For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to


How a Poem Happens:

Go to, managed with finesse by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, who says, "Our intent is to make visitors to Your Daily Poem aware of the joy and diversity of poetry."

Friday, February 12, 2010


(At the state Capitol with Linda Carlisle, Head of the Dept. of Cultural Resources, and new Poet Laureate Cathy Smith Bowers)

On Wednesday Feb. 10, Cathy Smith Bowers was officially installed as North Carolina Poet Laureate. ( )I was delighted to place the laurel wreath on her head. My Lasso blog will now be archived here, so please visit it as often as you wish. The NC Arts Council will be setting up its own laureate website soon and will link to this blog.

Thank you for visiting this blog. Please visit my other blog now--Here, Where I Am, where I will be now and then featuring poets and new books from NC and elsewhere.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


(Photo by Ranger Thomas Randolph, Mount Jefferson State Natural Area-- )

What every mountain needs is young poets like the ones below to celebrate it every year! Mount Jefferson is one lucky mountain. Thanks to Mount Jefferson State Natural Area and Park, it has a program designed to encourage students who live nearby to write poems about it, and it has Ranger Thomas Randolph, who is devoted to keeping this program going. Just look at Ranger Tom's face in these photos! He's loving every second of it. He's proud of these young students and proud of their accomplishments.

If you go to an earlier blog post you will find the poets I chose in last summer's poetry contest, along with the history of this program--, we celebrate Mount Jefferson's younger poets in grades Kindergarten-6, divided into two categories K-3 and 4-6. The theme was Mount Jefferson's seasons. I had a terrible time splitting hairs among these poems. I stood at my kitchen counter shuffling and re-shuffling poems. So many good ones! How could I choose? Here are my choices, along with photos of the poets. Congratulations to all of them.

And thank you teachers, students, and Ranger Tom for your good work in the name of NC's natural treasures and its poetry.

Addie Fairchild's poem in the voice of Mt. Jefferson right away caught my eye. I'll be honest--it was a toss-up between her excellent poem and Brianna McCoy's "Mount Jefferson Nature." Both had great images. Zachary Richards' "Mt. Jefferson's Bobcat" also thrilled me. It gave me goosebumps! Well, I even burned lunch while reading all these poems. That's what poetry does to you. Forget about multi-tasking while you are reading it. You have to give your heart and soul to it, all your attention.

I FEEL THE SEASONS (first place) This kind of poem is difficult to pull off, speaking as a non-human object or animal. She makes it work!

The trees that cover me are all f I feel the winter coldness on my face,
the trees that cover me are all frozen
My nose is frozen.
The air is windy

The snow is all around me.

I feel the spring breeze through my hair,

From the bottom up I'm green all over.

Animals waking everywhere,
Flowers swaying along with the wind,
Flowers all around me.

I feel the summer sun on my shoulders,

People climbing to my peak.

The fiery warmth touches me day and night,

Picnics on my tree covered skirt,

Fireflies all around me.
I feel the chill of all through my ruffled coat,

As time changes, days get shorter.

Leaves are falling through the brisk air,

The temperature is dropping down low,
Bright Colors all around me.

by Addie Fairchild

Westwood Elementary Schools
Westwood Elementary School

Addie Fairchild 1st Place (Tent) Far Left

Zachary Richards 3rd Place (Sleeping Bag) Second from Left

Zeb Duvall Science in poetry (Tent) Third from Left

Jamie Richey Unique Poetic Vision (Telescope) Far Right

Zachary Richards, Third Place (second from left in photo above)

Now, don't be confused. I'm skipping around to accommodate these wonderful photos Ranger Tom sent.

Here is Brianna's second place poem, and you can find her in this photo, third from left.

Mount Jefferson Nature (second prize, 4-6)

Listen quietly and you will hear

A musical sound that by no doubt

brings Joy to us.

The rippling brook gurgles quietly,

the water seems to say, "Peace, peace, peace.

A doe takes a drink form the gurgling brook

and swivels her head to take a look

at her fawn, who is sheepishly trying to hide

while peeking out from his mother's side.

A gray squirrel is alarmed to hear

the call of the wise old owl.

He must gather acorns

for he knows that winter is near!

The old owl watches the gray squirrel,

amused by his alarm.

As he glides swiftly down to hunt,

mice scurry all about.

So you see, Mount Jefferson Nature

has its own song,

to show us the way

that the mountain animals

end their winter days.

by Brianna McCoy

---A lovely poem, isn't it? And I admire the way she uses rhyme.

