J.T. Knoll, a native of the Republic of Frontenac, Kansas, is a poet, singer-songwriter, celebrant, counselor, eulogist, and award-winning columnist for The Morning Sun in Pittsburg where he operates Knoll Training & Consulting. He received his Master’s in Counseling Psychology from Pittsburg State University where he worked for 25 years as an addiction specialist and Coordinator of Prevention and Wellness.
His poems and essays have appeared in print and online, newspapers, journals and magazines across the country, including Another Chicago Magazine, Tortilla, Chameleon, The Little Balkans Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Wind, Man!, Chorus Line, Moravagine 3, Nashville’s Poetry Magazine, Chiron Review, Coal City Review, PoetryBay, Poets to Come, Kansas Time & Place, Bards Against Hunger, 150 Kansas Poems, The Front Porch Review, Heartland, Begin Again: 150 Kansas Poems, and To the Stars through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices, a Kansas Notable Book Award winner.
He is former co-owner of White Buffalo Café’ & Emporium and is a founding member of the music, poetry and storytelling group, White Buffalo. He is also the originator and host of the Walt Whitman Birthday Bash, which is held yearly at the Pittsburg Public Library.
Kiesa Kay, a fifth generation Kansan, grew up on Lake Road 14 in Gardner, Kansas, and graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.S. in journalism and an M.A. with honors in English. Inspired by time at Hedgebrook Retreat for Women Writers, Kiesa founded Oleander Cottage, a writing retreat in Montgaillard, France, where several writers found haven from 2004 to 2014. Kiesa wrote the first draft of her memoir, Tornado Alley, at Oleander Cottage. Kiesa also spent her time in France researching a play about Camille Claudel, the sculptor. Kiesa's plays include Love Makes a Home: The Life of Rebecca Boone, which has been presented in fifteen venues in three states, including Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, the Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative at Lenoir Rhyne University, White Horse Black Mountain, and as a convocation for Berea College and the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center in Kentucky. Her first public play, Thunder is the Mountain's Voice, has been presented at Rocky Mountain National Park and Park Village Playhouse. The play also received a grant from the Fine Arts Guild of the Rockies. Kiesa's work as a nationally certified child forensic interviewer led her to create What Every Grandparent Needs to Know About Childhood Sexual Abuse, and she is a Darkness to Light Stewards of Children facilitator. Her first educational anthology, Uniquely Gifted: Identifying and Meeting the Needs of the Twice Exceptional Student, united experts nationwide in the study of twice exceptionality. Her second, High IQ Kids, received the Legacy Award as the Best Book for Parents and Educators in its publication year. Adventures at three intentional communities led to her novel, The Cicada Year. Kiesa's writing celebrates survival and reinforces resilience. Kiesa, formerly a GTA at the University of Kansas, leads writing workshops on Writing Your Life and the Healing Art of Writing, and she provides mentorship to others who want to share their stories. For example, one of her poetry students came to class with poems written over thirty years on torn envelopes, the backs of bills, and scraps of paper, and Kiesa worked with her to create a book to share with family and friends. She also led a writing workshop for secondary trauma survivors at the Violence Intervention and Prevention Summit. She also worked with the Forest Children to complete her friend Robin Carrington's children's book, after Robin passed away. Now that Kiesa's own children have grown up, she has time to play old time fiddle and psaltery, and she's directing two plays at the Orchard at Altapass on the Blue Ridge Parkway this summer.
Troy James Weaver was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. His work has appeared widely online and in print.
Canese Jarboe is a writer and artist from rural southeastern Kansas. Their debut poetry collection vo/luptuary is forthcoming with YesYes Books in Fall 2020 and is a finalist for both the 2018 Pamet River Prize and 2018 Alice James Award. Canese is also the author of the chapbook dark acre, an installment in the ACME Poetry Series from Willow Springs Books and runner-up for the 2016 Sunken Garden Chapbook Award from Tupelo Press.
A first-generation student and college dropout, they went on to receive a BA from Pittsburg State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Idaho. Canese Jarboe’s poems have appeared in such journals as Indiana Review, Willow Springs, Puerto del Sol, Muzzle, TYPO, The Adroit Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and elsewhere. They currently serve as a poetry reader for Boulevard. Canese lives and teaches in Louisiana.
Simone Savannah is the author of Like Kansas (Big Lucks 2018). Her poetry manuscript Uses of My Body was a finalist for the 2018 Barrow Street Press Book Contest. She was a 2017 finalist for the Rita Dove Award in Poetry. Her poems have appeared in Black Girl Magic (BreakBeat Poets Vol 2), Ocean State Review, Big Lucks, GlitterMob, The Fem, Powder Keg, The Continental Review, and The Pierian. She holds a Phd in Creative Writing from the University of Kansas. She was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. She currently lives in Lawrence, Kansas and serves as the Academic Services Coordinator for the KU McNair Scholars Program. Places she considers important in Kansas include the Brown V. Board National Historic Site and the women of color mural at the Lawrence Public Library.
