Pretty Darn Discouraging

November 21, 2012

   Folks, I should’ve posted this more than a month ago when it was still very fresh on my mind, but you know how it goes – you get busy with other things and the first thing you know days if not weeks have passed by. Anyway, I was disappointed to learn in early October that neither of my two entries in the Kansas Authors’ Club competition were singled out for a nice cash prize. The theme for this year’s competition? “Encouraging Words”. I put a lot of effort into both the poem and the prose piece I submitted for consideration, so at this point I’m pretty discouraged by things. KAC, I think I’m done with you and will move on to other endeavors.

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Better News

June 19, 2012

   It was refreshing to learn yesterday that the guest editorial I had sent to The Joplin Globe a few days earlier was well received, enough so to be published. The piece is titled “Virtuous Is As Virtuous Does,” but that’s not the title I had in mind when my letter left in the mail headed for the newspaper. The preferred heading is “Meaningful Change Begins with Me.” At any rate, the piece mentions my experience at the Great American Think-Off three years ago in Minnesota and makes a strong case for faith-based decision-making in particular and discipleship in general, all the moreso as a Christian living in what is essentially a secular nation.

The Disappointment Continues

June 11, 2012

   Suffice it to say that I’m extremely disappointed that my story “Pancakes and Prayers,” a first-hand account of the Joplin tornado, apparently didn’t rate so much as an honorable mention in the 2012 Heart of America competition sponsored by the Kansas City Press Club. I was hoping to hear my name called at some point during the awards banquet Saturday evening in downtown Kansas City, 13 months to the day since my father’s death, but I never did. Instead, I listened in disbelief as other stories or pieces stemming from the Joplin tornado, all but one second-hand in nature and the lone exception originating from beyond the disaster zone, were singled out for awards. Hey, Dad, I tried. You taught me well and I did the best I could, but no one either seems to care or is really listening. Meanwhile, my opinion of the newspaper industry in particular and the media in general continues to become more and more unfavorable.

It’s 1942 All Over Again

June 4, 2012

   As I stood by the curb along 151st Street in Olathe, Kan., this morning for the community tribute to a fallen hero, I couldn’t help but think of that timeless poem Max Yoho has written in which he remembers seeing as a boy, his teary-eyed father beside him, a hometown soldier laid to rest. The year was 1942, and so the poem is simply titled “1942.” Seventy years later it is the residents of Olathe who mourn the loss of a brave young man who perished in combat. Proudly holding American flags and dressed in red, white and blue, several hundred people turned out to pay tribute to 23-year-old Cale C. Miller, a 2007 graduate of Olathe Northwest High School, as the lengthy procession rolled past them toward the funeral home and, in due time, the soon-to-be hallowed ground where this Army private was to be buried.  The more things change, the more they remain the same.

I’ve Got a Winner!

May 22, 2012

   It was sheer joy to learn today that I captured the gold award in the community category for the non-fiction piece I had entered in Crowder College’s literary art competition. My entry was titled “Endless Summer” and now enjoys a place in The Quill, the magazine published annually by the community college based in Neosho, Missouri. And the fact that my story was about my father, who is no longer with us, makes the award that much more meaningful to me. Moving right along, it’s too bad my Joplin tornado story, “Pancakes and Prayers,” apparently didn’t resonate with anyone associated with the Amy Foundation because I’m sure my father would’ve been rather pleased with the finished product.  The story is emotionally gripping, but unfortunately the Amy Foundation seems to be of the thinking that there’s no place for anything that might tug at the heart in advancing the cause of Christian discipleship.  How sad!!!

The Bet That Didn’t Get Made

April 3, 2012

   Prior to the NCAA men’s national championship basketball game last night, the governors of Kansas and Kentucky placed a friendly wager on the outcome of the contest, each offering to “cough up” some tasty food for the other’s designated charity if the home-state team failed to get the job done on the court. And so now Gov. Sam Brownback of the Sunflower State is on the hook for a side of beef in the wake of the Jayhawks’ 67-59 loss to the Wildcats. It didn’t happen, but what if Mr. Brownback had been willing to go so far to say that if the crimson-and-blue came up short against the boys from the Bluegrass State, he’d stick $2.5 million (the size of Coach Bill Self’s annual paycheck) into the budget for the arts, which, by my calculation, would give the arts $2.5 million to work with since the arts were defunded a few months ago. So just how much do you really love the Jayhawks, Sam?

Serious Stuff … Really

April 1, 2012

   This may be April Fool’s Day, but I’m not kidding when I say that if you really love the children you’ve yet to produce (and the children they’ll produce), ditch Twitter and start writing letters to family members – brothers, sisters, far-flung cousins, nephews, nieces, etc. Because the day will surely come when the children you’ve yet to produce, their children and their children’s children will be awful glad you did. Your letters, which you deemed insignificant at the time, will be nothing short of priceless to them. Solid gold. A pure delight. But will they feel the same way about your tweets, assuming there’s even the slightest trace of them to be found? Probably not.

