Grand Rapids Poet Laureate visits Aquinas

Kyd Kane, the poet laureate of Grand Rapids. Photo courtesy of Daniel Combs.

Story by Yashowanto Ghosh, Reporter

Kyd Kane, the current Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, visited Aquinas for the fourth and final event of the Contemporary Writers Series’ 2022-2023 schedule on March 29 and March 30.

Ericka “Kyd Kane” Thompson is a multi-disciplinary artist, working in fields as diverse as spoken-word poetry, visual art and art education.  Their Tuesday afternoon session at the Donnelly Center was a world apart from most lunchtime talks of the Contemporary Writers Series, in that the masterclass they led was hands-on, designed to get everyone in attendance to write a poem of their own.

Kane started the afternoon with a very brief introduction of their background:  They were raised by their grandparents, and they first started writing as a child when they discovered that a notebook was a safe space where they could be present with themself to rewrite their story.  They recited one of their own poems first, and then walked us through a poetic aesthetic they called “compelling poetic self-portrait.” 

It started with each of us choosing one of a pageful of possible sentence beginnings, all with subject “I,” but with different verbs.  Kane told us their sentence of the moment and then they asked every person in the room, without exception, to say their sentence aloud.  

Kyd Kane performing on Wednesday night. Photo courtesy of Daniel Combs.

Then, they asked everyone to feel their sentences in some part of their bodies, and there was another round where each person in the room, again starting with Kane themself, expanded upon their first sentences with the details they had felt viscerally.  After one more iteration, you would have a finished poem.  This time Kane left it up to us whether we would recite the results; one person—senior Mac Anderson—actually recited their poem. 

It was a spectacle to witness the creation of a poem, from start to finish, within a few feet of ourselves, but we in fact got even more out of the event:  We all came away with hands-on experience of Kane’s process, which is capable of such spectacular results.  And, while the process can only give you poems about yourself, Kane said that was exactly the intention: 

“Lots of people can talk about what’s happening in the world, but who can talk about you?” Kane said.

The 25th season of the Aquinas College Contemporary Writers Series concluded with Kane’s spoken word reading, open to the public, at the Wege Ballroom at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30.