Sunday, November 30, 2008

AGAIN by Kathryn Stripling Byer

I lie down in her sea bed
that bears me back home to the nothing left
after her house burned around it.


Her lavender handkerchief knotted
round nickels and dimes. On her dresser
a brooch in the shape of a peacock's tail.


Organdy curtains that breathed in
and out when she opened the windows
for March to blow through like a lioness


stalking the boxwoods or a lamb bleating
out by the pump house. Her hairpins
sown over the rugs. Her voluminous apron.


Her false teeth that grinned
every night from a tall iced-tea glass,
as she pulled off her house dress,


her shimmy, her bloomers
that even now swell like a mainsail
with nothingness. Lorna Doone shortbread


she nibbled till she fell asleep, leaving crumbs
in the bed sheets like sand from the white beach
at Panama City whenever I crawled into bed


with her body that smelled of ocean
at low tide and tasted of salt
when she pulled me too close to her.

Previously published in The Courtland Review. From COMING TO REST, Louisiana State University Press


Note: "Hallows" tried to slip away before its time, faded like a ghost
and went into the archive. Likewise, this happened to "Scuppernong,"
but all is not lost. Click below labels on Older Post to read "Hallows"
and "Scuppernong" by the Poet of the Month of December,
NC Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer.

SCUPPERNONGS by Kathryn Stripling Byer

They ripened to myth on her tongue, sweetness
always beyond reach, out there at the edge
of abandoned farms, back in the thickets
where no decent woman dared go.  Not that she
scorned mayhaws her black neighbors left
at her door.  Toiling hours in tropical swelter,
she boiled them down into a red syrup

salvaged in jelly jars.  How much of her sweat
she stirred into that crimson stock I still
contemplate when it comes time to make jelly
again and I find myself roaming the fruit stalls
till  I smell them, lifting both hands full,
as she would have done, to my nose,
understanding why she bent to every plum,

melon, and peach, every strip of fresh sugar cane.
Thus have these scuppernongs ripened
for too long inside my refrigerator.
Past time to ward off the coming rot,
time to remember how she'd set to work
with no recourse to Sure-Gel, just lemon and
sugar.  A spoon.  Cheesecloth.  Most of a morning

or afternoon, watching the syrup drip slowly
then more slowly still down the spoon's sticky
edge.  Leaving everything it touched, as always,
a mess, and for what?  On my windowsill,
seven jars through which the light of this late
summer afternoon takes its time, quickening
each pot of pale amber juices to sweet everlasting.



Previously Published in Iron Mountain Review.
From COMING TO REST, Louisiana State University Press

"Hallows" tried to slip away before its time, faded like a ghost
and went into the archive. But all is not lost.  Click below labels 
on Older Post to read "Hallows."
 

HALLOWS by Kathryn Stripling Byer

1.
These leaves at my window,
death-speckled black oak and blood maple,

fall to the earth into which
she was sealed, leaving me

to imagine I see through the hollows
of what were her eyes how another day

breaks on the backs of the scrub pines
that stand up to welcome it.

2.

She was no saint.
She never fasted,
and if she prayed,
I never heard her

aside from the Lawsy
she uttered as down
she sank onto the dark
of the chamber pot
while I tried to be sleeping.

She stirred up the fire
to roar every morning and beat
the dough smooth, shoved it into the oven
to bake and be eaten.  When I hear Pavarotti
sing Panis Angelicus, I see her hands 
deep in the dough bowl,

and I hear the fire in the stove rumble,
I hear her chuckling and sighing,
she who could never on this earth 
deliver unto any table a dry piece of cornbread,

whose old-fashion cakes 
that lay solid as flesh on the plates 
put to shame every paper-thin
slice of town ladies' angelfood cakes.
(Any honest-to-god-angel

would have preferred them,
a dollop of whipped cream atop
every thick slice and after that, oh,
just a touch of her Christmas divinity.)

3.
Los Muertos.  The dead.
They are out there this morning,
in the woods with the busy squirrels
laying up treasures on earth,
this heaven of acorns and walnuts.
This granary.

These last dawns before the leaves go,
I wake early to watch from the widow
my dead ones out there in the wood
leaf by leaf come
to rest on the ground
where at last they have nothing
to say beyond what's meant
to lie on the earth and be claimed by it.


