KU professor writes a book of poetry honoring his new homeland — Kansas

Alice Mannette
The Hutchinson News

Although the author of "Kansas Poems" grew up in England, he finds his new home state of Kansas fascinating. Enough so that he wrote a whole book of poetry about it.

“It’s a very diverse state,” said Brian Daldorph. “There are urban areas and rural areas too. There are huge spaces in America.”

"Kansas Poems" meanders through place and time. It focuses on the people and events that make the Sunflower State unique. Sometimes it travels to a lake or a quiet city street; other times, it targets a mother and son or a young child in a cornfield.

Brian Daldorph’s eighth full-length collection of poetry is a tribute to his adopted state. Daldorph teaches at the University of Kansas and at the Douglas County Jail. He is also the editor of Coal City Review.

The poems in "Kansas Poems" are set in Linwood, Garden City, Lawrence and Coffeyville, but also in the more mythological Stony Creek Cemetery, Brook Creek Park and Stull Cemetery, which, described in Daldoph's poem, alludes to one of the gates of hell.

The book includes poems about Kansas people as well: a Vietnam veteran; an undertaker and a football coach’s wife. Daldoph offers up ghost stories and jail visits and life on the prairie — including the outhouse and brown recluse spiders — “with that one bite/ to freeze your limbs and jam your lungs ...”

“I pick up things (items for poems) in different ways,” Daldorph said. “I’m always open to significant bits (stories)."

For the past three decades, Daldorph toured Kansas, picking up tales and admiring the vast landscape. Some poems are fictional, some are factual, but all of them encompass at least a nod to the Sunflower State.

“Any creative writing starts in different ways,” Daldorph said. “The book is full of different types of stories.”

Many of Daldorph’s poems speak of times gone by or changes that are happening around the corner.

“Poetry looks under the surface and sees the meaning of things,” Daldorph said.

"Kansas Poems" was chosen as the first runner-up of the 2020 Birdy Poetry Prize contest. To celebrate, Daldorph and Meadowlark Press will be hosting a free public virtual book launch at 6 p.m. Feb. 5. Daldoph will also celebrate his mother’s birthday with her during this virtual event.

On March 13, Daldorph will give a second, shorter reading of "Kansas Poems" with the winner of the 2020 Birdy Poetry Prize, J.C. Mehta, along with the winner and finalist of last year’s contest, Carol Kapaun Ratchenski's "A Certain Kind of Forgiveness" and Ruth Maus' "Valentine."

"Kansas Poems" is available for preorder at Meadowlark Books and other bookstores in Kansas.  

Corn

At night you could hear the corn growing, and sometimes the cry of a child lost in the corn.

My grandmother would not speak of such things as she called them.

She said they were tales told by old women.

My sister and I would dare each other to see who could run farthest out into the corn.

I had to go farther, I was the boy, the brother. I thought I could find secret trails to Jefferson Town.

I had this way of marking corn-stalks so I’d not get lost.

I’d reappear in an hour like some corn boy who’d been away to die then came back to his sister who’d yell, Ghost Ghost Ghost!

She said I was not her brother, whatever my story.

She’d sit with me at supper, never give me one look.

Kansas Poems