Library celebrates poetry

The Iola Public Library will highlight the artform of poetry in April for National Poetry Month with an array of programs, including a workshop by Dennis Etzel Jr. on April 4 at Derryberry Breadery.

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Local News

March 20, 2024 - 3:38 PM

Iola Public Library Assistant Colleen Dobbins encourages members to participate in a free poetry workshop that will be April 4, at Derryberry Breadery. Photo by Sarah Haney / Iola Register

From womb to tomb, poetry is a recurring part of our lives. “Starting with nursery rhymes when we’re little,” said Iola Public Library assistant Colleen Dobbins. “Then, it’s usually part of a funeral.” 

The Iola Public Library plans to shine a light on the artform during National Poetry Month in April. The library has planned an array of programs including a poetry workshop conducted by Dennis Etzel Jr. on April 4, at Derryberry Breadery. The workshop is at 4:30 p.m. and is free to the public.

Etzel is a Senior Lecturer of English at Washburn University. He is a Kansas Notable Books Award winner for his poetry book “Fast-Food Sonnets;” a 2015 Best Poetry Selection for “My Secret Wars of 1984” from the Kansas City Star; a 2017 Arty Award in Literary Arts from ArtsConnect of Topeka; and a recipient of the 2017 Troy Scoggins Award for Diversity and Equality by the City of Topeka. 

Etzel’s workshop will focus on Kansas poets and writing poetry from the basis of where you live. “He has a very relaxed and casual way of doing things,” said Dobbins. “It’s not like being in a class where you take notes and all of that. Somehow, he elicits poems from the participants.” 

At the end of last year’s session with Etzel, the participants all wrote a poem, Dobbins recalled. “We had to practically push people out of the door at closing because they enjoyed it so much.” 

Dobbins emphasized that Etzel is exceptional at igniting the spark of inspiration among participants. She recalled that her poem was inspired by cottonwood trees. “I remembered a cottonwood that was in my grandmother’s yard,” she said. “I used to sit and listen to the leaves and watch it shed cotton.”

The workshop is made possible through a grant from Humanities Kansas. “Etzel is one of their Humanities Kansas speakers,” added Dobbins.

Dennis Etzel Jr. will conduct a free poetry workshop April 4. Etzel is a Senior Lecturer of English at Washburn University. Photo by PHOTO COURTSY OF PEGGY CLARK

In its third year of celebrating National Poetry Month, the library began with “Poem in Your Pocket Day.” In its first year, around 600 poems were distributed in the community. “Last year, the library expanded it,” Dobbins said. “We had visiting poets and Etzel was one of the programs to give a workshop.” 

THE LIBRARY is collaborating with both the Bowlus Fine Arts Center and Derryberry Breadery for its poetry programs. “We have something every week and there are things for all ages,” said Dobbins. 

The library branched its poetry month programs out into the community to meet people where they are. “The breadery is a place that is open to public arts and performances,” Dobbins explained. “The owner — Hayley Derryberry — is very receptive to the idea.”

In fact, Derryberry is a big fan of poetry. “I studied German literature in college and I’m a big proponent of the arts,” said Derryberry. “I was definitely happy to help with anything that especially encourages our kids to get expressive. I think creativity and production of art creates a fuller life.”

The breadery hosts an open mic night every Thursday at 6 p.m., and will do so following the poetry workshop. “Our open mic nights are open to all kinds of art including poetry, comedy performances and musicians,” Derryberry noted. “We would love to see more performance art and poetry.”

Through this workshop, Dobbins hopes people gain an appreciation for the spoken word, language, and expression. “Poetry is one of those things a lot of people may roll their eyes at,” she said. “But poetry is a part of our lives… from the very beginning.”

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