Previously Published in Southern Poetry Review.
From COMING TO REST, Louisiana State University Press

Monday, November 24, 2008

WHAT SHE SAW AND WHAT SHE HEARD by Nancy Simpson

On the mountain a woman saw
the road bank caved in
from winter's freeze-thaw
and April rain erosion.

Trees leaned over the road the way
strands of hair hung on her forehead.
She gaped, her face as tortured
as the face she saw engraved in dirt.

Roots growing sideways shaped brows,
two eyes.  Humus washed
down the bank like a nose.
Lower down, where a rock

was shoved out by weathering,
a hole formed the shape of a mouth.
The woman groaned, Agh.
Her spirit toppled

to the ground, slithered
under the roots of an oak.
She stood there as if lost, asking
What?  Who?

Back to reason, back home
she finished her questions:
What can one make of the vision, that face
on the north side of the mountain?

Reckoning comes, a thought:
it is not the image of a witch nor a god,
but Earth's face, mouth open saying,
Save me.


Previously published in Pembroke Magazine
edited by Shelby Stephenson.



Saturday, November 22, 2008

WEATHER REPORT Above the Frost Line

With ten nights in the twenties or lower, the hard freeze finished off the flowers in my garden for the year. The rose bushes stand green, but the bright Knock-Out roses are brown.  All of the perennials have bent under the cold and have begun to hunker down.  The only thing of interest are some seed pods and variegated evergreens.   Even the Camellia's pink blooms, that thrive in November, always through Thanksgiving, have shriveled and turned transparent on the bush. 

In the past ten days, cold as it has been, we've had sunshine each day.  This fall, I've been more aware of the sun, how at times I can be surprised by light, by the way it beams down in shafts in specific places on the property.  I have been surprised several afternoons, when sunbeams bounce around my living room.  Yesterday,  I caught myself talking to no one,  saying  outloud, "It's okay. It's the sun.  Everything will be okay."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

THE BEST KEPT SECRET FOR WRITING STUDENTS IN THE SOUTH

Hidden in the far southwestern corner of North Carolina is a thriving, 83 year old school of arts and crafts - The John C. Campbell Folk School. That is no secret, for thousands of students come for classes each year.  The news that is not reaching writers is that J.C.C.F.S. offers writing classes. Last year the school opened its new Writing Studio.  Students come for a week or a weekend.  The outside world seems to disappear as they focus on their writing.


J.C.C.F.S. is like a second home to me, and I go there as often as possible.  A number of my poems  were written there.  I am lucky to have a reason sometimes to be there, at least part time.  For fifteen years, I have served as Resident Writer.  It's a small job, but it is important to me, because I have an opportunity to plan and schedule the writing classes.  

The year 2008 is coming to the end.  Yes, the hard freeze is coming, maybe tonight.  Writers must find a way to keep writing when all else shuts down.  In my planning, at the folk school, I thought carefully about the kind of writing classes that keep writers writing, even in the dead of winter.
  
Above you will find the list of winter classes.  Check it out.  Sign up.  I hope to see you there.

Comments are especially welcome form former folk school writing students.




FOR COW GIRLS AND COW LOVERS WITH MUSIC

When is blogging fun? When it is written by published writers.  More fun when a connection is made in cyberspace that is so filled with humor it makes you laugh out loud. 

This is a click now, chuckle now for you.

In the right column click on KUDZU KOTTAGE and read this item:  "Must Read Glenda Beall's Purdy Cows." It is written by Lynn Hamilton Ruthrford, accompanied by "Cow Cow Boogie".

Get along.  And when you have read Rutherford's humorous story, she gives you a click link to "Purdy Cows" which is followed with  a poem by southern poet, Janice Townley Moore titled "Learning to Live With the Cows."  

Music, Music, Music.

Get along.  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN POETRY, a new textbook, edited by Marita Garin

SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN POETRY has been published by McFarland Press as No. 20 in its Southern Appalachian Studies Series.  Below is a review by Scott Nicholson, The Mountain Times, Boone, NC.

APPALACHIAN POETRY BOOK HITS SHELVES  By Scott Nicholson

A new collection reveals the poetic influences of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and their culture.

