Dr. Traci Brimhall, a Western Michigan University alumna, has made a career out of her passion for poetry. And, now, the entire state of Kansas is ready to hear her.
Brimhall, a Kansas State University professor, was recently named Kansas Poet Laureate for 2023-2026, a prestigious post awarded by the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission to promote the arts as a public resource.
“Poetry is the thing that helped me be where my feet are. It helps keep me alive and aware of myself and deeply present in the world,” says Brimhall. “I’m looking forward to going into all sorts of communities and making genuine connections with people through poetry.”
As the newly-appointed Poet Laureate of Kansas, Brimhall will take charge of public readings, workshops, lectures and presentations that will benefit communities throughout the state. Her vision for the laureateship includes fostering connections with Kansans through the power of language, Kansas’ agricultural heritage and food.
“While Kansas is the 7th-largest food producer in the U.S., it’s also really high in food insecurity. So I started thinking about how I could use the laureateship to both talk about food insecurity and connect communities through food,” says Brimhall. “Focusing on food just seems like such a joyful way to share language and poetry.”
As an avid baker, Brimhall personally understands the importance of the connection between food and other aspects of life. She values it so much that she incorporates it into her “Literature and the Body” course, where students read Maya Angelou’s cookbook “Hallelujah! The Welcome Table” as a means to engage their senses, a useful technique for both cooking and poetry.