(Westwood Elementary first through third prizes and Honorable Mentions )

Mountain View Elementary students impressed me mightily, and I'd like to congratulate the teachers who have turned these very young students on so early to the joy of poetry.

Mikayla Mullis's poem charmed me, especially her images of tree limbs shining like diamonds and clouds so thick they feel "like a blanket covering you." I loved the haiku -like poems by Yair Valcasar, Jordan Potter, and their classmates. I just couldn't decide, so I gave a tie to Yair and Dustin Sheets for third prize. What a great way to begin showing students how poetry helps you focus on what you see!

Mountain View Elementary

Far Left 2nd Place Mi Kayla Mullis (Back Pack)

Back row far Left 3rd Place (tie)Dustin Sheets and Yair Valcazar(Sleeping Bag)

Honorable Mention EmilyFarmer, Victoria Osborne, Jordan Potter, Brandon Taylor, Quin Farmer

(Blue Ridge Elementary Honorable Mentions in Poetry)

Blue Ridge Elementary School outdid itself in this poetry challenge. Brianna McCoy and Karoline Keith wrote two poems I just couldn't resist. I chose Karoline's poem for first in the K-3 division. You will see why when you read it.


I think it is cool that I can see
Mt. Jefferson from my front yard.

Mt Jefferson is big and tall,

It has lots of nature trails to walk and run

It is a great park for people and

animals to have tons of fun.

It's a safe place for our wildlife

friends to be

They are protected by park Rangers for you and me.

From the top of the mountain

you look out and see the horizon.

There are huge rocks to climb on

to enjoy all the beautiful views.

I'm so thankful to spend the day

with my family on Mt. Jefferson

to hide and play.

I'm very happy Mt. Jefferson is in Ashe County!

by Karoline Keith, age 8, Second Grade

Here is Mikayla's second place poem in the k-3 category.

Sun gleaming down on the trees filled with snow and ice.

Tree limbs shining like a diamond from the sun.

Animals running around without a care in the world

They are as free as birds soaring like eagles.

Mountains so high they touch

the sky. Sky so blue and clouds

so thick they feel like a blanket covering you.

by Mikayla Mullis, grade 3, Mountain View Elementary

Third prize is a tie. I was taken with Yair's poem, which has the immediacy of Japanese haiku.

Mount Jefferson by YairValcazar

Big trees

Lots of animals

Gray rocks

Tall mountain

Dustin Sheets was straightforward in his praise of Mt. Jefferson:

Mt. Jefferson is a good place to live

If you live there

it is cool.

It has a lot of stuff.

(grade 3, Mountain View Elementary)

Here is another poem that I really liked from the k-2 division.
Mount Jefferson by Jordan Potter

I can see...
I can hear...
leaves crunching

If we had more poets celebrating our best loved places, our homes, our mountains, our rivers, our seashores, perhaps we would all take better care of those places, making sure that they are there for future young poets to enjoy! A friend, Sheila Kay Adams, ballad-singer and storyteller from Madison County, recently told me, "We are losing our homes." She suggested the state ask each county to choose two writers to compose either poetry or prose about their places and have them gathered into an anthology for North Carolinians to read and enjoy. These young poets have begun that project already. I salute them and urge other institutions around the state to do begin their own poetry projects. In this, my last blog post as NC Poet Laureate, I ask anyone who reads these student poems to write a poem or brief essay about a loved place that you hope will be saved and protected. You can email me through my other blog, "Here, Where I am." I will post what you send me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Contrary to an earlier post, our new poet laureate Cathy Smith Bowers will not be posting to this blog. She will have her own site through the NC Arts Council's projected "umbrella site", which will also link to my Lasso archive. I will move a few of my Lasso features over to my "Here, Where I Am" blog, such as features on specific poets and new books I like. These posts will focus mostly on NC writers, but I am now able to give more attention to work outside our state. I invite you to visit "Here, Where I Am" and post comments. I'm also hoping to set up some "assignments" for interested writers, readers, and teachers.

I'll keep you updated on the status of the Arts Council's laureate site.

In the meantime, I'll be making the transition from Lasso to kitchen window! See you there!

Monday, February 1, 2010


(John York, NC Teacher of the Year, at the NC English Teachers Banquet in Winston-Salem)

John York has been a friend of mine for many years. He teaches English and creative writing at Penn-Griffin School for the Arts, has been a devoted member of the NC English Teachers Association, winning their Teacher of the Year award, and best of all, is a splendid poet, one of the best in our state. His chapbook titled Naming the Constellations will be published this summer in Spring Street Editions' chapbook series. He's a graduate of the UNCG MFA program; his work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines, as well as in several chapbooks. His prizes for writing include a Literary Award for Poetry from Greensboro Review and the Poet Laureate Award, in 2008, from the North Carolina Poetry Society. His poems have recently appeared in Appalachian Journal, International Poetry Review, and Pembroke Magazine. The titles of his chapbooks are Picking Out (Nebo Poetry Press) and Johnny's Cosmology (Hummingbird Press).