Southern Appalachian Poetry is edited by Marita Garin of Black Mountain and is No. 20 in McFarland Books' series, Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies.

Garin's book collects works by 37 poets, mainly from the last century.  The 225 poems touch on not only the scenic beauty of the mountains, but the people that give the region its special place in the literary canon.

While many of the included poets are native to the mountains, a solid precentage have either visited the region or were born in the Southern Appalachians and later moved away.  However, their experiences give a fresh insight into the folklore because their impressions are colored by time and distance, as well as the comparative quality of flatland, city life.

The region's narrative, embodied by dialect, syntax and storytelling rhythms, suggest the changing traditions of the mountains, from backwoods folk wisdom to tourist influence, development and technological advances.

Several of the poets have distinct Watauga County roots.  John Foster West, whose Carolina bloodline goes back to the American Revolution, studied literature at several universities and as a professor helped found Appalachian State University's creative writing program.  He retired after 21 years from ASU in 1990.  He's published the books Time Was, Appalachian Dawn, The Summer People and The Ballad of Tom Dula, as well as the poetry collections:  This Proud Land and Wry Wine.  West contributes seven poems to the anthology, including "Winter Folk", where he writes:

 "On summer nights they carry winter in worn pockets 
And snow beneath battered hats.
 Let low-country intruder approach a cove
And eyes as gray as icicle fangs measure stranger
For size, honesty, and intent."  from Winterfolk.

Isabel Zuber was born and raised in Boone and confesses in her introduction that she doesn't know what it means to be an Appalachian writer.  " I may not be thinking of the mountains when I write, but perhaps they are there anyway, with the wild strain coming through it.  I hope so."

Ron Rash, whose mother's family hails from Watauga County, has achieved acclaim for novels like One Foot in Eden,  which was Appalachian Book of the Year  in 2002. Rash is also known for his poems and short stories.  The collection also features Robert Morgan, author of five novels, including 2000 best seller Deep Gap and a recent biography of Daniel Boone.  Former N.C. Poet Laureate Fred Chappell has several epic poems included. 

Other authors represented are Bob Henry Baber, Joseph Barrett, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Mark DeFoe, Charles Dickson, Hilda Downer, Gregory Dykes, Richard Hague, Marc Harsman, Don Johnson, Stephen Knauth, Mary Kratt, P.J. Laska, George Ella Lyon, Jeff Daniel Marion, Michael McFee, Liewellyn McKernan, Irene McKinney, Louise McNeill, Jim Wayne Miller, Valerie Nieman, Lee Pennington,  Bettie Sellers, Vivian Shipley, Nancy Simpson, R.T. Smith, Bob Snyder, Katherine Soniat, James Still and Charles Wright.  

For More information visit mcfarlandpub.com.

Friday, November 14, 2008

LEAVE A COMMENT

MANSION BY Nancy Simpson

MANSION

Forget you heard it, Rural Life Workshop,
mountaineers saying there is no Appalachia.
Forget the woman who asked
Where did she come from?
and being an outsider, forget
you wanted to walk through the window.
Came from the ocean, should have said,

but no, you behaved; that is the main thing,
and listened all day to their speeches.
No one knew you hoped Jim Miller would speak
with his accent, how you wished he would
take up his good book and read.

Driving up the gravel road
all you have is belief.
This is where you wanted to go.
Leaves fall like flecks of gold.
The road is paved with yellow leaves.

It's home.  Still,
this is not Heaven.  The door is locked.
The windows are dark like eyes of an old woman.
Go in.
Walk through the wall if you want.


Previously published in Step Around the Mountain,
Black Jack Twelve.

Included in Night Student



Tuesday, November 11, 2008

PHYSICIAN POET JOHN STONE 1936-2008

Beloved Southern Physician Poet John Stone, born February 7, 1936, in Jackson, Mississippi, died on November 6, 2008.  He will be mourned.

John Stone was an emeritus professor of medicine in cardiology at Emory University.  He published many collections of poetry and a collection of essays during the time he taught English Literature and Medicine at Emory and at Oxford University, England.

His most recent poetry collections were published at Louisiana State University Press including Where Water Begins and Music from Apartment 8.  His essay collection, also from LSU Press is titled In the Country of Hearts: Journeys in the Art of Medicine. 

