smiling woman with shoulder length grey hair in a blue short sleeved top with one hand in her jeans pocket

Cycles Writing Contest Winner

By Lori Stratton
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Mar 1, 2023

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Lori Stratton has won our writing contest on the theme of Cycles with her piece "Seasons."

Lori Stratton is a high school English teacher, writer, mother, grandmother, wife, and daughter. Find more of her work on Medium at https://medium.com/@ljstratton50, and at lorijstratton.com.


I appreciate the way the seasons melt together

and the way we never really know where

one starts and another ends

or which one comes first in the cycle.

The way March’s green first peeps

then shoots through

February’s remaining muddy white

blond woman with shoulder length hair and glasses in a jean jacket with red shirt with field and sky behind

Ekphrasis Contest Winner

By Heather G. Taylor
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Jan 13, 2023

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Heather G. Taylor has won our writing contest on the theme of Ekphrasis with her piece "The Pieces."

Heather G. Taylor is a life-long fan of poetry. Her greatest poetry-related achievements include meeting former US Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser, and winning $5 in a dental-themed poetry contest. But she doesn't like to brag. She lives in Olathe, Kansas, with her husband, Rion, and their Golden Retriever, Jasper.

The Pieces

Inspired by Patti Streeper’s Ruth Wilson Gilmore

We are each our own puzzle.

Framed by our circumstances,


Cover for Bright Star

Bright Star

By Jane Campion
Star Rating

Rated by Zachary C
Aug 12, 2022

Based on the romance between English poet, John Keats (played by Ben Whishaw), and Fanny Brawne (played by Abbie Cornish).  Keats, not considered a successful writer during his life (dying at only the age of 25), is not considered a suitable husband for a woman of Brawne's status.  Likewise, Keats' writing cohort (Paul Schneider), believes Keats needs to focus more on honing his craft than trivial flirtations.  Directed by the Academy's reigning Best Director, Jane Campion, this film was a delightful discovery that sprung out of exploring her catalog of work.  Campion's work is striking in how

Blond woman in black clothes with a white spotted dog standing in front of a lake

Oceans of Possibility Writing Contest Winner

By Marcia Hurlow
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Jun 14, 2022

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Marcia Hurlow has won our writing contest on the theme of Oceans of Possibility with her piece "On Old Silver Beach with Jane."

Marcia L. Hurlow is a poet, fiction writer and journalist. She has a full-length book of poetry, Anomie (Edges Prize, WordTech) and five award-winning chapbooks of poetry. Her individual poems have appeared in Poetry, Wax Paper, Chicago Review, Poetry South, Louisville Review, River Styx, Poetry East and others. She is co-editor of Kansas City Voices.


As a child, Jane once

Cover of the book My Second Work by Bridget Lowe.

My Second Work by Bridget Lowe

By Bridget Lowe
Star Rating

Rated by Lisa A.
Apr 7, 2021

“Poetry is a matter of life, not just of language.” Lucille Clifton 

This quote—a favorite, I freely admit—echoed in my mind as I read and re-read Bridget Lowe’s second collection, My Second Work. I understand Clifton’s quote to mean that poetry can be esoteric—a symphony of sounds that lull us into a state in which we choose to not question the meaning of it all simply because it sounds so good in the air. Let’s be clear: I love poetry that sings to me and, sometimes, I do not care “what it means” or if it means anything to me, personally, because the language of it lets me imagine/lets me

Photo of David Garrison

Reflections on Race Contest Winner

By David Garrison
Star Rating

Rated by Jack V.
Jan 23, 2021

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that David Garrison has won our open contest on the theme of Reflections on Race with his piece "Nine Minutes."

The poetry of David Lee Garrison has appeared widely in journals and anthologies, and two poems from his book Sweeping the Cemetery were read by Garrison Keillor on his radio show, The Writer’s Almanac. The title poem from his Playing Bach in the DC Metro was featured by Poet Laureate Ted Kooser on his website, American Life in Poetry, and read on the BBC in London. His most recent book is Light in the River (Dos Madres Press).

Photo of Marcia Hurlow

Reflections on Race Writing Contest Winner

By Marcia Hurlow
Star Rating

Rated by Jack V.
Oct 27, 2020

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Marcia Hurlow has won our poetry writing contest on the theme of Reflections on Race with her piece "DECONSTRUCTION.”

Marcia L. Hurlow's first full-length collection of poetry, Anomie, won the Edges Prize. She also has five chapbooks. More than 300 of her individual poems have appeared in literary magazines, including Poetry, Chicago Review, River Styx, Nimrod, Poetry Northwest, Stand, Cold Mountain, Zone 3 and The Journal, among others. Last year she received the Al Smith Fellowship for Poetry for the second time, and this year she will

Sep 23, 2020

“When did you realize poetry could be your companion? Your release?” 