Kevin Young was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1970. He moved several times as a kid, then lived in Topeka, Kansas, until he went to college. He has an B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard University, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University. He began writing poetry in his teens, when he took a creative writing class for gifted middle school students with Thomas Fox Averill at Washburn Univeristy.
Young's first collection, Most Way Home, was selected by Lucille Clifton for the National Poetry Series, and later won Ploughshares’s John C. Zacharis First Book Award. He is a former Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University, a recent Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, and NEA Literature Fellow in Poetry.
Young has taught at the University of Georgia and Indiana University, where he was the Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry. He was Atticus Haygood Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Emory University, and Curator of the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library. He now serves as director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City.
In the spring of 2017 Kevin was announced as the new poetry editor for The New Yorker.
Izzy Wasserstein was born and raised in Kansas. She is the author of the poetry collections This Ecstasy They Call Damnation (a Kansas Notable Book) and When Creation Falls. Her poetry and fiction have appeared widely in publications such as Prairie Schooner, Clarkesworld, and Crab Orchard Review. She is a Lecturer in English at Washburn University, and shares a home with several furry companions and her wife, the writer Nora E. Derrington.
Eugene Fitch Ware, whose pennames were "Ironquill" and "the Philospher from Paint Creek," came to Kansas after serving in the Union Army and editing an Iowa Newspaper. He settled at Ft. Scott, studied law and later became a specialist in the fields of water rights and insurance law. Although Ware wrote several books on a wide number of subjects -- military history, water rights law, even a Latin translation -- his literary reputation rests upon his collection of poetry, Rhymes of Ironquill, which was revised and went through many editions. Ware first gained attention with "The Washerwoman's Song," which aroused a public furor because of its supposed atheism. Ware's Kansas poems earned him the unoffical title of the state's poet laureate, and he was favorably compared to James Whitcomb Riley, the well-known Indiana poet of the same period. "John Brown" and "Quiver-Kansas" are probably Ware's best-known Kansas poems, but The Kansas Bandit , or The Fall of theIngalls (1891), a privately published verse play that lampoons the Populists, may be his most entertaining work. Ware was undoubtedly the most widely read Kansas poet of the last century, and his influence on the state's poetry was considerable. Modern readers often find Ware's poetry out-dated and difficult to approach; Kenneth Irby, for example, describes it as "flapdoodle jingo verse." An excellent study of Ware as poet, thinker, lawyer, politician, and man is James C. Malin's Ironquill Paint Creek Essays (1972).
---Biography taken from The Kansas Experience In Poetry edited by Lorrin Leland
Patricia Traxler was born and raised in California, and in 1980 she moved to Kansas, where the three generations of the Traxler family before her had homesteaded and farmed in the Waterville area. Since that time she has lived in Salina, where she has taught creative writing and worked as a poet in the community. She has also served residencies around the U.S., including as Hugo Poet at the University of Montana, as Thurber Poet at Ohio State, and twice as the Bunting Poetry Fellow at Radcliffe. She has published three poetry collections, one novel, and two anthologies of personal history writings by people who grew up in Kansas between 1910 and 1975. Her poetry has appeared widely, including in The Nation, The Boston Review, Agni, New Letters, Ploughshares, Ms. Magazine, Slate, Tikkun, The LA Times Literary Supplement, and in numerous anthologies, including Best American Poetry. She has also published and won awards for her short stories, and her essays have appeared in several publications, including Newsweek. Patricia's most recent collection of poetry, Naming the Fires (2016), from Hanging Loose Press, with cover by poet and artist Harley Elliott, is the winner of the 2019 Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award in Poetry.
John Edgar Tidwell is professor of English at the University of Kansas. Among his several courses, he teaches survey classes in American and African American literatures; major author courses in Gordon Parks, Sterling Brown, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston; and an introduction to the study of fiction. Coinciding with his teaching, his areas of research are American and African American literatures. He has published six books and a considerable number of essays, book reviews, literary dictionary entries, interviews, and a bibliography. For the Kansas Humanities Council Speakers Bureau, he has presented Against the Odds: Writers Growing up Black in Kansas and Gordon Parks' Learning Tree Experience. Recently, he joined the KHC Talk About Literature in Kansas (TALK) program, conducting discussions thus far in the African American Experience series. In 2001-2002, he served as Project Director for Reading and Remembering Langston Hughes, funded, in part, by the Kansas Humanities Council. Prior to that, he was a Resident Scholar for KHC's "Crossing Boundaries/Making Connections: African American and American Culture" program, in Spring 1996. He was born and reared in Independence, Kansas.
