Poet laureate of Kansas talks to writing students

By Lariena Nokes

Lariena Nokes/Collegian - Eric McHenry, Kansas poet laurette, talks with Bill Sheldon’s  creative writing class on  Feb.16.
Lariena Nokes/Collegian - Eric McHenry, Kansas poet laurette, talks with Bill Sheldon’s creative writing class on Feb.16.

Eric McHenry, Poet Laureate of Kansas, spoke on our campus on Feb. 16.

He encouraged students to be aware.

To notice sunlight dancing through a window on the hallway floor.

Feel the wind brush past your shoulders outside between classes.

Relate an image to a memory.

McHenry, Topeka, is an English professor at Washburn University. Bill Sheldon, an HCC English professor, invited him to speak to his creative writing class on Feb. 16.

Sheldon started the session by asking how McHenry got his start in writing.

“My interest in poetry is a continuation of my lifelong interest in talking,” McHenry said.

Poems have many styles and structures and the uses of them change with each author.

“You have to be obsessive to take up poetry as a profession,” McHenry said.

A “tercet rhyme” in a poem groups three direct rhymes or slant rhymes and gives the poem a feeling of motion.

In McHenry’s poem “How to Steal the Laptop of Your Childhood Nemesis,” tercet rhymes are used in concert with doublets.

“That tercet rhymes have that sound that I really love,” McHenry said. “It is all right to vary the music.”

Understanding the work a poet publishes can be put into context if you know how the person writes.

“My brain is often more free-wheeling at the end of the day,” McHenry said. “I write in the afternoon with coffee. Coffee is very important to my creative process.”

The use of technology also plays a role in the creation of poems for McHenry

“I take out my phone and open my notes app. Then I type in ideas and lines that come to me; then I review them and see what needs teasing out.”

With matriarchal rhyming and timely themes, McHenry’s writing captures the moods of Kansas.

Thought and expression and are important for writers who seek to hone their skills and broaden their ideas.

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