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Poet Laureate of Kansas Wyatt Townley Inspires Tallgrass Creek Residents

October 26, 2015

OVERLAND PARK, KS (October 26, 2015) -- Wyatt Townley, Poet Laureate of Kansas, visited Tallgrass Creek October 19 to present "Coming Home to Poetry" as part of her  poetry readings to 68 organizations across Kansas.

Townley inspired residents with her advocacy of the humanities as a public resource for all Kansans through public presentations and discussions about poetry in communities across the state.

Her appearance was arranged by Tallgrass Creek resident Judy Turner, who said Townley's love of poetry is contagious. Residents, for instance, are now sharing their poetry books with one another as a result of listening to Townley.

"My own husband, Terry, read to me a poem and I read the same one to him, listening for the differences we each brought to the poem," said Turner.

Poet, writer, and yoga teacher Townley has published both collections of poetry and books on yoga and dance. Her work has appeared in journals such as the Paris Review and North American Review, and been featured in both Ted Kooser's "American Life in Poetry" column and Garrison Keillor's "The Writer's Almanac" radio program.

Her poetry collections include Perfectly Normal (1990), The Breathing Field: Meditations on Yoga (2002), and The Afterlives of Trees (2011). A recipient of a Master Artist Fellowship in Poetry from the Kansas Arts Commission, she was invited by the commission in 2003 to help establish that state's Poet Laureate program.

"The laureateship itself was a poem for me," Townley said. "What an honor and delight traveling Kansas and connecting with people about things that matter—love, death, and Poetry!

"We laughed, we cried, we got chills. We put over 10,000 miles on our 16-year-old van, never breaking down and managing to dodge all blizzards and tornados," Townley, who lives in Shawnee Mission,  said. "Internally, I found a path from private to public that I could travel, and made new friends along the way. It was all poetry, all the way down."

Townley's newspaper column, "HomeWords," was published for 53 weeks and featured 105 chinquapin poems written by Kansans—a number that reflects the 105 counties of the state.

"When Wyatt was chosen as Poet Laureate of Kansas, the selection committee knew her talents and charismatic presence. What we didn't fully realized was Wyatt's passion for the position and her devotion to sharing poetry with Kansans statewide," said Julie Mulvihill, Kansas Humanities Council Executive Director. "While the humanities connect us to the larger human experience, her poetry magnified it. The Kansas Humanities Council is grateful for this gift Wyatt shared with all of us."