April 8: Stormy Weather
April is a time of sudden and wild-pitched storms, cold fronts bringing a panorama of lightning and occasional hail, tornado watches and long nights tracking the storm. Write about a time that a storm in any season was central or in the background of something happening. For inspiration, read this poem by William Stafford, featured in 150 Kansas Poems on March 28:
You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or the silence after lightning before it says
its names – and then the clouds’ wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles – you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head –
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.
-- William Stafford
Special thanks to Kim Stafford for permission to include this poem, reprinted with permission of Graywolf Press.
William Stafford, one of the world's most beloved poets, was born and raised in Kansas, starting his prolific poetic life in Hutchinson in 1914, and going on to receive his BA and MA from the University of Kansas. During the Second World War, Stafford was a conscientious objector and worked in the civilian public service camps-an experience he recorded in the prose memoir Down My Heart (1947). He married Dorothy Hope Frantz in 1944; they had four children, including writer Kim Stafford. Stafford taught at Lewis and Clark College from 1948 until 1980. His first major collection of poems, Traveling Through the Dark, won the National Book Award in 1963. He went on to publish more than sixty-five volumes of poetry and prose. Among his many honors and awards were a Shelley Memorial Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Western States Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry. In 1970, he was the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (a position currently known as the Poet Laureate).
Please send your poem in a Rich Text Format document or as a Word document, to KSpoetlaureate@gmail.com by midnight on April 8.
Professional Poet Category Winner:
Centering the House
By Wyatt Townley, Shawnee Mission
All night Kansas
the lungs of the continent
takes a sip of the galaxy
swirling stars and barbed wire
sofabeds and willows
books and doors banging open
signs disappear whole towns
ditch themselves in the countryside
I stir the coffee to center the house
the place our mothers and fathers
and theirs and theirs passed through
their aprons strung on telephone wires
this tunnel of wind this trial
makes trees throw back their heads
and the hair along our arms stand up
we’re nothing but breath on its way through the woods
Wyatt Townley is a fourth-generation Kansan. Her work has appeared in journals ranging from The Paris Review to Newsweek. Books of poetry include The Breathing Field (Little, Brown), Perfectly Normal (The Smith), and her new collection, The Afterlives of Trees (Woodley), which she won a Master Fellowship from the Kansas Arts Commission to complete.
NonProfessional Poet Category Winner:
A Kansas Native Discusses the Natural Disasters
By Israel Wasserstein, Topeka
Raised in California, you freeze with each storm warning,
listen for the locomotive roar,
imagine the funnel cloud descending
dark against greenblack dusk.
Strange, I thought. You know
the earth can swallow cars, buildings,
that land can collapse to sea,
that the next Big One is inevitable.
Yet a twister might pass blocks away
and leave us unaware until sirens woke us.
But now I know: you are a child of the land.
Amidst its tremors you brace under doorframes
without fear. I was raised by sky,
its furies as much as its calms.
When the evening chills with the hammer of hail,
the air takes me breathless, tense, home.