English poet A. E. Housman once said, “I can no more define poetry than a terrier can define a rat; but he knows a rat when he comes across one, and I recognize poetry by definite physical sensations, either down the spine, or at the back of the throat, or in the pit of the stomach.”
I’ve had those same physical sensations when hearing the stories of generations of people who lived in Freedom’s Frontier. From harrowing to heartening, this place and the people who once called this area home can inspire poetry.
One such person who called Freedom’s Frontier home is Langston Hughes. Hughes, a notable poet and leader of the Harlem Renaissance, was born in Missouri and spent his early years in Kansas. While Hughes faced discrimination and segregation in Kansas, he also found his voice to speak up against injustice. Exhibits in the Carnegie Building in downtown Lawrence, Kansas, the former Carnegie Library that Hughes visited as a boy, include Hughes’s story.
Poets of Freedom’s Frontier aren’t all in the past, though. Poetry is alive and well in the heritage area. The Kansas Humanities Council Poet Laureate, Eric McHenry is a resident of Lawrence, Kansas, and is working to promote poetry in the state. The Missouri Arts Council also sponsors a Poet Laureate in that state. You’ll even find poets at our partner sites! Freedom’s Frontier partner and Kansas City poet Glenn North works at the Black Archives of Mid-America in the 18th and Vine district of Kansas City. Glenn was formerly the artist-in-residence at the American Jazz Museum.
Let our land and stories inspire you to consider our shared past to compose a poem. You can share it with us on social media and browse others’ poems on the Kansas Humanities Council’s Pin-Up Poetry Pinterest Page.
I once heard a speaker at a gathering of National Heritage Area leaders say that the names of our National Heritage Areas are poetry in themselves. Freedom’s Frontier, Silos & Smokestacks, Rivers of Steel, Journey through Hallowed Ground…our stories and places have inspired poetic names. You can get inspired like Find Your Park ambassador, Mary Lambert along the Boston Freedom Trail and Freedom’s Way National Heritage Area. You can also visit hometown of former United States Poet Laureate, Philip Levine, whose work is shaped by stories told at MotorCities National Heritage Area.
What inspires your poetry in Freedom’s Frontier?