In this episode of the Johnson County Library podcast Did You Hear, Dr. Randall Horton and Anishinaabekwe poet Louise K. Waakaa’igan discuss poetry both as a lifeline and as a discipline.  It’s a discussion between two people who share a gift for and love of poetry; but it’s also a discussion between two people who share a common language that only those who have been “inside” can fully understand.  

An unrelenting advocate for personal voice and perfect line breaks, Dr. Horton is equally passionate about eradicating

Connection Writing Contest Winner

By Annie Newcomer
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Feb 25, 2020

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Annie Newcomer has won our Poetry writing contest on the theme of Connection with "Acushla."

Annie Newcomer lives in Prairie Village with David, her husband of forty years and their daughter's Aussiedoodle, Summit. Her first published piece, "My Red Shoes" was about how her sister Patty's death affected her, then a young child herself. Patty suffered in life with severe cerebral palsy. She was a blessing and an angel.


Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there

Hook: A Memoir

By Randall Horton
Star Rating

Rated by Lisa A.
Oct 18, 2019

“We script our lives on reaction rather than action, meaning daily life is always in response to, or a reply to, a command or demand. The world uses us in that way...The world does this--holds us down.”― Randall Horton, Hook: A Memoir

Randall Horton and I have lived wildly different lives. His memoir, Hook, tells part of his story: as an undergrad at Howard University, as an addict, as a cocaine smuggler, as a prisoner, as a reader, as a poet, as an author, as an educator, as a mentor, as a friend. Yes, all of this is part of his story—and, like his story, the book itself is unique. It’s

Breaking Free Writing Contest Winner

By Pat Daneman
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Feb 7, 2019

Johnson County Library is pleased to announce that Pat Daneman has won the poetry category of our writing contest on the theme of BREAKING FREE with "Congolese Refugee Family Watches Fireworks for the First Time".

Pat Daneman is from Long Island, New York and currently lives in Lenexa, Kansas. She has published fiction and poetry in many print and online magazines, including The American Journal of Poetry, Escape into Life and the Bellevue Poetry Review. Her poems have been anthologized in Best of the Net and New Poetry from the Midwest. She is the author of a chapbook, Where the World


By Analicia Sotelo

Rated by Emma F.
Jul 15, 2018

"We're all performing our bruises"

It’s eighty-two degrees and I sit on sun drenched concrete, hot pink book in hand, pebble- small crimson strawberries staining my left hand and right knee. Suddenly, a fluttery brown butterfly wiggles between my thigh and the ground, crouching against my skin. I shriek- being the put together young woman i am- and then quiet, carefully shifting to stare at this beautiful thing that has chosen me to rest against. It flutters upwards too quickly, shooting straight into my neck where its wings rustle kisses much too softly against the most intimate sections

Music Writing Contest Winner

By Michael Harty
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Jun 22, 2018

Johnson County Library and The Writers Place are pleased to announce that Michael Harty has won the poetry category of our writing contest on the theme of MUSIC with "Ralna's Song".

Harty has been practicing psychology and psychoanalysis in the Kansas City area for a long time, and publishing poetry for a fairly small percentage of that time. So far he's had poems in Kansas City Voices, I-70 Review, New Letters, Coal City Review, and other magazines, and he's published a chapbook, The Statue Game.

Ralna’s Song

Nobody on the Lawrence Welk show

knew her the way I knew her,


Time Writing Contest Winner

By Frank Higgins
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Feb 19, 2018

The Readers Advisory committee is pleased to announce that Frank Higgins has won our TIME poetry contest with his poem "The Summer We're All Sixteen". We love way the poem circles back on itself and illustrates both the universality of time and its unique passage for each of us.

Frank Higgins writes plays, and occasionally poetry and haiku.


The summer we’re all sixteen

we buy bathing suits we hide from our mothers.

And in the deck chairs at the town pool

we each let a boy rub baby oil

over our shoulders and backs.

And those boys, who gulp so hard

you can hear their

Ain't It the Truth Writing Contest Winner

By Lisa Allen
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Jan 11, 2018

The Readers Advisory committee is pleased to announce that Lisa Allen has won our Ain't It the Truth writing contest in the open category for her poem "Adoration."  With precise yet smoldering language, Allen's narrator carefully unravels the "secret histories" of the women who raised her--what remains hidden beneath the facades they were forced to adopt to survive.

