My letter to the Sage of Emporia: an introduction

March 27, 2022 3:33 am

Kansas newspaper owner and editor William Allen White was known as the Sage of Emporia. (Library of Congress)

The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Huascar Medina is the poet laureate of Kansas.

Dear William Allen White, 

We have never met, but we may one day. My belief in such things ebbs and flows, much like the life and times you wrote of, during your life and time in Kansas. 

I also live in Kansas, and my name is Huascar Medina. I am a poet, writing poetry for ordinary, everyday people, so they may experience extraordinary moments of truth and empathy. That is my hope, at least. As a new American, living in the heartland of the United States, I am actively exploring and challenging perceived boundaries between location and identity. 

I want my words to create lines of compassion between diverse members of our society, who may never have an opportunity to connect — by choice or circumstance. Maybe I am expecting too much from our readers. Only time will tell.  

If you choose to read my letters Mr. White, you will be asked to feel, not just for yourself, but for others. I hope that is okay.

You may not know this, but I have read on the porch of your Red Rocks home on the corner of East 10th and Exchange in Emporia. Poets and writers visit there often. It’s been a historical landmark in our state since 1976. 

I want you to know, your home is well kept today. Your Underwood typewriter, black as ink, sits idle and heavy with anticipation. It looks bored, almost disappointed when visitors walk by, as if it has lost its purpose and connection to the people around it — on display for the world to see but not engage with.  

Red Rocks, the home of the William Allen White family, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976. (Max McCoy/Kansas Reflector)

From outside, the grass quilting the lawn looks green and trimmed, and the garden is beginning to grow in bursts.  The water lilies ache to bloom, but the cold and windy nights, of late, have shied them away. As you well know, Kansas winters leave in the most obnoxious, loudest and longest of Midwest goodbyes. 

I just want you to know Mr. White, your home is still lovely. I hope I can build a home here that is as lovely as yours. 

Now, back to the purpose of my letter. I want to keep our introduction brief.  I am writing to you with a deep and growing concern. Unlike you, my newfound friend, I am not as hopeful of tomorrow. I saw yesterday and I am struggling with our todays. 

You once called Kansas the “low barometer of the nation.” When I think of barometers I think of inclement weather and storm chasers. I feel there is a lot of that happening in Kansas today.  The climate here has gotten worse.

Much worse.

When I think of barometers I think of inclement weather and storm chasers. I feel there is a lot of that happening in Kansas today.

– Huascar Medina

I am writing to you in the hopes that we may begin to correspond with one another. Like the Witch of Endor calling upon the spirit of the prophet Samuel,  I am asking you how we should deal with the philistines of today? You dealt with them in your time, fighting against the KKK

As the Sage of Emporia, still honored and venerated, your words have lasted and lingered with power for over a century. Your perspicacity is needed now. Please, share your wisdom with us once more. Enlighten us with the hopes and desires you carried. 

There is a slow dimming occurring, not from a distant light, but in our hearts and minds. We have forgotten what progress looks like. 

There is a great wind of uncertainty stirring.  When I look up, outside my home, the weather vane above circles ‘round, oscillating between north and south, and I no longer know what time and place I am living in. I wonder if I should be out here at all, looking up toward the sky for directions. I am looking for direction. 

Currently, I’m rereading your lecture “A Theory of Spiritual Progress.” It is wonderful. I will try to get others to read it. I look forward to discussing this with you. I, like you, desire “a more perfect art of living.” Everything else is secondary. 

I know you will not write back. You always wrote forward. I will write more soon.  

In spirit,

Huascar Medina 

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Huascar Medina
Huascar Medina

Huascar is a poet, writer, and performer who lives in Topeka. He works as a freelance copywriter and as the literary editor for seveneightfive magazine, publishing stories that spotlight literary and artistic events in northeast Kansas. His poems can be found in his collection "How to Hang the Moon" and "Un Mango Grows in Kansas." He is the winner of ARTSConnect’s 2018 Arty Award for Literary Art.