The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • ‘Prairie Rhythms’ blends biography, history and poetry

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  • Newton author Lana Myers blends biography, history and poetry in her book “Prairie Rhythms: The Life and Poetry of May Williams Ward” recently published by Mammoth Publications.
    Denise Low, former poet laureate of Kansas, writes in the Foreword the book “is an invaluable addition to literature and history of the Midwest region, especially Kansas.”
    May Williams Ward, a nationally acclaimed poet, produced more than 2,000 poems and seven books during her literary career, which began in 1921 and lasted 50 years. Her creativity extended beyond written words to the designing of block prints to illustrate the rhythms in her poems.
    “Prairie Rhythms” contains 39 block prints and vintage photographs, richly enhancing the text. Ward’s life story provides glimpses of the past. She grew up in Osawatomie, where radical abolitionist John Brown was a hero and his descendants were her close friends and neighbors. She had memorable encounters with temperance crusader Carry Nation, politician and Scopes trial lawyer William Jennings Bryan, and Pulitzer Prize-winning poets Edwin Arlington Robinson, Stephen Vincent Benet and Sara Teasdale.
    Readers will travel with her through campus life at The University of Kansas circa 1900, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and World Wars I and II.
    William Allen White called Ward “the champion poet of Kansas,” writing in his Emporia Gazette in 1930: “She excels be-cause she is of the prairie.” Ward always viewed her home on the Midwestern plains as a vast source of realistic subject matter.
    As she des-cribed it:
    A wide, tall sky the more im-pressive for the flatness of the plain, great free winds sometimes rising to tornado crescendo, a subtle color scheme of green and tawny gold with sage-grey, and a people salty, racy, and individual ... the Kansas prairie provides these varied stimuli for her poets.
    Thomas Fox Averill, writer-in-residence at Washburn University, writes: “This book captures the essence of a Kansas poet who captured the essence of Kansas.”
    Poet Anita Skeen, director of the Center for Poetry at Michigan State University and formerly of Wichita State University, praises Myers “for opening the gates of the archives and letting Ward’s energy loose in the world once again.”
    The book is available locally at Anderson Book & Office Supply and Pages Books & Coffee. It also can be purchased online from Mammoth Publications (www.mammothpublications.com), Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.
    Myers will speak and sign books at 8 p.m. today at Pages. She also will sign books from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at Anderson’s. On Sept. 19, Myers will appear in Lawrence with other Mammoth Publications authors at 3 p.m. at KU’s Jayhawk Ink (formerly Oread Books).
    About the author: Myers has been a part-time freelance writer for more than 30 years, including seven years as a columnist for The Newton Kansan. Her published works include newspaper and magazine articles as well as a book titled “Newton Medical Center: Merging the Past with the Future” (Mennonite Press, 2006).
    Page 2 of 2 - A native of Kansas City, Mo., Myers attended The University of Kansas and earned a degree in history at Wichita State University. Myers lives in Newton with her husband, Bob. She has a grown son and two grandchildren.