Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore hosted eight regional, award-winning authors Saturday with the Halfway to Everywhere Festival.
Poets included Hazel Hart, Miranda Asebedo, C.J. Janovy, Ken Ohm, Huascar Medina, George Frazier, Max McCoy and Kevin Rabas.
Emporia resident Kevin Rabas, Poet Laureate of Kansas 2017-2019, read selections from his newest poetry collection “Watch Your Head,” published by local Kellogg Press.
The book follows Rabas’ time after a traumatic head injury, which led to Rabas’ unemployment, divorce and other difficult situations. The poems were written about 20 years ago.
“I had a hard time writing about it,” he said at the reading. “I needed to write about it, in some ways, but I couldn’t push it to completion. I shared some of it at open mics, but a lot of it I didn’t share, and so, now, here it is.
“I’m glad that I finally got it to a place where I can show it to other people, and it has an artfulness, as well as that heart. I think in some ways, the book may speak to a different group of people, too, than some of my other stuff, because it touches on different chords.”
With music, films and literature being celebrated in the same day, “the arts and culture are alive and well in our town,” Rabas said in a written exchange. “We just have to go out and enjoy them every chance we can.”
Rabas also had a film featured at the No Coast Film Festival Saturday afternoon.
“I’d never seen anything I’d made up on the big movie screen, so this was a delight and an honor,” he said. “It was thrilling to see and hear the audience’s reaction to ‘Strawberry Hill Fight Club,’ the short documentary we made.”
Rabas “stumbled into” his part on the film. After losing a member of the filming team, Rabas offered to be a cameraman and became much more.
“The short film is starting to have a life of its own and will see another showing in the KC area in November,” Rabas said. “Since I teach playwriting and screenwriting for ESU, I try to keep a hand in that field, so I can help my students, so I can show them the way.”
Rabas got to spend time with current Poet Laureate of Kansas and friend Huascar Medina.
“We had a good talk, afterwards,” Rabas said.
“It’s been wonderful — meeting new writers, first time to this bookstore,” Medina said. “I’m a big fan of bookstores; I spend a lot of time in them. I spend a lot of time reading work. Sometimes you can’t buy it, so you sit back, and you read it on the shelf and put it back.”
Medina’s trip to Emporia is one of many treks he will take all over the state as poet laureate.
“Having someone come into your town and wanting to share work, to show that you’re a place worth stopping through, that the audience is necessary, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing,” he said.
Medina is a proponent of the open mic poetry culture, encouraging others to share their stories in an environment conducive to a person’s growth.
Medina will be hosting this First Friday’s open mic poetry reading at 5 p.m. at Ellen Plumb’s City Bookstore, 1122 Commercial St.