"Naming the Constellations" appeared in Pine Needles and those who are interested may find it at NCPS website:

Here are two poems from his forthcoming publication.



Against the black pines,
a great egret, so large, so white, wading,
then freezing above its reflection.


Every Independence Day
it returned to our pond where it pretended
to be two reeds and a patch of sunlight,
until the splash, the snaky lunge,
the image shattered, rippled, coming back,
the beak pointing skyward,
the momentary swelling of the neck.
How I wanted to sneak in
for a closer look but had no cover,
so the alarmed bird would spring up,
laboring, beating the air,
circling, then heading over the horizon
to another pond, a quieter place.


And I imagined the minnows, frogs, salamanders
all relieved, all gathering in the dark
to tell horror stories
of Snapping Turtle, Mr. Cottonmouth, Big Daddy Bass—
but saving a shuddering whisper for the Lightning Striker,
Death’s Angel,
and proclaiming the name sacred, a secret.


But here, smelling the shore mud
and listening to the water, the wind as quiet as bird’s breath,
I pretend to be the plumed wonder,
and, solitary, I wade in deeper, one step,
then, another—wishing I were never distracted,
never deceived by the radiant image
(a long beak, hidden wings)—
I concentrate, waiting for what’s moving below the surface,
a flicking shadow, breathing, moving toward my feet.


It was a long day for my father, milking
to be done by sunrise,
then the noise, the shouting of drivers,
dump trucks kicking up dust,
rushing back and forth between the field
and the wide trench silo—
carved by a bulldozer, the one
that scraped away the apple trees—
trucks loaded by the green harvesting machine
eating its way down the rows of corn
leaving nothing but stumps,
the trucks roaring back to the trench, silage mounded,
the men putting it to bed
under a black plastic tarp, my father using old tires
to hold down the edges—
all the men sweating and covered in dirt,
tassel, bits of corn leaf.

After the fields were sheared clean,
after I brought in the herd, my father went
to do the evening milking.
How were four children to know that the tarp
was sacred, that the claws
of the dog, chasing us again
and again over the black mountain,
would make enough holes to ruin everything?

Daddy came in at dusk,
raged his dead cigar back to life:
with the voice of an angry god,
Dad commanded Smoky to come to the chain,
Smoky the blond shepherd-collie mutt,
Smoky the laughing dog,
and with tail between legs Smoky obeyed,
Dad attached the chain to the collar
and threw the dog into the car, sped over the hay field
down to the trench, jerked
Smoky around and yelled as he beat
the yelping, writhing animal with his fist, with the chain—
and I was the dog writhing and yelping,
it was all my fault.

I sat with my dog long
into the night, there under the clothesline,
until my mother coaxed me into the house.

And Smoky followed the sharecroppers one day,
up to the main road, where he was killed chasing cars.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Photo credit: Jeff Davis. This photo of Cathy was snapped at the studios of WPVM when she appeared earlier this year on WordPlay, the station's program by, about, etc., "writers, their craft and ideas."

At last I can break the news! My friend Cathy Smith Bowers, a poet whose work I've long admired, has been chosen to serve as North Carolina's new Poet Laureate. Cathy will be "crowned" on Feb. 10 in Raleigh. More about that later. Right now I want to congratulate her and thank the search committee for its fine work. I pledge whatever help I can give to Cathy. She will be taking over this blog shortly, though I'll also be contributing now and then, as Cathy and I deem fitting. I'll keep my "Here, Where I Am" blog going, so visit me there.

In the meantime, go to the sidebar of this blog and click on Cathy's post in the Poet of the Week column.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Two weeks ago, asked its members to blog on the topic of "my favorite poem." How could I choose? One poem from all the ones I love? Then I took a look at our Aero garden and knew. Verde, que te quiero verde!

Poets are fickle creatures. We fall in love over and over again.We can never remain faithful to only one poet. I began to understand this the day I forsook Wordsworth in my college Spanish class. My poetic guide. My first love. How could I?

What was I doing in a Spanish class anyway? Hadn’t my father instructed me to take either French or German, the latter being his grandmother’s native tongue?

