Writing festival to bring poets laureate, singer-songwriter to Pittsburg State 

High school students, the public, and university students will have the opportunity to learn from the masters at WritersFest, a literary festival planned by Pittsburg State University’s Creative Writing Program in March, with workshops and readings by noted authors.  

The festival honors writer Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate Emeritus, and celebrates her many and varied contributions to the state’s literary arts. The festival also includes local poets, singer-songwriters, and other Kansas poets laureate. 

“We’re planning this as a tribute to Caryn, a brilliant writer who has made significant contributions to the community,” said Professor Laura Lee Washburn, director of the Creative Writing Program. “Anyone interested in writing, songwriting, and poetry will not want to miss this.” 

The festival also celebrates Mirriam-Goldberg’s donation of her literary archives to Axe Library at Pitt State and lays the foundation for an annual WritersFest on campus. It is funded in part by Humanities Kansas and by the Student Fee Council. 

The event will kick off at 6 p.m. on March 27 with an open mic for local poets at TJ Lelands in downtown Pittsburg. Readers will include Washburn, Lori Martin, Chris Anderson, Olive Sullivan, and others.  

March 28 

The festival will get underway at 11 a.m. with “Write Livelihood: Making a Living from Your Writing in Your Community” presented by Mirriam-Goldberg and Kathryn Lorenzen, a creativity coach, songwriter, and poet whose work has been featured in TV shows and films. This discussion in 302 Grubbs Hall is open to the public. 

From noon to 1:30 p.m., American blues pianist, singer, and Kansas Hall of Fame member Kelley Hunt will lead a songwriting workshop on stage at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts. It is open to the public, although RSVPs are requested by March 21 at sspear@pittstate.edu. 

From 2 to 4 p.m., Mirriam-Goldberg will lead a workshop at Pittsburg Public Library entitled “Write Where You Are: Using Writing to Make Sense of Your Life.” It is open to the public and students. Participants will receive a packet of prompts and resources. 

“Writing can bring you a greater sense of purpose, direction, community, and joy, plus a clearer sense of who and where you are,” said Mirriam-Goldberg. “Come explore how to draw from your experiences and senses to write your way home. Along the way, we’ll talk about the transformative power of writing poetry and prose, and how you can grow your own practice of writing for healing, community, and legacy. All who write or want to write — poetry, fiction, memoir, or more — are welcome.” 

At 7 p.m., the university’s Distinguished Visiting Writer Series will present Kelley Hunt in concert at the Bicknell Center with an opening performance by Kathryn Lorenzen.  

Tickets are on sale now at the PSU Ticket Office, 107 Garfield Weede Building, for $20. The concert will be free to high school students and to PSU students with a valid ID. The event is a fundraiser for the university’s Creative Writing Program. Tickets may be purchased online at pittstate.edu/tickets 

March 29 

The festival will continue with a presentation on writing poetry by Mirriam-Goldberg at 2 p.m. in 302 Grubbs Hall. It is open to the public.  

The presentation, “I Walk the Line: Composing the Music of Poetry,” will explore how free verse and some more open poetic forms give writers the freedom and weight of listening carefully to what the poem wants to say, and how to work with line and stanza breaks and lengths.  

From 4 to 5:30 p.m., Kansas Poet Laureates Denise Low, Kevin Rabas, Eric McHenry, and Mirriam-Goldberg will present a lecture and reading called “Poetry Predicts the Future / Writing from Kansas: Kansas Poet Laureates as U.S. Bellwether.”  

Held in the lower level of Axe Library, the event will explore how poetry can show us who and where we are in real time, including what’s emerging in our lives, communities, and culture.  

“Kansas has a tradition of serving as a bellwether, showing the country and the world where we as a people are heading,” Mirriam-Goldberg said. “Listen to several past Kansas poet laureates talk about the democratic nature of poetry and how we can experience poetry as a gateway to greater freedom and civic engagement.” 

It is open to the public.  

At 7 p.m., the festival officially concludes with Mirriam-Goldberg reading poetry in the lower level of Axe Library as part of the Distinguished Visiting Writer’s Series. The event is open to the public. 

A reception will follow, hosted by Axe Library.  

March 30 

From 2 to 3:15 p.m., former Kansas Poet Laureate Kevin Rabas will discuss poetry and jazz in Professor Chris Anderson’s “Beat Generation” class in 303 Grubbs Hall. It is open to the public. 

“I admire how Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Denise Low, Kevin Rabas, and Eric McHenry write poetry for the people: the people of Kansas and beyond,” said English professor Chris Anderson. “Their work shows that poetry isn’t just for textbooks and classrooms, but for our hearts and minds.” 

— Media release from Pittsburg State University —