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Did you know that Kansas City is home to many vibrant communities of poets? We're celebrating local poets and poetry lovers, and we'd love to hear from you.


Fill out this form, and we'll feature you on our website and social accounts. Check out each of our featured folks in the Q&As below!



 Barbara Varanka, poet

Mission, KS


  What is your earliest memory of encountering poetry?

 I saw the movie Il Postino for the first time when I was probably 11   or 12, and I still remember how revelatory it felt to me. The movie   features a fictionalized Pablo Neruda as one of its central          characters, and quoted from many of his poems. That helped me   discover Pablo Neruda’s work, and I’ve loved his style ever since. I  still think of him as a poet ancestor and guide. 


Where do you love to write? 

I love the idea of writing in coffeeshops, and on lovely patios during the summer, but I usually end up writing in my notebook, on my couch, with a cup of tea, and Chopin’s Nocturnes on the stereo. My favorite time to write is actually on a Saturday night, when I’m home alone and I don’t have any plans. 


What does your writing process look like?

Very rarely, a poem will come to me fully formed, and I’ll really just transcribe it. This only happens to me during times of extreme grief or emotional distress. Otherwise, I like to sit down with a Five Star notebook, turn to a blank page, and just let myself free write for a while. Sometimes I’ll use a theme or a prompt to keep me focused. Then, I’ll let the pages rest for a few days, and then I return to them and start scanning for good lines. Then, I snip out the good lines and piece them together to form a new poem. 


Where do you go for inspiration when the well feels dry?

Attending readings and poetry conferences/festivals really helps me to feel inspired. I recently attended the virtual version of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs annual conference (AWP), and discovered some poets that are new to me, but already feel like kindred spirits. I’m excited to buy their books and dive into their work. 


Would you share a poetry prompt with us? 

“Take a line from a song/moviepoem/piece of fiction and make it your poem’s title. Write a new piece based on that title.”


If you were asked to write an ode to any inanimate object, which object would you write about?


If I’m honest, I’ll say a strawberry hot fudge concrete from Freddy’s, because I was recently introduced to them and am now in serious love. The more romantic thing would be to say a mandarin orange, because I just ate three of them. Basically, food. 


What are you reading right now, or, who is a poet you recently discovered, who you’re excited about? 

I recently went to a reading/conference panel that included Taisia Kitaiskaia, a Russian-American poet. I felt an instant connection to her work and the themes of her work, and have already ordered her latest book. I’m looking forward to receiving that one in the mail. 


Share a favorite line (or two) from a favorite poem. 

“She lingers / in the arbor beneath mimosa trees, / sipping Madeira, stuffing / currants in her carmine / mouth.” - “The OED Defines Red-Hot,” by Simone Muench 


Simone Muench continues to be one of my all-time favorite poets. I always admire the way she uses color throughout her poems. She works like a painter, and she develops the shades and images here in such detail. This is definitely a poem I return to repeatedly for inspiration. 


Piper Abernathy, poet

Kansas City, MO


What is your earliest memory of encountering poetry?

As a child my beloved book Poems of Childhood Illustrated by Joan Berg Victor--still have it, dog-eared and Christina Rosetti's "Summer Days" and its "blue-black beetles" still reside inside.


Where do you like to write? What does your writing process look like?

In a non-fluorescent space lit by the buzz of conversation---coffee shops and libraries can be nice, or outside near some trees.


Where do you go for inspiration when the well feels dry?

Other poets and poems!!


Would you share a poetry prompt with us? 

Take a poem you love the sounds of (meaning or not) and just do a straight substitution of the words there with your own that rhyme---what comes? Sense? Sound? Both?


What are you reading right now, or, who is a poet you recently discovered, who you’re excited about? 

Just had a two-hour workshop experience with Victoria Chang and she recommended Roger Reeves, who has a new book out 4/6 today!


Share a favorite line (or two) from a favorite poem, and then tell us why you love it. 

"And the pencils / In a cup at Circulation, gnawed on by the entire population."--Tracy K. Smith's "My God, It's Full of Stars" in Life on Mars


The great chain of literacy and humanity and how we must share even our teeth, to bite into the idea that words are for "the entire population" and not just for some of us.


If you were asked to write an ode to any inanimate object, which object would you write about?

Today, the answer is a clock.




Kara McKeever, poet

Kansas City, MO


What is your earliest memory of encountering poetry?

I remember memorizing "[anyone lived in a pretty how town]" by E.E. Cummings when I was a kid. It was a story and music and a magic spell all in one—I loved it.


