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Chat with Kansas' incoming poet laureate

June 30, 2009

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg has been selected as poet laureate for Kansas. Her two-year term begins July 1. Mirriam-Goldberg will answer questions about the poet laureate program, her own poetry and poetry in general during an online chat beginning at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Moderator:

Hi, everybody. Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is here to chat today. She's the incoming poet laureate for the state, starting her term tomorrow. Welcome, Caryn.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg:

It's great to be here on this not-yet-scorching day. I welcome anyone's questions.

Moderator:

I'm Terry Rombeck, the features/special sections editor at the Journal-World, and I'll be the moderator today. Please submit your questions throughout the chat.

Moderator:

First off, why don't you give people an overview of the poet laureate position -- it hasn't been around too long, so not everyone is familiar.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg:

Thanks so much for asking. Basically, this is a two-year term to help promote poetry throughout Kansas -- poetry as a way to better understand and explore our lives, find great meaning in our communities, and expand our way of seeing the world. I'm the third poet laureate -- continuing after Denise Low and Jonathan Holden -- and my main focus will be facilitating writing groups, helping people lead ongoing writing circles, doing presentations and readings, and doing a monthly radio show on High Plains Public Radio. I'll be available to communities throughout the state.

Moderator:

I'm curious about your own start in poetry — at what point in your life did you start taking it seriously and writing/reading a lot of poetry?

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg:

As a young child, I drew all the the time and somewhat obsessively, but when I was 14, I was going through a difficult time during my parents' divorce and I found I needed more than images. I needed words. I began writing, and it took hold immediately. I filled journal after journal, and luckily, found some wonderful mentors in my high school and beyond who encouraged me to read widely and continue writing like a maniac. When did I start to take myself seriously? I'm not really sure when I realized, "I'm a writer." In many ways, when I started writing, I knew that already. I think some of us are hard-wired to write or create in other ways, and if we don't question it too much, we can steer clear of stopping ourselves by wondering if we're writers or not.

Moderator:

So what kind of poetry inspires you now? Do you find yourself drawn to particular poets?

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg:

I'm a life long secret student of William Stafford, and there are many poets who have deeply influenced and inspired me, people I feel like I tutored under even though they never met me. These include Adrienne Rich, Emily Dickinson, Deborah Digges, Stanley Plumley, Tess Gallagher and others. I'm drawn to a wide variety of writers, and I like reading what stretches me but also what dazzles me. To this end, I read a lot of memoir and some fiction, and I love good personal essays.

kat66044:

How has the Kaw river valley influenced your poetry?

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg:

That's a very good question. Living here has been a way of coming to a home I never imaged while growing up in New Jersey, yet my grandfather told me that when I was only about four, I said, "I'm going to live in Kansas when I grow up," and obviously, i was right. I love the contours of the land here -- the hills and valleys, the Kaw River, the wetlands, the big stretches of sky. For ten years I lived near the river in North Lawrence, and now I'm on my husband's family land south of Lawrence, with a great view of the sky. I love this sense of living in the sky -- watching the weather that often rolls in from the southwest, and watching so much change so fast. All this is to say that the land and sky where I am are the primary influence, even the cause, of much of my poetry.

Moderator:

How do you see this position affecting your own writing?

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg:

I believe the travel itself will spark a lot of new poems. I especially like roaming through Western Kansas, which has so many surprises in terms of the landscape and big sky, and I find being there catalyzes a lot of writing. I also believe just meeting with other writers, community people, students and elders around the state will give me more ideas and spark to write, not to mention some stretches in motels around the state when I hope I'll find little bits of time to write. I tend to write a lot of my poetry here and there, in the between spaces, such as waiting in a doctor's office or in the 10 minutes before I go to bed, so my way of writing should lend itself well to what's ahead.

ravenbooks:

What is your writing process? Do you wait for inspiration or work at it as a daily discipline?

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg:

Thanks so much for asking. I tend to both write when inspiration strikes and also just write during any time I have. I have stretches of time I devote to writing, and since I write in many genres -- memoir, fiction, poetry, blogs, etc. -- I usually either work on an ongoing project, picking up where I left off the day before, or turn on the faucet and see what comes out. Some days I'm ready to write a personal essay and other days, it's more an hour or so of revising poetry. For example, this week, I'm writing up Holocaust research to integrate into a book I'm writing on the friendship between a Polish resistance fighter and Holocaust survivor (a non-fiction book), and I'm also doing some poetry revision and toying with an essay I'm writing on poetry as a spiritual practice. I also -- as I mentioned -- write when the iron is hot. The other night, walking toward the car downtown, a poem came to me, and I wrote in the dark as my husband drove us home, then typed it up when I walked in the door.

Is it a daily discipline? Most days it's daily, but it doesn't feel like a discipline I do -- more like a practice I love. Writing is rarely painful for me, and mostly, it's pure joy since I always tell myself that I just playing with words, and if the words don't come out right, that's fine, because I can revise them tomorrow.

Moderator:

There's an event tomorrow night at the Lawrence Arts Center. Why don't you tell us what that's all about?

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg:

It should be a wonderful event because it's a reading to celebrate the first book published by the new Imagination and Place press, which Elizabeth Schultz helped start. The book -- IMAGINATION AND PLACE -- edited by Kelly Barth includes poetry, essays and fiction about losing, seeking and finding place. It's a fantastic anthology, and I'm loving reading it. So the event will include readings from authors in that anthology, plus a reading from Denise Low, plus a reading from me. Denise and I will also talk about the poet laureate experience -- in Denise's case, what she did and learned along the way, and in mine, what my plans are. Finally, Kelley Hunt will be introducing me by singing one of the songs we co-wrote, and it's always a powerful and wild delight to hear Kelley sing.

Moderator:

Is there a way for people to learn more about the poet laureate program or get ahold of you if they're interested in a workshop, etc.?

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg:

Yes, please visit my website -- www.CarynMirriamGoldberg.com. From there, you can also link to my blog, which will soon have monthly writing prompts from the High Plains Public Radio show and a place for you to share your writing. There are also already there some pages about getting started. Thanks so much for visiting with me!

Moderator:

Thanks for coming in Caryn. Good luck as you start your new endeavor.

Comments

Katherine Greene 5 years, 4 months ago

How has bioregionalism influenced your writing?

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