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Welcome to new fans who may have seen our KPC Media Group advertisement over the weekend, anticipating Arthur Mapes’ 100th birthday this coming Saturday. We’re happy you’re here! Please check out the Poetry Archive and “like” us on Facebook to stay updated.

First, we have another special occasion to celebrate: 50 years ago today, the poem “Indiana” was adopted by the Indiana General Assembly as the Official State Poem.

Last year, my uncle gave me a binder of my grandfather’s correspondence dating from the early 1960s through the late 1970s. The correspondence suggested something I already suspected: Art was a great self-promoter of his poems, sharing them with anyone who would listen (and a few who wouldn’t).

Today, an aspiring poet can create a professional-looking blog and share work worldwide; a writer can find a market with a few web searches. Not so in Art’s time. He did what he could, sending his poetry to mayors, state representatives and senators, governors, and even presidents. He gave away copies of his poems to anyone who asked, and a few who didn’t!

The letters from my uncle are treasures of family history; last year, I wrote about Grandpa’s correspondence with Mrs. Stephen Armstrong — the mother of an American hero.

I think my personal favorite is this little note, handwritten (and hand-addressed) by former Sen. Richard Lugar when he was mayor of Indianapolis. Lugar thanked Art for presenting him with a copy of the state poem and closes with this lovely and memorable line:

The responsibility of the poet is both exhilarating and awesome.

For Art, the responsibility was not only in the writing, but in the sharing, too.

“Indiana” was adopted as the Official State Poem at the beginning of Art’s secondary career as a poet, just before his 50th birthday. He wrote about his experience writing the poem on the back page of Outdoor Indiana magazine in October, 1963. (Click here to read.) 

Other sources have noted that it was “a snowy day in April” when Art wrote “Indiana.” Spring is technically days away, but there is snow in the forecast this week. I’ll keep that image in mind, of an imaginative poet holed up in his kitchen on a snowy day, writing about “the fragrant winds of summer.”

Sylvan Lake, Rome City, Indiana. Photo by Angela Mapes Turner

Sylvan Lake, Rome City, Indiana. Photo by Angela Mapes Turner

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