In verse and in their own words, former students and colleagues on Saturday honored Jonathan Holden — K-State distinguished professor, poet-in-residence and the inaugural Kansas poet laureate — during a celebration marking his retirement this spring.
Among the attendees were another former Kansas poet laureate, Denise Low, and former U.S. poet laureate Ted Kooser.
The author of hundreds of poems and 20 published books spanning several genres, and the winner of numerous awards, Holden has spent 35 years at Kansas State University.
Former student and poet Derick Burleson, now a professor of creative writing at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, read from Holden’s book “Style and Authenticity in Postmodern Poetry.”
“Jonathan Holden, I think, really directed the course that American poets followed and took through the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st,” he said. “Jonathan’s a prophet.”
Former student Michael Verschelden called Holden one of the finest writers in New Jersey (Holden’s home state) and Kansas.
“The only thing that is worse than being a writer is wanting to be a writer,” Vershelden said. “And it was Jonathan who helped me grow across that river of an underworld dividing the two.”
Low remembered an occasion when Holden recited six poems from memory.
“His ability to take into his consciousness, his memory, his ears and his heart words of poems that he loves and keep them and share them in that fashion is amazing.”