When Karla K. Morton was named the 2010 Texas Poet Laureate, she wanted to teach students across the state that there is greatness inside each of them.
“That’s what I wanted to do,” Morton said. “I wanted to go back into the schools. I wanted to take the message that anything is possible.”
She encouraged the students to create poetry and art to be published alongside hers in her latest book.
The book, Hometown, Texas: Young Poets and Artists Celebrate Their Roots, will release in April. It’s being published by TCU Press.
“I was completely amazed at the talent of the kids across Texas, both with poetry and art,” Morton said.
Denton is one of the 24 Texas towns featured in the book. The other towns include Amarillo, Arlington, Bastrop, Beaumont, Brenham, Bonham, Bowie, Comfort, Cleburne, Euless, Granbury, Hardin, Justin, Kyle, Krum, Laredo, Mansfield, Marfa, Mesquite, Port Aransas, Round Rock, Salado and Texarkana.
Because it isn’t a paid position, Morton paid for her travel herself, and the towns opened up their homes, schools and libraries to her during her 18-month tour called Little Town, Texas Tour, she said.
The only thing she asked of the schools was to have a poetry and art contest about their town. Morton also wrote a poem about each town and then chose from the students’ poetry and artwork to form the book.
“This gives kids all across the state of Texas the opportunity to get published,” Morton said.
She traveled 80,000 miles and visited 32 schools. She also spoke at universities, conferences, civic organization, bookstores, libraries and cancer support groups.
She hopes to visit each of the 24 towns in the book for speaking engagements once the book releases.
“I would love to go back to as many of them as I can,” Morton said, adding that she wants it to be an opportunity for them to celebrate their towns.
Each town she visited was different. In Hardin, community members held a reception and dinner at someone’s house for her, Morton said. At Happy Hills Farm in Granbury, she interacted with students from kindergarten to 12th grade. Students in Texarkana created art for her visit.
“Each town had stories, each town was vibrant and eclectic and creative,” Morton said. “And I just fell in love with Texas over and over again.”
Morton also photographed the events of her journey, including the state trooper who pulled her over while she was traveling across Texas.
Morton wanted to be a Texas Poet Laureate since she was in eighth grade.
“When I was named, it was a dream come true,” she said.
In fact, about a year after she was diagnosed with cancer, she learned that she would be the 2010 Texas Poet Laureate.
During that time, she wrote Redefining Beauty, which chronicles her journey through cancer diagnosis, chemo, radiation and recovery.
Poetry is a healing tool, Morton said.
“In times of extreme emotion that’s what poetry does for us,” she said.
Morton is a Betsy Colquitt Award Winner and a two-time Indie Book Award Winner.
She is the author of eight books of poetry, including Stirring Goldfish, Becoming Superman and No End of Vision: Texas as Seen by Two Laureates, which combines Morton’s photography with 2005 Texas Poet Laureate Alan Birkelbach’s poetry.
For more information about Hometown, Texas, visit www.kkmorton.com.
Books can be pre-ordered at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Amazon or the TCU Press by calling 817-257-7822.
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.