Poet's essay inspires Kansans to examine their surroundings

An essay by an American poet is the inspiration for a conference that explores the relationship between dreams/0imagination and places/spaces.

The Kansas Conference on Imagination and Place, a collaboration of the Kansas Land Trust, Lawrence Arts Center and Cottonwood Review, is the brainchild of Paul Hotvedt, a Lawrence artist and owner of Blue Heron Typesetters. The conference runs Friday through Oct. 21 at the arts center.

"We don't know exactly what will happen," Hotvedt said of the conference. "But like any good thing, there's always a bit of mystery and expectation about what the results will be."

Hotvedt said the goal of the conference to be help people "be attuned to how one imagines a place, how much our thinking of a place is influenced by our images of it and vice versa."

About 2 1/2 years ago, the arts center adopted the Cottonwood Review, a biannual literary magazine. Those involved were brainstorming about topics for a special issue, and Hotvedt mentioned an essay on hypnogeography by poet Robert Kelly.

"Kelly proposed that to make a fuller, more accurate geography, people should write down the dreams they have of places and spaces, how they felt about their environment and where they live," said Rick Mitchell, secretary of the Kansas Land Trust board of directors and director of the gallery and special programs at the arts center.

"Paul called Kelly, and one thing led to another. We decided to do a national conference on hypnogeography, but then we realized a lot of things come into play. So we changed the title to Kansas Conference on Imagination and Place."

Mitchell said 200 people have signed up for the conference. Most of the participants are from the Lawrence region.

"This is timely for Lawrence right now because there really is an open-mindedness about how our community expands," Mitchell said. "It's not driven by economy, but by quality of life, quality of environment, appropriate use of places and spaces."

The presenters will not lay out a monolithic philosophy, but will present several points of view.

"Different kinds of people are coming together," Hotvedt said. "We have people who have long, illustrious careers and people who are just starting out. We have geographers, philosophers, poets and a whole array of disciplines represented."

The presenters include Kelly, poet and professor of writing and literature at Bard College in New York; Denis Cosgrove, cultural geographer at the University of California-Los Angeles; Barbara Tedlock, anthropology professor at State University of New York-Buffalo; Denise Low, Lawrence poet and professor of English and American Indian studies at Haskell Indian Nations University; Edward Casey, philosophy professor at SUNY-Stony Brook; Soren Larsen, Lawrence, doctorate candidate in sociocultural geography at Kansas University; Cecil Giscombe, poet and associate professor of English at Penn State University; Richard Schoeck, Lawrence poet and retired professor of history and English; and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Lawrence writer.


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