Libraries to host event celebrating the work of native Kansas poet Ronald Johnson

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

University of Kansas Libraries will host an evening honoring the work of poet Ronald Johnson and other Kansas-born poetry in celebration of National Poetry Month. The event will feature presentations of Johnson's work as well as poetry from KU faculty and Denise Low, former Kansas Poet Laureate.

Born in Ashland, Kansas, in 1935, Johnson published a number of long-form poems, collections and even cookbooks during his lifetime. Renowned for his bold use of erasure and concrete poetry, Johnson incorporated both techniques in his magnum opus ARK, a long-form American epic inspired by classical European traditions. However, the geography and spirituality of his native state remained influential to the artist's work throughout his career. He returned to Kansas in 1993, living in Topeka where he became a local figure for selling cookies in Ward-Meade Park, the inspiration for his collection The Shrubberies. Johnson continued practicing both his poetic and culinary talents until his death in 1998.

The evening will consist of presentations by special guests Joseph Harrington and Kenneth Irby, professors from the KU Department of English and celebrated poets, as well as Denise Low, former Kansas Poet Laureate and retired professor at Haskell Indian Nations University. Each guest will read an excerpt of Ronald Johnson's work in addition to a selection from their own poetry.

"The Spencer Research Library has had a long association with Johnson, acquiring the first accession of his papers in 1969, not long after the library opened," said Beth Whittaker, head of the Spencer Library. "The growth of this collection has continued throughout the decades, underscoring our commitment to documenting his work and preserving it for current and future researchers."

The event honoring Ronald Johnson will be held April 16 in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library beginning with a cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by presentations and poetry readings at 6 p.m. Please RSVP to Rachel Karwas at 785-864-8961 or

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library's faculty and staff are dedicated to the preservation of diverse collections ranging from medieval manuscripts and other rare books to Kansas historical records and national political documents. Visit the Spencer Research Library for more information.

Connect with KU Libraries

Like KU Libraries on Facebook  Follow KU Libraries on Twitter  Watch KU Libraries on YouTube  Follow KU Libraries' photo stream on Flickr  Follow KU Libraries on Instagram  Follow KU Libraries on Pinterest

Media contacts

Leah Hallstrom
Communications Specialist

KU Today