Area poet's unique poet form "Summer" earns publication.
In mid-August, summer is in full swing, even though the calendar says Labor Day is approaching, and the beginning of fall three weeks after that. But stop a minute, savor summer:
bugs at twilight;
on the lawn — serenaded by
Lynda Beck Fenwick’s “Summer” sets the scene and manages to appeal to most of our five senses, according to Kansas Poet Laureate Wyatt Townley, who launched a “HomeWords” project in cooperation with the Kansas Humanities Council.
Fenwick, the daughter of a Kansas farmer, was born and raised on a four-generation farm on the Stafford-Pratt county line near Byers. The author of the Art Appreciation blog based loosely on the diary of homesteader Isaac Werner that appears on the Tribune’s website, she submitted a poem that was accepted for publication in the weekly feature offered to Kansas newspapers.
She was inspired to submit a poem after attending presentation by Townley during Poetry Month last April in Kinsley. A published author, blogger, book reviewer and attorney, poetry is not her usual means of expression.
“It seems to go in spurts, during which I will write several poems over a period of a few weeks, and then I will be distracted by other things and will not write a poem for months,” she said. “I should be more disciplined, as I do enjoy writing poems.”
The format dictated by HomeWords was the American cinquain, an unrhymed poem of five lines in which the number of syllables in each line are 2, 4, 6, 8 and 2 (a total of 22). The topic was to be home — in four contexts, as described by the Kansas Humanities Council:
• Home as body — the mobile home that has gone everywhere we go.
• Home as house — or room or apartment. The building that holds us and to which we return, no matter what else is going on in our lives.
• Home as land — the earth that anchors us. What’s underfoot, and what we see, hear, smell when we walk out the door.
• Home as sky — the sky that contains us, and that we contain. We’re breathing it, we’re spinning in it as we head to work or school. It holds everything we can point to and name.
Fenwick’s poem explores the land in terms of its creatures and creations, Townley wrote.
Townley has been named the 2013-2015 Poet Laureate of Kansas. Her role is to promote the humanities as a public resource for Kansans through public readings, presentations and discussions about poetry in communities across the state.
Townley is a widely published, nationally known poet. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio’s “The Writer’s Almanac” with Garrison Keillor, in U.S. Poet Laureate Emeritus Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry” column, and published in journals. She has published three collections of poetry and is the winner of the Nelson Poetry Book Award.
She is from Shawnee Mission.
In accepting the title of poet laureate, she mentioned her intention to “start a conversation around the state about coming home to poetry” and about the concept of home as a long-held Kansas value, but as diverse as the nearly 2.9 million Kansans who live here.
Poetry is a home, she believes; a place we can return to in all kinds of weather. Its porch light is always on.
“Some of us are afraid of poetry, or uncomfortable with it,” Townley wrote. “Maybe we think we don’t know what it means. But a poem isn’t a puzzle to solve or a code to break. Its value is not what it means, but what it does.
“What does a poem do? It moves us. It quickens us. It stirs us up. It calms us down. It makes us nod our head, or shake it.”
Fenwick adds another thought about poetry:
Poems only live when spoken.
When you read in silence,
they just lie there on the page —
Stillborn from the poet’s pen
awaiting a voice
to coax the breath of life
into the lovely words.