Kevin Rabas, the state’s poet laureate, will spend three days in Marshall County, Kan. sharing his love for poetry. Rabas chairs the Department of English, Modern Languages, and Journalism at Emporia State University and leads the poetry and playwriting tracks.

As the state’s poet laureate, Rabas performs a range of activities to engage citizens in poetry. He gives talks and readings across Kansas to promote poetry and the arts and humanities.

Rabas will be in Marshall County Feb. 15-17 to participate in three public activities.

“An Evening of Jazz Poetry with Kevin Rabas” will be at the Oak Door Lounge (the basement of Las Cabanas), Marysville, at 5:30 p.m. Friday, February 15. Live jazz music will be played for the first hour by John Banister, trombone, Jerry Horton, guitar, Mark Lattner, bass, and Rabas, drums. Rabas will read jazz poetry at 6:30 p.m.

The event is free. A cash bar and full menu are available.

“Jazz poetry often combines the two art forms, jazz and poetry,” Rabas said. “In my case, I often play jazz drums, while I read. It can also include poems about jazz, and I’ll be reading some of those, too. These are poems about jazz musicians and jazz experiences.”

Rabas was first introduced to jazz in middle school.

“A jazz musician used to offer free lessons after school,” he said. “The instructor started with playing a melody, then he would have us play the melody back. He had me play it back, too, on the drums.”

Rabas studied jazz at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He was a regular at the jazz sessions in the city, learning on the bandstand.

On Saturday night, February 16, Rabas will participate in a Valentine’s Day dinner at the Weaver Hotel, Waterville. The event, “Love Notes,” includes a meal and a poetry reading. Tickets are $30; the ticket price includes the meal and drinks. Reservations are required by February 13, and seating is limited. Reservations may be made by calling the hotel at 785-562-2515 or sending an e-mail to marshallcountyarts@gmail.com.

Hors d’oeuvres will be served at 5:30 p.m. followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. The meal includes smoked pork chops, pulled chicken, baby red potatoes, seasoned green beans, and a summer garden pasta salad. Dessert will be served after the reading.

Rabas will read poetry at 7:30 p.m. and participate in a discussion after his reading.

Poetry has been a part of Rabas’ life since his childhood.

“My mother worked as a newspaper reporter. She honored stories and the written word,” he said. “She read me poems, as a kid. Often.”

On Sunday, Feb. 17, Rabas will participate in a poetry reading, “New Poems by Kevin Rabas,” at 2 p.m. at the Blue Rapids Museum. The event is free.

Rabas has written nine books. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times. He is the winner of the Langston Hughes Award for Poetry, the Victor Contoski Poetry Award, the Jerome Johanning Playwriting Award, and the Salina New Voice Award.

Rabas writes daily, often at night when his other work is done.

“I also bring a notepad with me always, and I write during spare moments,” he said. “Some odd places I’ve written in recent years: the roller rink, while my son skates, and the gym, before exercise class.”

In addition to his public performances Rabas will lead a workshop with forensics students at Marysville High School and Valley Heights High School. He will teach students how to interpret a piece of poetry or prose and bring it to life.

Rabas’ visit is sponsored by the Marshall County Arts Cooperative.

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