Where do you like to write? What does your writing process look like?

Mostly in little notebooks that are easy to carry everywhere. But I finally gave in to writing notes on my phone in the middle of the night—it's convenient! Writing for me is documenting what I'm thinking about, looking at it later ("is this anything?"), and then pruning, weeding, marinating, burning, burying, composting, replanting, and so on until I can't bear to look at it anymore. 


Where do you go for inspiration when the well feels dry?

To all forms of art and to nature.


What are you reading right now, or, who is a poet you recently discovered, who you’re excited about? 

I just finished Kasey Jued's The Thicket—gorgeous.

Share a favorite line (or two) from a favorite poem, and then tell us why you love it. 

Among the poems I always want to give people are Adam Zagajewski's "Try to Praise the Mutilated World" (where the title is the first line) and "Speak Softly," which (though it deserves to be read in full) ends: "Speak softly. Don't give up on poetry." 


To read a sampling of Kara's work, visit:

http://www.thebanyanreview.com/spring-2022/kara-mckeever-banyan-review-spring-2022/



Abby Bland, poet

Kansas City, KS


What is your earliest memory of encountering poetry?

I remember the poetry unit in my fifth grade class, we were tasked with writing a poem about where we were from. While I enjoyed that assignment, I didn’t really start reading poetry in earnest or on my own until I was a teenager. 


Where do you like to write? What does your writing process look like?

I write on the go a lot. Between my day job, performing, and running Poetic Underground, I don’t have a a single place that I write most consistently. I love to write in natural light and with coffee nearby. Sometimes that’s in my office, or at the kitchen table, or at my favorite coffee shops around town. I keep all my drafts on Google Docs so that I can access them almost anywhere, even on my phone! But I still like to hand write occasionally, so I have a notebook for that too. 


Where do you go for inspiration when the well feels dry?

I most often return to some of my favorite poetry books. I also love listening to podcasts like VS, Poetry Unbound, and The Slowdown. If I’m feeling uninspired, I try to spend intentional time paying attention to the world around me, which usually means people watching at a coffee shop or going for a walk in the neighborhood and noting the particular details of a house or the colors of flowers. 


Would you share a poetry prompt with us? 

What would you write to convince a flower to bloom?


What are you reading right now, or, who is a poet you recently discovered, who you’re excited about? 

I heard Aimee Nezhukumatathil read on an old episode of the VS podcast recently and was in love with the way she wrote about the natural world and love. I immediately went to the library to check out her book At The Drive-in Volcano and I’m looking forward to getting her next one. 


Share a favorite line (or two) from a favorite poem, and then tell us why you love it. 

“thank god i survived enough to be someone who could bring you flowers—miracle.” This is a line from “What We Talk About When We Talk About the Pursuit of Gender Euphoria” by Levi Cain. I love the power and simplicity of this line.  


If you were asked to write an ode to any inanimate object, which object would you write about?

I would write to my cast iron skillet.


To learn more about Abby, and to read her work, visit abbyblandpoetry.com



Ruth Williams, poet

Kansas City, MO



Where do you like to write? What does your writing process look like?


I write on my computer, but I often approach the process organically, sitting down without much forethought, simply letting the words move from my mind onto the page without interrupting the flow. Often, I'll save what I've written before ever re-reading it so as not to begin dismantling whatever the first spark has produced via a rushed revision that would be ruled by my harshest "inner critic."


Where do you go for inspiration when the well feels dry?


Reading the poetry of others is always a foundational way for me to get inspired. Before sitting down to write, I'll often read from a poetry collection or head online to check out the poems posted on Poetry Daily or Verse Daily. Digesting the poetic language of others becomes fodder for my own. 


Would you share a poetry prompt with us? 


Choose one of the following words: sign, wave, light. Write a poem in which you use this word at least 3 times, but each time use the word to evoke a different meaning. In other words, the first time you use "sign" it will mean one thing, but the second time, using the same word "sign," the word will mean something else. If you're stuck, hit up the dictionary to review all of the various meanings attached to these simple words. 


Share a favorite line (or two) from a favorite poem, and then tell us why you love it. 


"All day I have tried to distinguish / need from desire" from "Elms" by Louise Glück. This line contains no imagery--the rest of the poem describes the elms of the title--and yet I remember it because of how it aligns with a difficulty I think we, as humans, all face. How do you tell what you absolutely need vs. what you only merely want? Knowing the difference, as difficult as that may be, seems crucial and Glück's line and poem capture that.


To learn more about Ruth, and to read her work, visit www.ruthcwilliams.com 


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