Charles Plymell was born in Holcomb, Kansas on April 26, 1935. His family later moved to Wichita and Plymell was sent to a military academy in San Antonio, Texas. In 1955 Plymell enrolled at Wichita University where he attended classes and worked as a printer until 1960, without obtaining a degree.
During this time, Plymell began to develop a name for himself in the literary world. While a student at Wichita University, Plymell edited and published Poets? Corner and Mikrokosmos, two popular campus literary magazines. By 1963 he was living in San Francisco and had published at least five other literary journals. He was the printer of the first issue of Zap Comix, with artwork by Robert Crumb. In 1967 Plymell published his first book, Apocalypse Rose, which was admired by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg, stalwarts of the Beat Generation.
Johns Hopkins University awarded Plymell a fellowship to the Hopkins Writing Seminars in 1970. The Seminars were founded by Dr. Elliott Coleman in 1947, only the second such program in the country. Dr. Coleman, who published 18 volumes of poetry and essays, continued to chair the department until his retirement 30 years later. He was a mentor to many American writers who later gained prominence, including Russell Baker, A&S 1947, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Growing Up, as well as Molly Peacock and Wes Craven.
At that time, Charles began work on The Last of the Moccasins. This novel tells the story of Plymell?s interaction with Beats Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady and describes the Wichita counterculture scene. Lawrence Ferlinghetti?s City Lights Books published the novel in 1971. After receiving his MA from Johns Hopkins in 1970, Plymell moved to New York and started Cherry Valley Editions, publishing Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, and Janine Pommey Vega, among others.
Charles Plymell has written eleven books and appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. He is still actively writing and collaborating with European and American musicians including Andrea Schroeder (who recorded his ?Wichita Bebop Blues?), Grant Hart (Husker Du), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) and Mike Watt (Iggy and the Stooges.
In 1992, Charles received a Certificate of Recognition from Governor Joan Finney for "...outstanding performance and exceptional contributions to the State of Kansas."
Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, on November 30th, 1912. Parks reports that he was actually born dead, but was saved through the efforts of an innovative young doctor. The youngest of 15 children, Parks was raised by a devoutly Christian mother and a hard-working and moral father. The Parks family was part of the black poor populace of Fort Scott, at that time a very segregated city, but the values instilled by his parents allowed Parks to dream of a brighter future. Parks left Kansas for Minnesota after his mother's death when he was just 15.
After leaving Kansas, Parks moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, to live with a sister. However, after a family dispute he was out on the street, where he was homeless for a time. After a series of menial jobs, Parks discovered a talent for photography. As the result of his native talent and a series of lucky breaks, Parks was able to develop photography into his lifelong calling.
Parks worked as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration during the depression, as a fashion photographer for Vogue magazine after the second world war, and then as for the prestigous Life magazine for 20 years, from 1948 until 1968. Besides photography, Parks also discovered a talent for writing. An autobiography of his early years, "The Learning Tree" became a bestseller, and he would go on to write three memoirs and a number of other works, including novels, poetry, music, and even a ballet. Parks would become the first African American to direct a major studio picture with his adaptation of "The Learning Tree." Parks would later direct, act in, or consult on a number of films.
Parks was influential in the civil rights movement, not as a speaker or organizer, but through the influence his work had on others. Parks did a series of photos for Life that brought the plight of the black poor in the segregated south home to northern whites. Parks was allowed access to photograph in the Nation of Islam, becoming so close to Malcolm X that he was asked to be the godfather of X's daughter. When following the Black Panthers, he was offered a spot in the agency's heirarchy. Even Parks' film, "Shaft," often billed as "blaxploitation," has been credited by some African Americans, including Russell Simmons, as giving them a new sense of power.
Parks was married and divorced three times, and was romantically linked to a number of other women, including Gloria Vanderbilt. He had 4 children, including Gordon, Jr., who followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a photographer and moviemaker.
Gordon Parks died in New York on March 7th, 2006 was a result of cancer. He was ninety-three. Parks is buried in Fort Scott, Kansas.
