indian Nations University, the University of Kansas, and the University of Richmond. Awards are from the Academy of American Poets, The Newberry Library, Lannan Foundation, and National Endowment for the Humanities.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg was named Poet Laureate of Kansas for the years 2009-2012 by then-governor Kathleen Sebelius. She is the author of 10 books, including the memoir The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community and Coming Home to the Body ; four collections of poetry, Landed, Animals in the House, Reading the Body, and Lot’s Wife; Write Where You Are, and several anthologies. Her poetry and prose have appeared in dozens of literary magazines, and anthologies. She founded Transformative Language Arts – a master’s level concentration in social and personal transformation through the spoken, written and sung word – at Goddard College, where she teaches. She also facilitates writing workshops for many populations, and, with Kelley Hunt, singing and writing workshops, plus intensives on making a living through the arts, through their business, Brave Voice. Caryn’s songs, co-written with Kelley Hunt, have been performed by Hunt on Prairie Home Companion, and around the world.

karla k. morton, the 2010 Texas Poet Laureate, is a graduate of Texas A&M University, and a Board Member of the Greater Denton Arts Council.  A Betsy Colquitt Award Winner,  Indie National Book Award Winner, and  North Texas Books Awards Finalist, she has been widely published in literary journals, and is the author of six books of poetry: Wee Cowrin’ Timorous Beastie (a 17th Century Scottish Epic book/CD, Lagniappe Publishing), Redefining Beauty (Dos Gatos Press), Becoming Superman (Zone Press), Stirring Goldfish (a Sufi poetry book by Finishing Line Press), Karla K. Morton: New and Selected Works (TCU Press), and Names We’ve Never Known, (The Texas Review Press).   She has been featured on television, radio (NPR) and newspapers across the US.   A native Texan, Morton has trekked thousands of miles in her Little Town, Texas Tour, bringing poetry and the arts into schools, colleges, universities, civic groups, cancer support groups, and festivals in communities across her beloved state.

David Romtvedt is Poet Laureate of Wyoming. Romtvedt’s books of poetry include Certainty, How Many Horses, Some Church and A Flower Whose Name I do Not Know which won the National Poetry Series award. His work has been selected for the Pushcart Prize and for two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, one in poetry and the other an international fellowship in poetry and music. He is a recipient of a Wyoming Arts Council literature fellowship and the Wyoming Governor’s Arts Award. Romtvedt serves as faculty member in the MFA program for writers at University of Wyoming. He lives in Buffalo, Wyoming, with his wife, the potter Margo Brown. He is a founder and current board member of Worlds of Music, a foundation devoted to giving people the opportunity to participate in the making of music that come from cultures around the world.

Peggy Shumaker is the Alaska State Writer Laureate. Her new book of poems is Gnawed Bones. Her lyrical memoir is Just Breathe Normally. She’s currently working on a manuscript of poems set in Costa Rica. Peggy lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, and travels widely.  Professor emerita at University of Alaska Fairbanks, she teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop and at many writing conferences and festivals. She has given readings in art galleries, a governor’s mansion, a clearing in the woods, an abandoned bank, on reservations, in libraries, at a gold dredge, under the hoodoos at Bryce Canyon, on a riverboat, and at many bookstores, community centers, and universities.

Lisa Starr is an inn-keeper, a mother, a bartender, a coach and a teacher, who divides her time among a variety of interests, her children, and her passion for poetry. In her capacity as Poet Laureate, Starr  has established dozens of poetry circles around Rhode Island in elderly communities in hospitals, shelters, the state prison, and agencies for children and adults living with severe mental and physical disabilities. Her books include Mad With Yellow, This Place Here, and Days of Dogs and Driftwood. She is the founder and director of the Block Island Poetry Project, a nationally acclaimed celebration of the arts and humanity,  now in its 7th year. The brightest lights of her life are her two children, Orrin and Millie, and her dog, Brother. When time permits, she writes her heart out.

Mary Swander was appointed Poet Laureate of Iowa in 2009. She is the author of over ten books of poetry and non-fiction. She is a Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University.  Her most recent work is a book of poetry, The Girls on the Roof (Turning Point/Word Tech, 2009), a Mississippi River flood narrative. Swander has worked with the Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre to create a performance piece of The Girls for the stage. Currently, Swander is also touring her play Farmscape, a docudrama capturing the changing rural environment. She is the co-founder of Agarts, a national group designed to explore the intersection of the arts and agriculture, and is developing a website, The Iowa Literary Community, where anyone with an Iowa connection can post poetry and other pieces of writing.

