WORD

For its WORD project, KCUR aired readings of poetry, fiction and essays by Kansas City-area writers on Sunday mornings from January through September 2015. Each of those readings is archived here, and we've posted bonus tracks by many of our WORD readers on SoundCloud.

Taylor Galscock

Walter Bargen served as the first poet laureate of Missouri, in 2008 and 2009. His poems, essays, and stories have been published in more than 300 magazines.

In advance of his appearance in Kansas City this Tuesday, KCUR aired an excerpt from the New Letters on the Air archives, when Bargen read a poem and spoke with Angela Elam about the sometimes strange role of the public poet.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Iris Appelquist's latest collection of poems "where we were we were there" was published in March. It's the third book in Prospero's POP poetry series, releasing a chapbook each month by Kansas City area poets until the end of 2015. 

A Kansas City native, Appelquist is not only a poet — she's also a single mother. And the poems in the collection explore what she describes as "the mystifying process of personal growth."

Courtesy of Xanath Caraza

Kansas City poet Xánath Caraza’s most recent book, Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind, received the 2015 International Book Award for Best Book of Poetry. Here she reads a piece from her next book, Ocelocíhuatl due in December 2015 from Mouthfeel Press.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

William Trowbridge is Missouri’s third poet laureate. He was appointed to a two-year term, and that was three years ago. But, he says, he continues to serve because he hasn’t been told to stop — yet.

When Trowbridge first took on the role, he was asked to write a poem about Missouri. He didn’t want to write a typical “I love my state poem,” so he came up with something else: "Unofficial Missouri Poem."

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Mike Wilson, of Independence, Missouri, has a hectic schedule — he works long hours as a mail delivery driver, and he's married with three kids (with one more on the way).

So Wilson sneaks in time to write when he can.

"Late, really really late, or really really early," he explains. "(I write) before they're awake, or when they're asleep, when I get home."

Wilson’s work has been published in literary magazines such as The Allegheny Review and Midwestern Gothic, as well as on Tweed’s fiction blog.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Andrea Johnson is a Kansas City native, now studying English, creative writing and music up at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.

She wrote this piece after graduating from high school, when she and a few of her friends were facing long-distance relationships as they headed off to college.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

"I think once you start writing — and you really love it — you can't stop doing it," says Andrew Gordon Rogers, who graduated with a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

"Every form that I can think of, you know I've tried short stories, poetry, non-fiction, creative non-fiction, and it's all fun to me." 

Aaron Lindberg

Sarah Smarsh has been gaining international attention for her essays about growing up poor in Kansas — they've appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's,The Guardian, Guernica and elsewhere.

Image courtesy of Larry Christy

Larry Christy owns Missouri River Rafting, where he guides canoe and rafting trips. He’s logged more than 5,000 miles on the water. He’s canoed the entire length of the Missouri River, from Montana to St. Louis – it took him three months. During the winter he works as a carpenter, restoring Victorian houses. He's also written poetry since he was a child. Here, the river guide and carpenter reads a poem about work.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Writer and poet Billy Brame majored in acting, and it's shaped his performances at readings and slams around Kansas City. Brame describes his style as silly, in the same vein as Shel Silverstein, and you'll hear that in his two poems — about politics, sort of, and bacon and dinosaurs.  

"I like whimsy, whimsy is where I'd squarely put these," says Brame. "I like just being the nonsense guy, the whimsy guy, wherever I land."

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Monique Gabrielle Salazar is a writer, artist and musician. A member of the Latino Writers Collective, she’s also a self-described “collector of nostalgia.”

Here, she reads four poems in a series:

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Andrew Johnson had a notebook filled with descriptions of small images.

He also had an interest in what he calls the tension between the monotony of daily life and the beauty of moments and rhythms in the world.

In his poem, "Perhaps One Day This Will All Make Sense," he says, "stylistically I was trying to do something that had that monotony in the repetition while, at the same time, having these things that stand out as novelty events or things that I found intriguing in daily life."

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Creative and commercial writer Lisa Stewart has traveled thousands of miles as a long-distance horseback rider, through the Rockies and the Midwest. In 2012, she took at 500-mile solo ride in Kansas and Missouri. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Randy Attwood has been a journalist and a public relations professional. He grew up at the state psychiatric hospital in Larned, Kansas, where his father was the dentist. Here, he reads the opening of his novella "One More Victim":

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Spoken word artist and poet Jeanette Powers started writing at the age of 9. 

"I realized that in my imagination, I was completely free. There were no rules, there were no laws, and invention was everything," says Powers. 

"Writing has been the one thing that's been the thread throughout." 

