Having previously mentioned the tragedies in Reading and Joplin, it has also been six months since Gov. Sam Brownback took the axe to the Kansas Arts Commission, leaving the Sunflower State as the only state without a state-funded agency for the arts. In the meantime, our poet laureate (and incidentally just the third one in the history of our 150-year-old state), Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, has been on the “warpath” zealously striving to raise both funds to support the arts and, of equal importance, the level of awareness among Kansans regarding this crucial issue.
Although I have been fairly critical of free verse (which I should be referring to as contemporary poetry) in recent months even as I realize that we proponents of classic verse are probably a dying breed, all poets share a desire to see the arts flourish in Kansas and elsewhere. It is our hope, then, that the Arts Commission will be resurrected ASAP so that Kansas poets, painters, sculptors and the like will once again have a “home” to call our own. After all, a vibrant arts community can make a significant contribution to improvements in one’s quality of life, whether one lives in a big city like Olathe or a small town like Oberlin. Despite our differences in writing style and philosophy, more than 20 poets recently teamed up to sing “Home on the Range” in Lawrence following the first of three scheduled poetry reading there. The group sang three verses written by Dr. Brewster Higley and a fourth penned by the poet laureate. It went like this:
“Oh, give us the strength to stand up for what’s right
And return state funding to the arts
Let us sing here amazed at what we can save
And lift up all we know in our hearts.”