He would have found it silly, the way my infatuation began, with a 75 rpm record bought during my senior year in high school. The Music of Spain. I listened at night after lights out to “Granada” and “Malaguena.” The hair on the nape of my neck trembled. The dark outside my windows beckoned.

And so, on the first day of classes in a small woman’s college in Georgia, I sat down to learn Spanish from a short rotund woman who demanded we call her La Senora, although she had never married. I read the classics of Spanish literature, moving inexorably toward the 20th century where in the anthology’s last section, I found Romance Sonambula and, and in the burst of a verde viento, the English Romantic poets became as dust to me. I fell in love with Federico Garcia Lorca. In Spanish. No matter how many translations of his work I’ve read over the years, the original Spanish has never lost its seductiveness, whether I read it silently or, better, aloud.

Verde que te quiero verde.

Verde viento. Verdes ramas.

El barco sobre la mar

y el caballo en la montaña.

Con la sombra en la cintura

ella sueña en su baranda,

verde carne, pelo verde,

con ojos de fría plata.

Verde que te quiero verde.

Not that I agreed with La Senora that everything sounded better in Spanish. Shakespeare? Wordsworth? Keats? No, I already knew that the language of poets is beautiful, no matter what it is. Hungarian, Romanian, Polish, French, English....Cherokee.

Garcia Lorca’s poetry spun me around, gave me a new way of experiencing language, my own language, which was now infused with the cante jondo of Andalusia.

Even now, years later, I recite those lines as a kind of mantra, Verde, que te quiero verde... and I still love the feel of them in my mouth. I love the deep song of them in my viscera. I have dreamed of trying to save Lorca in the olive grove, with only my child’s fingers pointed like guns at his assassins.

Verde, que te quiero verde.

Not even these lines can stop bullets. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. I know that.

But they live on in our daily lives, these words we love. They wait patiently for us. I had to reach middle age before Garcia Lorca’s duende found its way into my own poems.


Long before I could read Lorca

I wanted to give myself over to green

as he had and be lost like a sleepwalker

in it. I wanted to hide in the honeysuckle

and never come home if it meant I must stay

by the telephone, waiting for someone

to call with the doctor’s pronouncement,

my mother then turning to us saying

over and over again in my memory, Gone.

Such a word I would never repeat

to the oaks that held sway round my favorite pasture,

or blackberry bushes I dreamed would stay

unscythed by road crews sent forth to claim

right of way. Verde, que te quiero verde,

I’d gladly have cried if I could,

but where are such beautiful words

when we need them? And what if that’s all

this poem means now I’m middle-aged: words

as a way to want green back again

and myself in the throes of it,

even though I’ve learned enough about Lorca

at last to be quite sure that no verde

anywhere spending its June on this earth

could have outstayed for one blessed

second what waits at the end

of the line, always some bloodless voice

trying hard to sound human across so much

distance, its words still escaping me.

(from The Store of Joys, NC Museum of Art)

W.H. Auden said that art is a way of breaking bread with the dead. Each time a poet begins to write, or to read a poem, she takes the bread of those gone before and places it in her mouth. She does this over and over again. With one poet. Another, and yet another, living or dead. She loves the taste of the bread they share. So many poets. So many poems. By the end of her life she will contain, like Whitman, multitudes, and will never again try to answer the question, “What is your favorite poem?”

Monday, January 18, 2010


Alex Grant is a Promethean poet, which I know sounds maybe a bit pretentious. But he seems to be everywhere--publishing poems in just about every journal and e-zine, writing poems non-stop, posting on facebook, making numerous friends. How does he find such energy, this transplanted Scotsman? Is he a shape-shifter? He calls himself Alex Cougar Grant, but I think he must be Coyote! His sense of humor runs non-stop. He's a craftsman of great facility and sometimes, I think, trickery. He loves a joke. He loves the English language and how to play with it and let it play him.

His new book Fear of Moving Water was released last fall from Wind Publications - and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Google him, find out more about him, read his poems. You'll be pulled in and realize again the pleasures of language

Fear of Moving Water is available from your local bookstore, from on-line vendors such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or from the publisher.