Early poetry collections from the 1980s, also from LSU Press are: The Smell of Matches, In All This Rain, and Renaming the Streets.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

THREE POEMS BY GLENDA BARRETT

THE GIST OF THE MATTER

Apple peelings
red and moistened
slide from the knife
onto my calico apron
in a large, curly heap.
I listen to the chatter of
my family around the table.

Over and over, 
I slice pieces from my apple,
and eat them from the knife
like my father before me,
until nothing is left but the core.
That's where I like to begin 
my story.

Previously published in Hard Row to How.
Included in When the Sap Rises.


ONION BED

I remember the day
you began falling
and didn't want help
getting back up.
A few months later,
you bought a bright red
scooter so you could
ride all over the farm
and check on your cattle.
You were proud of it
and showed it to all of us.

I have memories of you
riding through the pastures
with my son on your lap
and smiles on your faces.
One day you asked Jody
to help you work on the fence.
He was only four years old.
When the work was done,
you asked what he charged.
He replied, Five dollars, Papaw.
You paid gladly and laughed later.

Always an ambitious man,
you were determined to work.
One day while visiting,
I couldn't find you in the house
so I walked out on the porch
and looked up toward the garden.
There you lay on the ground,
plucking weeds around the onions.
That year you finished your jobs,
sold your cattle, made your will,
but didn't live to harvest your crop.


Previously published in Nostalgia.
Included in When the Sap Rises.


KINDRED SPIRIT

At feeding times
the female cardinal
is the first to the feeder
and the last one to leave.
Unlike the other birds,
she doesn't scare easily
or shy away as larger birds
light on the feeder beside her.

Instead with courage,
she remains calm and focused
and works hard at crushing
sunflower seeds, one at a time.
Sensing a difference in her,
I inch closer to the window
and notice there is a problem.
She is blind in one eye.

Somewhere deep inside me,
emotions hard to define
start to surface.  I feel
a deep connection,
a bond of some kind,
not only with the bird,
but to something deeper
and on a larger scale.

A feeling of knowing,
no matter what happens, 
there will always be hope
and endless possibilities.
The moisture from my breath
leaves a circle on the windowpane,
and I watch from my scooter,
until the cardinal flies out of sight.


Previously published in Mindprints Literary Journal.
Included in When the Sap Rises.

Thanks to Glenda Barrett for sharing these three poems.






GLENDA BARRETT POET OF THE MONTH - NOVEMBER

Poet, Glenda Barrett is a native of Hiawassee, Georgia. She is the author of a new poetry collection from Finishing Line Press  (Georgetown, Kentucky 2008) under the title When the Sap Rises. Her poems have been published in Nantahala Review, Kaleidoscome, Hard Row to Hoe, Red River Review and other literary magazines.

Glenda Barrett has studied poetry for over ten years through writing workshops and community college poetry writing classes with Nancy Simpson. She is a long time member of N.C. Writers Network West and regularly attends the monthly Netwest poetry critique group led by Janice Townley Moore.

Read three of her poems from  When the Sap Rises below. I hope you will want to order her book.  You can get it  at finishinglinepress.com or on amazon.com. 

Sunday, November 2, 2008

SOUTHERN POETS AND WRITERS - A REMINDER

Fellow Poets and Writers, 

___It is time to take those last shots, make your vivid photos and print them.

___It is time to photocopy your poems and stories and send them out on the mail truck.

December will be too late.  

Saturday, November 1, 2008

November 1, 2008 LIVING ABOVE THE FROST LINE MEANS:

Living above the frost line means - no frost up here on the mountain as yet. Each night,  the weatherman predicts below freezing temperatures.  I look out the next morning on flowers in full bloom.  Yes, it even snowed last Tuesday. Snowflakes rested for a few minutes on fuchsia sourwood leaves.  The Knock Out Roses were happy to get a drink, and not one of their blossoms withered from the snow.  The butterfly bushes, blooming since spring, are still sending up their cones of color.

Yes, yes.  I know the hard freeze will come, but until then, maybe through Thanksgiving, perhaps into the first week of December, I shall have flowers blooming in my garden, and I shall have finished poems on my clipboard.   That is what it means to live above the frost line. It means that  in this special dwelling place we get extended growing time.