Al Ortolani was born in Huntington, New York and grew up in Pittsburg, Kansas. He was educated at Pittsburg State University where he received his B.S. in Education, an M.A. in English and an Ed.S. in Higher Education. He has taught secondary English in Baxter Springs, Pittsburg and Overland Park (Blue Valley) as well as an adjunct at Pittsburg State University. He has worked as a house painter, chimney sweep, antique dealer, juvenile counselor, pony handler, canoeing instructor, gas station attendant and soda jerk. Many of his poems have been inspired by his friends, family and students. He once claimed to have cooked the best bowl of chili in the state of Kansas. Al Ortolani is a co-editor of The Little Balkans Review. He has performed with White Buffalo Poetry and Song in Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado. His poetry has appeared in the Midwest Quarterly, the New York Quarterly, The Laurel Review, Wilderness, The Quarterly, Cottonwood Review, Coal City Review, The English Journal and many others. His haiku have appeared in numerous journals on 4 continents. He has published one chapbook, Slow Stirring Spoon, High/Coo Press and two collections of poetry from Woodley Press, The Last Hippie of Camp 50 and Finding the Edge. *
--- Bio provided by Al Ortolani
J. Patrick O'Connor is the editor of Crime Magazine. He graduated from the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1967. He was a reporter and bureau manager for United Press International, editor of Cincinnati Magazine and an associate editor for TV Guide. He was editor and publisher of the Kansas City New Times, an alternative newspaper. He is the author of The Framing of Mumia Abu-Jamal, which was published by Lawrence Hill Books in May of 2008. His book Scapegoat: The Chino Hills Murders and the Framing of Kevin Cooper was published by Strategic Media Books in 2012.
Sandra Moran was born December 20, 1968 in Topeka. Sandra grew up in Dover and graduated from Mission Valley High School in 1987. She held three degrees from the University of Kansas; a BS in Journalism, an MA in Public Administration and an MS in Anthropology.
Sandra was an author and assistant adjunct professor of anthropology at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.
A native Kansan, she worked professionally as a newspaper journalist, a political speech writer, and an archaeological tour manager. In her novels, she strived to create flawed characters struggling to find themselves within the cultural constructs of gender, religion and sexuality.
In the Fall of 2015, Sandra learned that she had Stage 4 cancer. On November 7, 2015, she passed away surrounded by family and friends.
--Bio taken from author's Website
James Mechem was born in Wichita in 1923, but raised in Topeka, where his father, Kirke Mechem, was State Historian and editor of publications for the Kansas State Historical Society. After hegraduated from Topeka High School, where he was editor of the school paper, he joined the Army. After that, he went to the University of Iowa to become a writer. There, he met his wife, who had grown up just a block from him, though he did not know her. After their marriage, they left Iowa and went to Oklahoma, where their first son, Chris, was born. When Mechem returned to Wichita, he worked for Boeing as a technical writer for over thirty years. He was also copy editor at the Wichita Eagle, and was technical writer for Beech, as well. During this time, which also saw the birth of four more children, he published small literary magazines: Out of Sight, Collage, Redstart, and Caprice. He also published widely in the journals of his time, from local magazines like Cottonwood, mikrokosmos, and Ark City Review, to Iowa Review, Colorado State Review, Triquarterly, Talisman, and Poetry. After his wife's death in August of 1996, he moved to Manhattan, New York, where he lived until 2008.
James Harlan Mechem died at the age of 93, on December 23, 2016, in Conway Spring, Kansas. His obituary can be found in the Wichita Eagle; James Harlan Mechem obituary.
The following recollection is by Denise Low:
James Mechem was full of surprises. I met him about 1980 at a Kansas Writers Association conference?a wonderful group kept together by Emporia State professor Keith Denniston. Most of the state?s creative writing departments were members, and independent writers were welcome. James was a mainstay of Wichita arts and letters, a bit of a ham, and he participated often.
Imagine a Salina tavern, poorly lit and a smoky haze pooling over the booths. James Mechem stands up to the microphone. He is a solidly built man, so I expected, well, something very male. Instead, he spoke with a tender and raspy voice, just a hint of Ella Fitzgerald. Soft yet distinct enunciation. Smoky?another layer within the bar?s smoky wreaths. The story was slightly erotic, about lesbian lovers. In those days, feminism was newish and gay love was mostly under wraps. Throughout his performance, no one breathed.
After he read, I approached him and asked if he were a gay woman, a not completely ridiculous question in the dim light. But no. He was married, had five kids, worked as a tech writer for airplane companies. He just liked women. He admired his wife tremendously, and when I visited him in New York in 2003, he grieved her death terribly. He championed women writers and artists throughout his time in Wichita. All his co-editors were women. James was a feminist and comfortably open to his own female side.
His fiction is very good?clean sentences, wry tone, and quirky characters who need paradoxically unattainable, slightly bent companionship. James once showed me his r?sum? of publications, which included the Paris Review and Art and Literature, then edited by John Ashbery, as well as New York novel publications. He also self-published in his own journals?Out of Sight, The Beaters, Collage, Caprice, Redstart, Redstart Plus. James spent a brief time at the University of Iowa, on the G.I. Bill, before transferring to Oklahoma for journalism and an apprenticeship under Foster Harris, a genre western writer. He pursued his own direction, not a career.
