Kansas Poet Laureate joins poetry coffeehouse

Bill and Janice

SCCC English instructors Janice Northerns, left, and Bill McGlothing welcome guests to the 2016 event at the Shank Humanities Building. 

Longtime tradition brings in state personality as judge, guest

Poetry will once again take center stage at Seward County Community College in April, as the humanities division hosts its seventh annual poetry contest and coffeehouse. This year features the added attraction of Kansas Poet Laureate Eric McHenry, who will serve as judge of the contest and reader on campus.

McHenry will give a reading at the Poetry Coffee House set for 7 p.m. April 26, in Room H148, Shank Humanities Building, SCCC. He will also give a noon poetry reading at the SCCC library that day.

A fifth-generation Kansas native who was appointed to the post of Kansas Poet Laureate in 2015, McHenry is a tenured professor of English at Washburn University. As poet laureate, McHenry’s duties include “fostering the development and sustention of the humanities and poetry across the great state of Kansas,” according to a press release from the Kansas Humanities Council.

“I have an enthusiasm for poetry, which I try and share in the classroom. I want to take that enthusiasm and infect people across the state with it,” stated McHenry in an interview with the Washburn Review.

From a review of McHenry’s 2016 book, “Odd Evenings”

Eric McHenry

In his first full-length collection in 10 years, Eric McHenry brings fresh attention to his old obsessions – love, laughter, justice, transience, how humility ennobles, how time makes the familiar strange, and how our scars make us beautiful. McHenry can dazzle with his technical dexterity, but his poems aren’t merely performances; in Odd Evening, music creates meaning and vice versa. If books of poetry have patron saints, Buster Keaton might be this one’s: a stoic, stone-faced every person who’s endlessly resourceful in the face of calamity.

Having the state poet laureate read at the SCCC Poetry Coffeehouse is a first, said co-organizer Janice Northerns, SCCC English instructor. With SCCC creative writing/English instructor Bill McGlothing, Northerns has helped build the event into a popular local standard, with high levels of enthusiasm among community arts supporters, area high school English students, and SCCC members.

“Bill McGlothing and Janice Northerns have done a tremendous job of building events such as the poetry coffeehouse to encourage writing and literary work in the Southwest Kansas area,” said Dean of Humanities Adam Borth. The college aims to build on that foundation, he added. “We look forward to establishing collaborative relationships in the community to bring high-quality fine arts experiences to Southwest Kansas.”

Entries are now being accepted in SCCC’s poetry contest, which will award cash and other prizes, as well as the opportunity for winners to read their poems at the April 26 Coffee House and meet McHenry. The contest is open to adults and students 14 and older. Contest deadlines are April 11 (postmark) and April 13 (hand-delivered or emailed).

For complete contest rules and an entry form, go to sccc.edu, select the academic division tab and the  humanities division and click on “Poetry Contest Rules.” For more information, email or call Janice Northerns: janice.northerns@sccc.edu, 620-417-1456.

CUTLINE: Eric McHenry, Kansas Poet Laureate, will serve as judge for SCCC’s annual poetry contest and Coffee House in April.

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