Marilyn L. Taylor, Ph.D., was appointed Poet Laureate of the state of Wisconsin for 2009 and 2010.  She taught for many years at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for the Department of English and the Honors College , and has also served as Visiting Poet at many other venues within Wisconsin and throughout the country. The most recent of her six collections of poetry, titled Going Wrong, was published by Parallel Press in 2009. Taylor’s award-winning poems have appeared in many anthologies and journals, including The American Scholar, Poetry, Smartish Pace, Measure, and Mezzo Cammin. She is a 
Contributing Editor for THE WRITER magazine, where her articles on 
craft appear bi-monthly.

Sue Brannan Walker is known nationally and internationally for her poetry, as well as for her critical articles on poets and writers such as James Dickey, Marge Piercy, Margaret Atwood, Carson McCullers. As Editor and Publisher of Negative Capability, she has published numerous Alabama poets and writers, providing them a greater audience and some of them their first opportunity to be published. She has continued this work since 1981—a distinguished effort recognized by Writer’s Digest when it ranked Negative Capability Third in the Nation in Poetry in the early 1990s out of approximately 2700 markets.

Marjory Wentworth was born in Lynn, Massachusetts.  Educated at Mt. Holyoke College and Oxford University, she received her M.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from New York University.  Her poems have appeared in numerous books and magazines, and she has twice been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Ms. Wentworth teaches poetry in an arts and healing program for cancer patients and their families at Roper Hospital in Charleston, S.C. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Lowcountry Initiative for the Literary Arts (LILA), The Poetry Society of S C, and the University of SC Poetry Initiative.  Ms. Wentworth works as a publicist.  She lives in Mt. Pleasant, SC with her husband Peter and their three sons Hunter, Oliver, and Taylor.

  • The Spencer Museum of Art sustains a diverse collection of art and works of cultural significance. It encourages interdisciplinary exploration at the intersection of art, ideas, and experience. The Spencer strengthens, supports, and contributes to the academic research and teaching of the University of Kansas and is committed to serving communities of learners across Kansas and beyond.
  • The Lawrence Arts Center was founded in 1975 as a public and private partnership between the city of Lawrence and citizens who believed that Lawrence should offer the best in arts programming. LAC includes contemporary exhibitions, arts education, and performances for the community and the region in its 40,000 square foot building at 940 New Hampshire.
  • The mission of the Lawrence Public Library is to provide and promote informational, intellectual, and cultural resources for our community. We are glad to have you join our community of users. We invite you to use the collections and take full advantage of the many library programs and services.
  • The Kansas Arts Commission provides opportunities for the people of Kansas to experience, celebrate and value the arts throughout their lives. We serve artists, nonprofit organizations, schools and government agencies through grants to support the arts in communities.
  • Kansas Public Radio, now celebrating 50 years in broadcasting, has this mission: Kansas Public Radio strives to provide the highest quality arts and information programming that inspires, enlightens and entertains an increasing number of listeners. KPR has featured this event through public service announcements and on KPR Presents.
  • Ice Cube Books: The low down on how and how long ……. and then some. We started in 1993 and have grown slowly, on purpose I should add. We still hand-wrap each order, write thank you notes, drink coffee and talk about our book projects with our authors. We still fantasize about using a letterpress and wonder why our goofy press name causes such confusion with booksellers at first. Using prairie roots as our model for inspiration we are still sending down roots.
  • The Raven Bookstore is Lawrence’s independent bookstore, founded in 1987. The store features all manner of books, particularly mysteries and the best of contemporary literature, hosts regular readings and events, and is a mainstay of what makes Lawrence, Kansas such a vital arts community.
  • Kansas Area Watershed Council: KAW Council was founded in 1982, and is one of the oldest bioregional groups in the United States, focusing on deep ecology,cultural renewal and community longevity.
  • The Free State Brewing Co. opened in 1989 as the first legal brewery in Kansas in over 100 years. Located in a renovated inter-urban trolly station in historic downtown Lawrence, the Brewery was an early participant in the rejuvenation of the north end of the downtown business district.
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