Unlike his beat-era peers?Michael McClure, Charles Plymell, and Bob Branaman?James stayed in Wichita, and that changed his writing life, especially in those days. My experience of the writing world is one where geography makes a huge difference, more than talent. If James had been in San Francisco, his companions would have been writer-household names. His own writing would be better known. His talent was top-notch, as well as his craft as a writer, and he liked to design. So he added publisher to his roles.
James contributed much to the Wichita and regional scene. In that Salina reading, he made a writer?s vocation accessible?no need to kowtow to him as a Great One. Despite my shy nature, I felt no hesitation about starting a conversation. He made the writer?s role seem a bit glamorous. After our first meeting, he continued to encourage me through his editorial comments?I have a bulging file of his rejections and a few acceptance letters, in ornate lavender script. I treasure his nomination of one of my short stories for a Pushcart Prize.
James also sponsored readings. One of my favorite stories is James?s barrage of letters to convince me to attend a reading at Wichita State, one of the creative writing program anniversaries, and I have an MFA from WSU. He had no money, but he promised me dinner and a good single-malt scotch. So I slipped out of work early, sped down the Turnpike, and had a pleasant meal with him and a shot of Glenmorangie. Then we went to the reading, two sessions, and I got put into the second session. Someone before me had an emotional meltdown during her reading, weeping about how important it was for her to return to Wichita, and she took an hour. By the time I read, heading towards midnight, about six dazed people were left in the audience. It was one of those classic road-reading stories. James was upbeat the whole time, happy with the entire adventure, indefatigable.
My trip to New York in 2003 to see James was crazy. He sent me a ticket and said I could stay in the apartment next to his. I flew in, got a taxi, and gave the address to the cabbie. In the sea of vertical buildings, I was helpless. The maniac drove through tunnels and around Central Park, up a circle drive, and screeched to a stop. A liveried door man came to ease me back to safe landing. It was a posh apartment building, gardens around it, marble lobby, the works. The security manager had my name on the list, and he smirked just a bit. I felt like I had landed inside one of James?s stories.
We spent time talking, traveling around the city to art shows, eating at diners, and finally we went to the Bowery Poetry Club to read. We met up with Ruby Baresch, who wrote film reviews for Caprice. We spent the last evening doing a long interview, which is available online at ?Beats in Kansas,? a site maintained by George Laughead. James loved having company, as New York was lonely. He moved there in 1998, because he loved Book Expo and wanted to spend more time in the city, he said. He appreciated the public transportation and literary events, but most of his friends and family were back home in the Wichita area.
One more story?I ended up on the living room couch. James said, as I was getting ready for bed, ?Don?t mind if I sleep walk. I don?t remember a thing the next day.? That was enough to keep me awake until about 3 in the morning. About 4, indeed, his door opened and he staggered toward the kitchen. Somewhere in the cabinets he found a bottle of coconut or tangerine liqueur (it was left open in the morning), had a slug, and went back to bed. I fell asleep to the fumes of perfume-sweet alcohol. Indeed, in the morning he had no memory of his excursion. He brewed coffee, and a new day began.
James is an original. He is also an inspiration for those of us under ninety. He dedicated his life to literary community. He made Wichita an exciting wonderland of ideas, genders, journals, characters, and more. As an editor, he mentored numerous people. He was nice and not domineering, dismissive, nor seductive to women at a time when few professional men of his generation had that ability. I am grateful to James for all he has contributed, for his eccentricities, for his writings, and for the fellowship of Ancient Mariner Press writers.
?Denise Low, September 13, 2013, Anna Murdoc?s Caf?, Wichita.
Stephen Meats was born in LeRoy, Kansas, and raised in Concordia. He attended Kansas State University before transferring to the University of South Carolina in 1965 where he earned his bachelor?s (1966), master?s (1968), and doctoral degree in English (1972). He taught at the Air Force Academy and the University of Tampa before coming to Pittsburg State University in 1979. At the University of Tampa he served as Chair of the Humanities Division (1974-1979), and at Pittsburg State as Chair of the English Department (1979-1985, 1990-2009) and as Interim Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences (1983, 2009-2011). He retired in 2014.
He served as poetry editor of The Midwest Quarterly for thirty-one years, beginning in 1985. After his retirement in 2016 the editorial board established the Stephen Meats Poetry Prize to be awarded to the best poem published in the journal each year.
He lives in Florida with his wife, Ann.