Allen's choice of perspective allows readers to put themselves in the narrator's shoes and imagine the inner-workings of the matriarchs in their own lives.  "Adoration"'s truth doesn't come from absolute fact as much as lived


By Mary Oliver
Star Rating

Rated by Hannah Jane W.
Dec 10, 2017

This is a superb collection of Mary Oliver's poetry. I believe there is a poem for every person in this volume. Interestingly, from Oliver's books I like least (Thirst and Felicity, for example), the chosen poems for this collection are strong and really resonate with me. I plan on reading those collections again, thanks to Devotions. On the flip side, my favorite books by Mary Oliver (Owls and Other Fantasies and Blue Iris) are represented by my least favorite poems. I still found an abundance of magic and beauty in this collection, a staggering amount really, and I feel most pleasantly

Paterson (DVD)

By Jim Jarmusch
Star Rating

Rated by Sheida B.
Sep 26, 2017

Paterson is a quiet, beautiful love story.  It depicts a week in the life of a bus driver named Paterson (Adam Driver) and his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). They live in the town of Paterson, New Jersey, which William Carlos Williams immortalized in his poetry. In his spare time, our Paterson writes poetry, mostly love poems about his wife. He writes down his poems wherever he can: in a small cupboard in the basement, in the bus before he starts work. He derives his inspiration from life around him so that the subtle rhythm of an average day becomes the beat of his poem. When Laura tells

Build a Better World Writing Contest Winner

By Kayla Wiltfong
Star Rating

Rated by Jo F.
Jun 12, 2017

The Readers Advisory Committee is pleased to announce that Kayla Wiltfong has won our Build a Better World poetry contest. We enjoy Politics for both Wiltfong’s skill and confidence. She employs double-meanings to great effect, referencing multiple news items seen and heard in both social and mainstream media. On the surface, it’s a very short and simple poem, that evolves with each reading and teases our understanding. It’s clever in its aphoristic, tweet-like form, and addresses the theme of Build a Better World in an interesting way. You build a better world by saving what you value.


Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation

By edited by Roger Housden
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Mar 20, 2017

For a poetry newbie, Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation is a nice introduction to the greats, both contemporary and historical. Hildegard of Bingen, who died in the 1100s, is included, yet so are poets like Billy Collins and Marie Howe who are alive and well.

My favorite, I think, is "So Much Happiness" by Naomi Shihab Nye, which begins,

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.

With sadness there is something to rub against

A wound to tend with lotion and cloth.

When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,

Something to

Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes

By Cheryl Dumesnil
Star Rating

Rated by Hannah Jane W.
Mar 10, 2017

The title of Cheryl Dumesnil's latest collection, Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes, is like an irresistible flashing light, letting readers know that there's dark humor to be found inside. And yes, her poems twinkle with dark humor, but they are also candidly soulful, colorful and even sweetly sexy at times. Her poem, The Gospel According to Sky, explores cloud shapes, and how "the immutable blue holds those changing shapes, like a lover who's finally learned how to love her right." My heart soars at the idea of the sky holding the clouds like they are all the pieces of its cherished

Ten Poems to Set You Free

By Roger Housden
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Dec 29, 2016

I picked up Ten Poems to Set You Free because, of late, I’ve wanted to learn to read, understand, and enjoy poetry. It's not just important; it's necessary. I believe that, and want to feel it, too. I thought ten a manageable number, and Housden’s explanations might improve my enjoyment. I was right.

The third poem, Throw Yourself Like Seed by Miguel de Unamuno, immediately grabbed my attention, and I read it several times. His call to Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit, comes at a perfect time. Housden’s response provides context; Unamuno was dragged from his classroom during

Dec 16, 2016

In his introduction to Forever Words, Paul Muldoon says, “So ingrained in our collective unconscious is the voice of Johnny Cash that we can all but hear the boom-chicka boom-chicka of his guitar accompaniment, at once reassuring and disquieting in its very familiarity.” That was absolutely true for me as I was reading through this collection. 

Some of these poems are familiar songs by Cash, like “Don’t Take Your Gun to Town,” but the poetry expands the story beyond the recorded song, and reading it brings a new appreciation to the familiar lyrics. Others were previously unpublished works

Meet the Author: Eve Brackenbury

By Eve Brackenbury
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Nov 9, 2016

Everyone knows poetry is a literary form with distinct sounds and rhythms meant to be read aloud. Eve Brackenbury, local poet and bookseller, will help participants who might never have spoken in front of a crowd learn to read poetry out loud. Her passion is evident in our interview and we hope you'll join us in learning how to turn your reading into a performance.