B.S. Moment

March 31, 2012

   Now most of you out there in the blogosphere are already assuming that B.S. stands for, well, you know what. But in this case it doesn’t. It is short for Band Shell, as in the lovely 1930ish band shell at Sawhill Park in downtown St. Francis, Kansas. You see, it was there that Ellen (that was the name supplied for her when I asked) decided to seize the microphone following the poetry reading a week ago today and begin “treating” innocent bystanders to her knowledge regarding the recent fatal shooting of a Florida teenager, Trayvon Martin, allegedly by a man associated with a neighborhood watch program. This spontaneous “outburst” caught many off guard, as apparently no one had ever seen her act in this manner publicly on a previous occasion. While her attempt to “hijack” the proceedings was certainly inappropriate, I very much value the right of free speech she has as an American because if THEY can take away her right to say what’s on her mind, then THEY can also silence the poets among us. Scary thought. And given a choice between listening to her talk for 3 hours or Rush Limbaugh talk for 3 hours, I’ll go with her, thank you very much.

On the Road Again

March 29, 2012

   I would be remiss if I failed to mention the presence of the poetry caravan this past weekend in St. Francis, Kan., and Salina, Kan., giving residents of those two communities a chance to hear some of the poems in the book Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems. The reading at the historic Band Shell in St. Francis (or “Sainty” as it is referred to in the local paper) was a homecoming of sorts for Ronda Miller, who grew up on a ranch in Cheyenne County and graduated from high school there in 1970. She took advantage of the occasion to honor at least three people who have played important roles in her life, two of them former teachers, as I recall. The third was an old-timer, a 90-something-year-old man who knew the nearby Arikaree Breaks as well as the back of his hand. 

   Ronda was on the receiving end of a surprise visit from her sister and a cousin – icing on the cake! Anyway, six of us read in Sainty, including poet laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. A good time was had by all, there was a nice turnout even though the poets were competing against a school function just down the street, and the poets and their guests were treated to a lovely meal (fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, salad, roll and pie) afterward at a local establishment. That was Saturday.

   Sunday found the poets in Salina at the Ad Astra coffee shop and bookstore, where the primary competition was the KU-North Carolina basketball game (fortunately, there was no TV in the building). By my count, nine poets stepped up to the microphone to read two creations each, and the reading was followed by an engaging discussion on the future of the arts in Kansas as well as prospects for revitalizing the state’s small and medium-size communities, a list that would undoubtedly include both Sainty and Salina. This was an impromptu discussion, it should be noted, and was led by our host, William Emery.

Politics … as Usual

March 28, 2012

   Kansas poet laureate Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg has just announced that the PBS NewsHour crew will not be coming to Emporia, Kansas after all to cover the poetry reading scheduled for Saturday, April 14, choosing instead to focus on the seemingly never-ending Republican presidential primary race. Given a chance to see what’s going on in the lives of real people with real problems and concerns, and specifically to explore the controversy surrounding the funding of the arts in the Sunflower State, PBS flat blew it. You know, it’s not like we don’t get enough coverage of the candidates already, and it’s not like the commercial networks are regularly going out of their way to examine the state of the arts in Kansas and elsewhere. At any rate, the “party” will go on as planned in Emporia, even if native Kansan Jim Lehrer of PBS fame intends to be a no-show (not that this was necessarily going to be his assignment for the day).

Ad Astra

Ad Astra, precariously perched on Capitol’s dome,
Looks north but in vain to see buffalo roam,
Deftly draws his bow, arrows at the ready,
Takes aim at the target … steady, steady.

Governor’s orders: it’s the poets he’s after –
These soothers of souls, these purveyors of laughter;
But then who will speak oft of love and beauty
If there are no poets to do their duty?

Angry men, voices raised, stroll corridors below –
They’ve no use for bards or the seeds they sow;
Red Man’s in his place, but the refugee can’t stay –
Pride and prejudice, the order of the day.

“Oh, the humanities,” some senator screams,
“We can’t afford these literary themes –
Statehouse repairs cost a goodly sum …
A statue of Toto? There’ll never be one!”

The sound of music’s not heard in the schools –
The axe has fallen, austerity now rules;
Potters and sculptors are begging for bread,
Aspiring authors, they’re as good as dead.

Thespians in costume aren’t seen on the stage –
How much we miss Inge and the golden age;
Officials in lockstep form battle lines –
It’s a culture war, a sure sign of the times.

Chautauqua, Chautauqua, we long for you!
Oh, to return to the world we knew …
Oratory, discourse, classical dance –
Civility, honor, true blue romance.

The prairie poets valiantly press on –
Clymer, Greene, White and Stafford all gone;
With tears in our eyes and an ache in our hearts,
Welcome to Kansas, sad state of the arts!

Copyright 2012