James R. Mead was born in New Haven, Vermont, on May 3, 1836. In the fall of 1859 he arrived in Burlingame, Kansas, having ridden from his home in Iowa on horseback, and he fell in love with the Kansas countryside. He established a trading post 20 miles above the Saline River, trading with Indian tribes in the area. Mead named several of the creeks that led into the Saline River: Beaver Creek, Spillman Creek, Twelve-Mile Creek, Wolf Creek and Paradise Creek, all of which hold those names today. Mead resided at his trading post until 1862, then moved to Salina in 1863. He and his first wife, Agnes Barcome, had four children, one of whom died as an infant. They opened another trading post in Towanda, as well as another branch at the mouth of the Little Arkansas River in 1864, the first building of which is now known as the city of Wichita. He was known as being an honest man and upright trader, allowing him much influence with the Indian tribes of the area.
In 1864, Mead was elected to the state legislature representing Butler county and in 1868 was elected to the state senate for the district comprised of the counties of Morris, Chase, Marion and Butler, as well as the unorganized territory west of the Kansas state line. In 1868, Mead was a great influence in incorporating the town of Wichit,a which he chose to name after the Wichita indians who had occupied the territory for so long. In 1869, Mead's wife died and he relocated to land just outside of Wichita and began to build up the city. In 1871, he organized the Wichita & Southwestern Railroad, helping to make Wichita one of the fastest growing cities in Kansas, and assuring it would become the metropolis it is today.
In 1873, Mead married a second time only to again lose his wife to death in 1894. His third and final marriage occured in 1896. James R. Mead loved biology and ethnology and was a member of the Kansas Academy of Science for thirty years. He also served as president of the Kansas State Historical Society, working to preserve pioneer annals. Mead wrote many articles for the Kansas Academy of Science and the Kansas State Historical Society which can be found in the Kansas annals today.
James R. Mead died in 1910 after contracting a cold that turned to pneumonia, which the doctors of the time were unable to treat.
(parts of biography taken from KS-Cyclopedia - 1912)
Jo McDougall, the author of five books of poetry, lives in Leawood, Kansas. She received her MFA from the University of Arkansas as well as her her B.S.H.E. (with high honors), and her Associate in Arts from Stephen's College in Columbia, Missouri.
She has taught English and Creative writing at Pittsburg State University. She co-directed the writing program and directed the Distinguished Visitng Writers Series. Additionally, she is a past member of the board of directors for the Writers Place in Kansas City, Missouri and a member of the Advisory Board of the Arkansas Porter Prize Literary Fund.
She has also taught at various additional universities and colleges in Kansas: Louisiana and Arkansas as well as at writer's conferences in Missouri, Maine, Texas, and Oklahoma. She was an Associate Professor Emeritus in English at Pittsburg State University. She and her family now reside in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Michael McClure, born in Marysville, Kansas, is an American poet, playwright, songwriter, and novelist.
McClure first found fame as a young man after moving to San Francisco as he became one of five poets who read at the famous San Francisco Six Gallery reading in 1955.
Denise Low grew up in Emporia, Kansas. She received bachelor?s, master?s, and doctoral degrees from the University of Kansas in English, and an MFA in creative writing from Wichita State University. She has published ten books of poetry and essays and received awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Lannan Foundation, Kansas Arts Commission, Poetry Society of America, Roberts Foundation, The Newberry Library, and the Lawrence Arts Commission.
She has taught Creative Writing and American Indian Studies at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence since 1984, and retired in 2011. She was an editor for Cottonwood Review at the University of Kansas for several years, and edited two volumes of poetry, 30 Kansas Poets (1979), and Confluence: Contemporary Kansas Poets (1984). She also edited for Woodley Press, at Washburn University. Kansas Poems of William Stafford is one of the many books that she edited.
Low has been honored as the second Poet Laureate of Kansas.
Denise Low lives in Lawrence with her husband Thomas Weso. Her children are David Low, Daniel Low, and stepdaughter Pemecewan Fleuker.
