English department faculty share poetry via Top City Poets series

Poetry in motion Washburn English professor Steven Hind recites his poetry at Blackbird Cafe during a meeting of the Top City Poetry group. The Top City Poetry group has created a facebook page and a blog, so that fans can follow their events.

Elise Barnett / Washburn Review

The sunlight streamed brightly through the windows of the Blackbird Espresso Bar and Bistro Saturday Sept. 18 as patrons gathered to share the afternoon with two local Kansas poets.

Thomas Fox Averill and Steven Hind are both members of the Top City Poetry Reading Series organized by Dennis Etzel. The Top City Poetry group hosts live readings in the Topeka area and features local and native Kansas poets. Averill and Etzel are both faculty in the English department at Washburn University.

Etzel introduced each reader and the first to preent was Hind, a native Kansan and accomplished poet with four published volumes and a CD. Hind was relaxing and a light-hearted spirit as soon as he took the microphone. He began with the three poems that will be featured in the next issue of seveneightfive magazine.

The first was a found poem, or poem composed using other written work, phrases or even speech. This particular found poem was created using lines from a book about the history of cigarettes entitled “Ashes to Ashes.”

Between poems, Hind discussed his methods, inspirations and poetic style. The crowd was engaged and listened intently as Hind mused on the process of creating poetry. Hind entertained the crowd, joking about his poetry, his missteps and unintentional mis-interpretations. At one point Hind recited one of his favorite poems. “I wish I’d written that,” said Hind as laughter emanated from the gathered listeners.

“His poetry is true to a Kansas heart and details moments, atmospheres and moods really well,” said Emily Blake-Braun, a culinary student at Johnson County Community College.

To close the afternoon Washburn creative writing professor and Writer in Residence, Averill, took the stage. Although Averill may be better known for his numerous works of short fiction and novels, he is an avid writer of poetry and has a collection of poems to be released next summer.

Averill began with three ekphrastic poems, or poems inspired by visual works of art. The first of which was about a retired farmer starting to paint. It seemed to instantly capture the crowd’s attention with its humor and quick wit. Averill went on to read a series of short prose poems, poems that have literary rhythms instead of poetic meter, about gardens. Gardening is a hobby of Averill’s and appears regularly in his poetry, but is certainly not his only subject.

“I’ve written about places, about time, about other hobbies, athletic activities, wilderness walking, music,” said Averill. “Words themselves inspire me toward poetry. Seeing where the language takes me.” Averill closed his reading with an excerpt from his upcoming novel inspired by the country song, “Tennessee Stud.”

Etzel led the group in hearty rounds of applause for the authors as well as for the baristas of Blackbird who served during the event.

“They’re both terrific readers and writers,” said Eric McHenry, Washburn professor and Top City poet. “Those two things don’t usually go together. I was marveled the whole time.”

To stay connected with the Top City Poetry Reading Series you can join the group on Facebook or follow the Top City Poetry blog at www.topcitypoetry.blogspot.com.