Tuesday, November 15th

6:00 - 8:00 pm

Central Resource Library - Logan Conference Room

Tell us about yourself. How did you get started writing?

Like many writers, I don’t really remember when I started writing. I

What I've Stolen, What I've Earned

By Sherman Alexie
Star Rating

Rated by Hannah Jane W.
Sep 24, 2016

What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned is the most original, electric, and soul-altering book of poems I’ve read in more than a year. It reads like a nonlinear memoir that skips around Alexie’s life, with common threads charging the poems like drumbeats.  The largest theme - growing up on an Indian reservation surrounded by a cast of remarkable characters with haunting stories – shows up in nearly every poem.  Other themes of grief, recklessness, addiction, poverty and freedom reappear again and again. Alexie occasionally skips to the present, connecting his former and current selves, like the New

Bear Witness Writing Contest Winner

By Jemshed Khan
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
May 12, 2016

The Read Local committee is very pleased to announce Jemshed Khan has won our Bear Witness poetry contest for his poem "#48689." Entries included an impressive variety of poetic forms, including haiku and sonnet, making the selection very difficult. In the end, we selected "#48689" as, like the numbers in the title, it tattooed itself on our minds. The haunting imagery and vivid description lends the poem personal immediacy and requires remembrance. The person #48689, bearing witness as both executioner and innocent victim, gives us chills and the poem deserves repeated readings.


Arts in Prison with Arlin Buyert

By Arlin Buyert
Star Rating

Rated by Hannah Jane W.
Feb 9, 2016

On Tuesday, February 16th at 6:00 p.m. The Writers Place and the Johnson County Library will present Poetry and Prose, a poetry reading by inmates and former inmates incarcerated at Lansing Prison. Arlin Buyert has facilitated the poetry program at Lansing Prison for the past four years. It is sponsored by Arts in Prison, Inc. which also features The East Hill Singers, theatre and yoga programs for inmates.

Arlin Buyert was born and raised on an Iowa farm near Sioux Center where he graduated from high school. Arlin was formally educated at Macalester College and The University of Minnesota

Faster, Higher, Stronger Writing Contest Winner

By Anna Francesca
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Jan 8, 2016

The Read Local Committee is pleased to announce Anna Francesca has won our Faster, Higher, Stronger Poetry Contest with her poem Citius, Altius Fortius. We love the poem, especially so close to this time of new year's resolutions, for Francesca's focus on herself and her own strength. The act of always looking forward reminded us a little of Matthew McConaughey's 2014 Oscar acceptance speech in which he declares his hero to be his own future self. We also love the poem's construction with consistent use of natural and mathematical elements throughout. And we especially love Francesca's

#IHeartU Writing Contest Winner

By Karin L. Frank
Star Rating

Rated by Helen H.
Dec 9, 2015

The Local Writers committee is pleased to announce Karin L. Frank has won our #IHeartU poetry contest with her entry Solace. We love the poem's progression from start to last lines, and the contrast between young and old. We enjoyed the sophisticated vocabulary punctuating strong imagery, and the poem is especially pleasing when read aloud. Try it! We're excited to hear Frank's reading of her own work at our April 9th 2nd Saturday event. Tell us what you like about Solace in the comments.

Karin L. Frank's poems have been published or are forthcoming in the Rockhurst Review, Taj Mahal

Oh Say Can You See: War Poems

By Arlin Buyert
Star Rating

Rated by Hannah Jane W.
May 11, 2015

Arlin Buyert’s latest collection, Oh Say Can You See, opens with "Big Brother", a poem that exposes the aftermath of a spirit ravaged by war. It is a candid poem that ensnares the reader in raw emotion, a poem of spare words, grounding details and a haunting and unforgettable metaphor: “someone else came home:/quiet and brittle as a dead tree.” By the end of the poem, I felt as if Bobbie was my big brother.

Perhaps Buyert’s greatest poetical gift is his ability to always leave the door open to his memories. Somehow, as the poem is read, the reader becomes more than someone reading the poem

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume I

By hitRECord and Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Star Rating

Rated by Hope H.
Jul 1, 2014

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume I is a creative, charming compilation of 1-5 sentence stories, poems, and artwork. The dainty book features 67 of the more than 8500 contributions originally submitted for the volume. Some made me laugh, others made me pause and reflect, and I kept flipping back to certain illustrations just to savor them a little longer. My favorite tiny story:

One day before breakfast, an

orange rolled off the counter

and escaped its fate, bounding

happily through the kitchen door.

Filled with hope,
the egg followed.

You can thumb through it in a matter of