Sunday, March 8, 2009

WATER ON THE HIGHWAY by Nancy Simpson

Water on the Highway moves before me.
Witch Water, I say, as though some sorceress waits,
snapping her crooked fingers to make it disappear.
It is real, I tell you. It evaporates,
or seems to, and it is always there.

Last night a friend talked about going home,
the roadmap she followed, the brdge she had to cross.
As I listened, I studied her words on paper
describing a house with stained glass windows,
a wicker chair, her father's face. I want to believe
poets who say this is the way home, who go and come
traveling lines as concrete and safe as any interstate.

The sun is hot today and my map is marked, open.
I drive home, knowing as I go,
I will have to cross water to get there.


First published in The Georgia Review.
Included in collections Across Water and Night Student.







How and When I wrote the poem WATER ON THE HIGHWAY


In the late 1970s I became serious about writing poetry. I took a writing class at Tri County Community College in Murphy, NC. There I met the man I named my poetry mentor, Steve Harvey. No matter how many classes, workshops, critique sessions and MFA degrees later, when someone asks me who is your poetry mentor, I answer Steve Harvey. He was an English professor at Young Harris College, teaching that one night a week class at the community college. How fortunate for me! Through the years, he remains the instructor who taught me the most about writing poetry.

In the same writing class were other poets already publishing their poems, Janice Townley Moore and Bettie M. Sellers, also both on the English faculty at Young Harris College. They encouraged me in my efforts. In our weekly critique session with Steve Harvey, they astounded me, saying things like, "Send that poem to the Georgia Review." I did not know The Georgia Review was then one of the top five literary magazines in America. I did not know, but I did quickly learn that the universities of America control poetry, that basically the universities of America decide who will be allowed to practice and publish poetry and who will not. I repeated Steve Harvey's class three quarters in a row.

The next year, the same writers continued to meet once a week at the home of Bettie M. Seller in Young Harris, Georgia. Steve Harvey, who was writing short stories at the time, shared his work with us.

I especially remember one night Bettie M. Sellers read a poem she was working on about her father's house. "Sonnet in Stained Glass." The poem influenced me. No doubt about it. Soon after, I wrote a poem, "Water On the Highway." Both Bettie Sellers and I went on to see those two poems published.

2 comments:

karenh said...

Nancy,

Enjoyed reading Bettie's sonnet and your poem. Both excellent. And I enjoyed your story about you, Bettie, Janice and Steve Harvey. I know how lucky I am that you and Janice have the generosity of spirit to share your poetic wisdom with me now.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

What a touching story about Steve and how you met. Isn't it amazing how there are certain people and things that are life changing. Thanks for sharing this with us.
Sam