PRATT — With family roots in Puerto Rico and San Antonio, Huascar Medina, the 2019-2021 Poet Laureate of Kansas said he sometimes feels as if others view him as an illegal immigrant, but the Topeka-based writer, poet and performer is not that. On Nov. 8, he told a captive audience of more than 45 at the Pratt Public Library how poetry helps him makes connections between groups of people and promotes understanding.

Poetry is a great equalizer, he said.

"I am Kansan," Medina said. "I am like a sunflower with seeds planted here, roots that are taking hold, a flower ready to blossom."

Though he comes from a family of hardworking farmers, with military servicemen and boxers in his lineage, Medina said he wrote his first poem when he was 11 or 12 years old and knew from then on that he wanted to be a writer. He currently works as a freelance copywriter and as the Literary Editor for seveneightfive magazine but said he dedicates time every day to write poems and develop his craft.

"I consider myself working class, I've always had a job, sometimes two, since the age of 14," Medina said. "But I write by myself every day. I put myself into a moment and get details down to express an emotion that can be shared and understood by others."

Medina said the reason it was so important for him to write poetry was that it opened the world up, giving others a chance to discover thoughts, events and feelings they wouldn't otherwise have an opportunity to experience. He read some of his favorite poems to the Pratt library audience from his collection "How to Hang the Moon," published by Spartan Press, and from his forthcoming book "Un Mango Grows in Kansas."

Echoing a line from one of his favorite poems Medina said, "I want you to love life the way I love words."

For Pratt Public Library director Eric Killough, having Medina in house to share his poetry was a special treat.

"It was just a tremendous honor to have Huascar here," Killough said. "His poems brought me to tears. They give such insight and inspiration."

Medina was named Poet Laureate of Kansas in April 2019, given that distinction by Humanities Kansas. In this role, he promotes the humanities as a resource for all Kansans through public presentations and discussions about poetry in communities across the state.

Also in April, Medina was announced as a TopArts grant recipient through ARTSConnect Topeka.

Abigail Kaup, program officer with Humanities Kansas, said Medina’s presentation is highlighted in HK’s annual speaker’s catalog. From there, groups work with Humanities Kansas to book a visit.