Kelly Magerkurth

The widely published and award-winning Eric McHenry, an associate professor of English at Washburn University in Topeka, was  named Kansas poet laureate this spring.

At the time of the announcement, we asked him for his advice to aspiring poets, and he told us three rules all poets should follow.

We also invited him to our studios to read. Here's one of those poems:

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

Tina Hacker writes poems based on real events from the Holocaust. Her full-length book of poems, Listening for Night Whistles, was released by Aldrich Press in 2014. Her chapbook, "Cutting It," was published in 2010 by The Lives You Touch Publications.

Courtesy John Willison

John Willison started writing poetry a couple of years ago, after his cancer metastasized. His wife, Pauline, encouraged him to join a writing group at Turning Point, a center with programs for people with chronic and serious illness.

C.J. Janovy / KCUR

Topeka poet Annette Hope Billings has described herself as a shy child who found her voice through theater productions at Topeka High School – but she didn’t fully devote herself to expressing that voice until after a long career as a nurse. After nearly forty years in that field, Billings retired earlier this year to concentrate on writing full-time. In March, the Topeka Capital-Journal wrote a profile of Billings.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Alan Robert Proctor has published fiction, essays and poetry, in journals such as New Letters and I-70 Review. He's also a poetry editor for Kansas City Voices.

Proctor says when he reads a poem out loud he always includes the title at the beginning — and at the end.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Kelly Cannon fell in love with writing in third grade, after she won a poetry competition. This poem, "Chiaroscuro," was inspired by a painting of a man sitting on a bed looking out a window. It reminded her of taking naps when she was a child.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Sometimes it just takes one teacher to change everything. For Seann Weir, who studies English and creative writing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, it was poet Michelle Boisseau and her "high demand of excellence."

"I took a class with Michelle Boisseau," says Weir, "which terrified me and taught me how bad my poems were, which I'm really grateful for." 

Now a senior at UMKC, Weir is due to graduate next semester — and, after that, he plans to explore graduate school. Here, Weir reads a poem titled "In Your City."

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Norma Cantu is a professor of Latina/Latino Studies and English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. One of her projects is a collection she's working on called "Elemental Odes.”

"It's a play on Pablo Neruda's collection of Odas Elementales. I took it more literally," she says. "I'm taking the periodic table of the elements, and writing poems for each element."  Here are three of those.

Kelly Magerkurth

Kansas has a new poet laureate. The responsibility has fallen to the widely published and award-winning Eric McHenry, an associate professor of English at Washburn University in Topeka.

Poets laureate earn the honor after a rigorous application process involving a selection panel of their literary peers. When we asked McHenry why he wanted to be poet laureate, he expressed his feelings in the language of the common man:

“It sounds really cool.”

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Glenn North describes spoken word poetry as "in your face," using word play and slang. And he's gained a reputation as a performance poet, sharing the stage with poets like Amiri Baraka and Nikki Giovanni. 

The community programs and education director at the Black Archives of Mid-America, North has worked with urban youth to develop their open mic skills, and encouraged them to write a style of poetry that's meant to be performed for an audience. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Denise Low was the second poet laureate of Kansas. She’s published 25 books of poetry and prose. She is co-publisher of Mammoth Publications, an independent small literary press specializing in Indigenous and Mid-Plains poetry and prose.

Her poems are rich with images of the prairie landscape, its people and history.

Laura Spencer / KCUR

 Artist José Faus, a native of Bogota, Colombia, is widely known for his colorful community murals in the Kansas City area, but he's also a poet, writer and playwright, and a founding member of the Latino Writers Collective.

courtesy of the author

Joanne Saxon Hill  lives in Peculiar, Missouri, but her writing is rooted in the South. 

A novelist and short story writer, Saxon Hill grew up in Alabama in a strict religious family — an upbringing that, at times, was isolating. But she says, she's always been "tuned to life's quirkiness." 

Saxon Hill, who goes by the name Sister Saxon, incorporates bits of memory, overheard conversations, and imagination into her stories, like The Affliction.

courtesy of the author

Andrés Rodríguez grew up in a working class family in Kansas City. For about two decades, his father’s job was at the Swift meatpacking plant – and one visit, as a young child, made a lasting impression. But Rodríguez says in writing poetry, there’s a fine line between memory and imagination.

"The paradox is that the more you imagine, the closer you come to the truth," says Rodríguez. "But I know that the experience that it's trying to get it is the letter and spirit of what happened."

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Poet Marcus Myers says he started to get serious about his writing about a decade ago, when he turned 30 — and set his sights on publishing in literary magazines. Myers and poet Brian Clifton now co-edit Bear Review, an online journal of poetry and micro prose.

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