When New York resident Christie Leigh Babirad was living in Topeka and attending Washburn University, she became heavily influenced by the Sunflower State, its open land and the peacefulness that it offered.
Now, years later, Babirad continues to feel Kansas’ pull and has incorporated her thoughts and feelings about the state into her first published poetry collection.
“Sapphire Stars,” which was released Nov. 24, features 170 poems and 48 of Babirad’s personal photos.
According to Babirad, the ideas and concepts behind the poems date back to her childhood, but most of them were written in her early 20s.
Two of the poems, “Konza Prairie” and “Still With Me,” tell of Kansas and Babirad’s days at Washburn.
“I wrote both because I was heavily influenced by the open land in Kansas and that feeling of freedom,” Babirad said. “Being there at such an impressionable age — I was like 19 (or) 20 when I was in Kansas — there was a romance to the land, this feeling of freedom that I could be whoever I wanted to be. I felt a certain connection with that particular place. So those poems both reflect that.”
Babirad said “Still With Me” was written to describe Kansas’ influence on her.
“Viscerally, it’s something that I think will influence the rest of my life and wherever I go next,” Babirad said. “I think whether it’s Kansas or somewhere else, I need that open land, country music, all of the things that Kansas represents for me. I need that in my world.”
The poem “If Only You Knew” was written by Babirad when she took an advanced poetry class at Washburn. It was in that poetry class that Babirad first had the idea to create a poetry collection.
Babirad’s teacher instructed the class to create a mini collection of poems and in that collection was “If Only You Knew.”
While most of the poems don’t directly pertain to Kansas, Babirad said, they do describe her quest for freedom, romance, living life on a deeper level, having strong faith and optimism.
“Chapter one is called ’Illumniated’ and that chapter is about this optimism and this idea of who you are and what you represent and also naivety,” Babirad said. “There’s poems about love and relationships, and just kind of finding your way.”
Chapter two is called “In the Distance” and features poems about dreams, heartbreak and seeing people for who they are.
Chapter three, “Unhindered,” is about accepting your identity and what you are passionate about it.
“(Chapter three) is kind of a follow-up to chapter one because it expands farther on who you were all along,” Babirad said.
Babirad said she hopes readers connect with the personal aspect of the poems.
“I can pinpoint exactly where my mind was at the time that I was writing the lines for these poems,” Babirad said. “I have poems about holding on when you feel like you’re losing your strength or your faith in yourself, when you’re feeling lost — I have a number of poems that pertain to that. I wrote them because, first of all, they were poems that I wrote when I was having a difficult time, but I’m also hoping that it connects with people that may be having a rough time. I’m hoping it will encourage them to keep going.”