Fear of Moving Water, $15.00,
59 pages, ISBN 978-1-936138-02-9

Wind Publications
600 Overbrook Drive
Nicholasville, KY 40356

Alex's chapbook Chains & Mirrors (NCWN / Harperprints) won the 2006 Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize and the 2007 Oscar Arnold Young Award (Best North Carolina poetry collection). His second chapbook, The White Book, was released in 2008 by Main St. Rag Publishing. His poems have appeared in a number of national journals, including The Missouri Review, Smartish Pace, Best New Poets 2007, Arts & Letters, The Connecticut Review, Nimrod and Seattle Review. A recipient of WMSU’s Pavel Srut Poetry Fellowship and the Kakalak Anthology of Carolina Poets Prize, he lives in Chapel Hill, NC, with his wife, Tristi, his dangling participles, and his Celtic fondness for excess. He can be found on the web at

Here are some testimonials to his work:

"Alex Grant is a fabulist who spins language acrobatically into tales, tales into music, music into myth. Reading him (preferably aloud) is pure pleasure for the imagination, the mouth and the mind."
--- Susan Ludvigson

"If you value linguistic fluency, the flow of the English language along the warp of syntax, the weaving of image and rhythm into a tapestry of sound, you will find yourself immersed in Fear of Moving Water. Alex Grant brings his keen sense of language to every poem and he writes unashamedly out of the sheer pleasure of that language. Where does a poem's sense of place begin? In the naming of things. Grant names the world in all its multitudinous glories and terrors. Reading his poems kindles our desire to live again in that world."
--- Kathryn Stripling Byer, NC Poet Laureate & author of Coming to Rest

"I've always believed that poetry depends on two truths: the probity of mystery versus obscurity, and the musical resonance of words within the poetic line or phrase. Alex Grant probes a menagerie of mystery in these poems, and among the younger poets I've encountered, he is more finely attuned to the music of poetry than most. He is a poet to be reckoned with, and he is worth every nuance of the serious reader's reckoning. This is a book that compels our reading, and our re-reading."
--- Martin Lammon, Arts & Letters editor

"These historically savvy, philosophically ambitious poems demonstrate as much linguistic and syntactical dexterity as they do an expansive literary mind at work. Alex Grant casts his visionary net far and wide, capturing the dark and shimmering..."
--- Dorianne Laux

From the book:


- In memory of Spalding Gray

They say nothing ever changes

but your point of view.

Nothing – “some thing

that has no existence” –

this makes no sense.

I sit in the catacumbas

and listen to the rain

pound the papaya leaves -

my skin like confetti,

my heart a cheap lottery.

I have seen the tiger’s stripes –

they live between

the fine linen sheets

of an office-girl’s bed,

in the afternoon fumblings

of someone who is no-one,

with a heart bursting

like a red balloon

on a tap – the pieces fly

in all directions, you cover

your face with your hand,

and it sticks to your skin

like confetti, like phosphorus

launched from a Greek warship,

like the skin of a plum

peeled by a broken nail.


They live without their bodies for a week,

you know – subsisting on the head, the mind

alone - they flit like frogs beside a creek

whenever pounding footsteps come to grind

their crunchy shells into some pristine hard-

wood floor. You stamp on one, and six white eggs

are jettisoned inside a fibrous shard

they say is tougher than a whiskey keg.

Four billion years and evolution’s passed

them by – this crevice-living dinosaur,

resisting every futile fog and gas-

filled labyrinth - unlike the Minotaur -

bull-headed, eggless doorman of the maze -

that mythic locus Theseus embraced.


A wedge of salted cantaloupe

sinking in blue agave.

A bruised peach

in a white porcelain bowl.

The heart’s iambic thud,

like steps on maple floors.

Four strands of hair

in a lover’s mouth.

A zinc nail sunk in bitumen.

A black-haired boy

seen in a rear-view mirror.

A plum tomato skewered

on a bamboo stave.

A Chinese flag buckled

in the monsoon’s lull.

The white afternoon

turning to November dark.

- For the Haiku Master Issa, and his father

19 days into the late spring moon,

Issa pours sugar down his father’s

throat, rubs his feet and shoulders,

listens, in the early hours, to breath

labor like fading wind. He watches

him mouth unheard prayers, hears

the rattle in the gullet, the invitation

to the moon to walk with him again.

Delirium comes in many forms, but

none so blatant as necessity, none

so welcome as the inevitable stone

sinking back into amniotic blue.



- after Buson

The mortal frame, the Haiku Masters hold,

is made up of one hundred bones

and nine orifices.

The mind this frame contains can be used,

or not used, to make the poem,

or become the poem.

Becoming is accomplished without thought,

making requires the application

of intent and will.

All change comes from objects in motion.

To capture the thing at rest, you

must be moving.

So, 7 days bereaved, Issa made his father’s

death poem: “A bath when you’re born,

a bath when you die – how stupid.”

Grief is a silk neckerchief covering a burn

around the throat, holding sound

down in the body.

And so we make these sounds without

thought – the heretic body burns,

intends, and moves.