Meridel LeSueur was born February 22, 1900, in the small town of Murrary, Iowa. When Meridel was ten years old her mother, Marian Wharton, left her father, William Winston Wharton, an itinerant Church of Christ minister, taking Meridel and her younger brothers Mac and Willam Winston II with her. Meridel spent the next years in Perry, Oklahoma, at the home of her grandmother, Mary Antoinette Lucy, a third-generation Puritan, a pioneer and an ardent temperance worker. A feminist socialist, Marian earned her living by traveling the Chautauqua circuit and lecturing on women's issues, including education, suffrage, and birth control. In 1914 the family moved to Fort Scott, Kansas, where Marian headed the English department at People's College. There she met and married Arthur LeSueur, a lawyer and committed socialist, formerly mayor of Minot, North Dakota. After anti-socialist vigilantes destroyed the college during WWI, the family fled to St Paul, Minnesota, where they worked with the Non Partisan League and were hosts to meetings of Wobblies, anarchists, socialists, and union organizers.After a year studying dance and physical fitness at the American College of Physical Education in Chicago, Illinois, Meridel moved to New York City, where she lived in an anarchist commune with Emma Goldman and studied at the American Acadamy of Dramatic Art. Her brief acting career included work on the New York stage and in Hollywood, where she was a stunt woman and an extra in films such as The Perils of Pauline and Last of the Mohicans. Fed up with the Hollywood meat market, LeSueur decided to concentrate on her writing, which she had pursued faithfully since her late teens. By 1924 she had joined the communist Party and she soon began publishing in labor and left wing journals such as The Worker and New Masses. Her writing career took off in May 1927 when her short story, "Persephone," was published in Dial. LeSueur became known for her stories, essays and reportage focusing on the suffering of the working class, mainly women, and her distinctive, lyrical style, which set her apart from most of the socialist writers of the day.
Around 1926, LeSueur married Harry Rice. She had two children, Rachel (1928) and Deborah (1930). Early in the 1930s LeSueur and Rice divorced.
LeSueur continued to publish prolifically throughout the late 1920s and up until the end of WWII, when the onset of the cold war brought with it the blacklisting and harassment of those involved in the socialist movement. During the height of the "red scare," LeSueur mader her living publishing children's books, tecahing writing, and holding a variety of odd jobs. In the 1960s she traveled around the country, participating in campus protests and interviewing people, listening to their stories and struggles.
The freer political climate and the burgeoning feminist movement of the 1970s brought new attention to LeSueur and her work. LeSueur maintainted an extensive correspondence with writers, artists, and activists, many of whom were drawn to her dedication to liberal political, economic, and environmental causes. During the period from the late 1970s through the 1990s, she published a number of anthologies and stories, including many written during the 1930s but rejected for publication at that time. Several of her works, including The Girl, Annunciation, and The Dread Road were adapted for the stage by other writers. LeSueur continued to write and give interviews, readings, and talks around the country until her death in November, 1996.
Ronald Johnson was born in Ashland, Kansas, on November 25, 1935, and moved with his family to Topeka in the mid 1950s. He graduated from Columbia University in 1960 and traveled extensively. His first book of poetry, A Line Of Poetry , A Row Of Trees, 1964, contained many specifically Kansas poems such as "Quivira" (partially quoted below). Over the next 32 years, he published seven other major books of poetry as well as a long metaphysical poem titled ARK, created over a 20-year period. He also had a parallel career as a chef and caterer and produced five cookbooks on American regional cooking.
In 1993, Johnson returned to Topeka and is remembered by many here for his part-time work as a cookie baker at Ward-Meade Park. The gardens there inspired him to write The Shrubberies, the sequence of highly condensed poems which bridge common experience to the universal in a way that is both precise and ecstatic. He died in Topeka on March 4, 1998.
As a "poet's poet," Ronald Johnson is admired by many of the new generation of American poets. Extensive discussions of his work have appeared on Internet magazines, such as Octopus and LVNG, as well as in several recent books of poetry criticism.
Much of the above biography is attributed to the website:
(http://www.washburn.edu/cas/art/cyoho/archive/Events/RonaldJohnson/) produced by Carol Yoho, Washburn University. A more complete biography by Eric Murphy Selinger is available at: (http://www.trifectapress.com/johnson/interview1.html)
Selinger's biography is a part of an entire website the arches: A RONALD JOHNSON SITE ( http://www.trifectapress.com/johnson/johnson.html)
Ronald Johnson on Wikipedia.
For more information about Johnson and his work, see: Ronald Johnson: Life and Works, a collection of essays gathered by Bettridge and Selinger (National Poetry Foundation, May 2008, 670 pp.--link below).
Eva Jessye was blessed with many talents that helped her become an internationally recognized poet, writer, artist, teacher, actress, performer, composer and choral director.
On January 20, 1895, Eva Jessye was born in Coffeyville, Kansas. Her parents separated when she was three years old. She was sent to live with her grandmothers and aunts while her mother worked in Seattle. She lived with her Aunt May Buckner Knight in Coffeyville. She spent her summers with her Great Aunt Harriet near Caney, Kansas, because her other relatives went to pick cotton in the Indian Territory. After the evening chores were done, her Great Aunt Harriet would sing the most beautiful spirituals to her. Her aunt had an amazing voice that fostered Jessye?s deep appreciation for music.
When she was seven years old, Jessye went to live with her mother in Seattle. It was there that her love of poetry was born from reading poetry magazines given to her by a railroad porter. She tried to copy the styles and wrote her first poem, "To the Virgin Mary." She also wrote a poem, " The Nativity,"when she was only seven years old. Jessye spent a year or two with her Aunt Pauline Walker in Iola, Kansas. She attended the Touissant L?Ouverture School while she lived with her Aunt Laura Denny in St Louis, Missouri.
When Jessye was nine years old, she had a life-changing vision while recovering from typhoid fever at her Great Grandmother Buckner?s home. She said the vision helped her understand that humanity is of higher importance than intellect. Jessye said she kept this awareness all of her life (Little Balkans Review, Summer 1981, Vol. 1, No. 4).
When she was thirteen years old, her mother sent her to Western University in Quindaro, a part of Kansas City, Kansas. The university ignored the minimum enrollment age to admit Jessye a year earlier than normal because African Americans were still barred from attending the public schools in Coffeyville. The university?s music instructor, R. G. Jackson, let Jessye take charge of the University chorus because of her musical abilities.
In 1914, Jessye traveled to Fort Scott, Kansas when she entered the James A. Handy Literary Society contest. At the last minute she changed her category because she felt she couldn?t compete with D. Mae Buxton, an experienced dramatic reader. Buxton won the declamation category and Jessye?s poem, "Negroes Are Bound to Rise," won first prize in a new category, original poetry. In a Little Balkans Review interview with Gladys Mundt, she said, ??I compared our race to a lazy river full of power, but without current. (I was militant even then in my own way).? Jessye studied music theory and choral music at Western University where she earned her degree later the same year. It took her three summers to earn her life certificate in teaching at Langston University.
In 1927, Eva Jessye was in terrible straits. She worked feverishly from her run-down apartment to finish her book. It only took three weeks for her to compile and publish, My Spirituals, her critically acclaimed collection of songs from Southeast Kansas.
In 1935, Jessye became the original choral conductor of George Gershwin?s Porgy and Bess, a new folk opera about Porgy, a crippled black man who lives in Charleston?s slums in South Carolina. Porgy tries to free Bess from her drug-dealing pimp?s grip. Eva Jessye's unique musical insight enhanced the cultural texture of the work. Over the next thirty years, she was involved in almost every worldwide production of the Porgy and Bess opera. She has been dubbed its unofficial curator and guardian.
In 1963, Jessye was involved with the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King, Jr., chose the Eva Jessye Choir as official chorus of the historic March on Washington.
In 1972, Eva Jessye directed her own composition, Paradise Lost and Regained, her original folk oratorio which was hailed by the Washington Post.
In 1974, the Eva Jessye Collection of Afro-American Music was established by Jessye at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In 1976, Jessye was awarded a Degree in Determination by the Afro-American Studies Department at the university.
In 1977, the Eva Jessye Collection was established at Pittsburg State University in Kansas. It includes her biographical information, writing, clippings, photographs, programs, recordings, and other information about the singer?s life and career.
In 1979, Jessye returned to Pittsburg State University as an Artist-In-Residence. Jessye remained in Pittsburg, Kansas, until sometime in 1981.
In 1984, Dr. Eva Jessye made a profound statement during an interview with Jacob U. Gordon about the drawbacks of being black and elderly in Kansas. She said, "I often think if I had been white, where would I have been? Perhaps not anywhere. Because I think I had it made, you know. Who's that who said he took the path less traveled by? Robert Frost? I took the color less desirable and it made all the difference."
In 1987, Jessye received an honorary degree as Doctor of Art from Eastern Michigan University at the age of 92. Later, she wrote about the experience. ?You see I am still cuttin? cane and choppin? cotton-with might and main-with wide acclaim!?
Eva Jessye has an entry in the African American Registry.
Eva Jessye continued to write throughout her life. According to Randy Roberts, curator of Special Collections at Pittsburg State University?s Axe Library, Eva Jessye had begun writing her autobiography but she had not completed it at the time of her death.
On February 21, 1992, Eva Jessye passed away leaving behind the legacy of her literary wisdom and her sensitivity toward humanity.
Born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, Gary Jackson is the author of the poetry collection Missing You, Metropolis, which received the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in numerous journals including Callaloo, Tin House, Los Angeles Review of Books, Crab Orchard Review, and he’s been published in Shattered: The Asian American Comics Anthology. He was featured in the 2013 New American Poetry Series by the Poetry Society of America and is the recipient of both a Cave Canem and Bread Loaf fellowship. He joined the Department of English at the College of Charleston in 2013, currently teaches in the MFA program as well as undergraduate creative writing, and is the associate poetry editor at Crazyhorse.