THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE. For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
Go to http://www.yourdailypoem.com/, 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."
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Back in April, I spent a day in Johnston County, as part of the county arts council's Visiting Artist Series. Jessica Meadows, Johnston County Art Council’s able director, picked me up in Wilson (see previous posts), and drove me to N. Johnston County High School, where I spent well over an hour talking with students about poetry and giving them a writing assignment that yielded some terrific poems. Jessica herself graduated from North Johnston High and knew a lot of the faculty there, including Ms. Sonya Kiser, in whose classroom the workshop was held. On the drive over from Wilson, where I'd read at the Wilson County Library the night before, Jessica told me about her plans for encouraging the arts in her home county. Efficient, friendly, and smart, that's how I pegged Jessica. I didn't know she'd also cozied up to some pretty fishy characters in her past! (You can go to o to Jessica's blog for her take on my visit: http://blogs.wncn.info/jcarts/2008/04/23/my-day-with-the-nc-poet-laureate/)
(Jessica and Friend)
One of Jessica's council members videotaped the session, and a portion of that can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6FWWxmoAS4. In the photo I've included, I look rather severe, but I didn't feel that way at all. I was watching the students write, probably wondering how much longer to give them before I called "Time's Up!"
The tried and true springboard I used was “That Time,” and I often hand out Simon Ortiz’s poem, by that same title, to introduce the session. This time I began with a poem of my own, about being their age, looking in my mirror and worrying over my image while down the road some serious racial conflict was taking place. Here is a selection of poems from the class, ending with one by Ms. Kiser, whose room was the scene of our poetic adventures. These poems might be good ones to use in English/writing classes to show what other students are writing. If you have comments, please leave them in "comments" section at the end of this post.
I hear the roar that will change my life, And catch a glimpse of a silver metallic beauty in the edge of my peripheral.
A familiar face in a hooded coat, Wheeling in the only dream I ever wanted.
Stunned and astonished, being the least of my worries, Smiles tenfold embrace my weakness.
I see a green sign, with words bold in black, Be careful my son, you’re precious to us all.
That time 12 years ago when I watched The Miss America pageant, just hoping That I could be her up there one day. The sparkle that shined in her eyes The beautiful shimmering dress that Lit up the stage. It was that time when I knew that I wanted to be somebody But who, I wasn’t quite sure. I would Dress up, play pageant, wear crowns but It was just never like the “Miss America” I still could see in what little I could remember Of my childhood memories. I want to be Miss America, I want to run in the Olympics, I want to make a difference And I want that time that I realize who I really am.
That time seemed ages ago Although it wasn’t Standing, waiting, should I go. Have I missed it?
That moment didn’t last long The span which was No more than a second or two I have missed it.
That place I should have been Trusting instinct over thought Knowing that I missed it I can’t turn around.
That time my parents drove me to school And escorted me for the first time Up the wooden steps of the gray trailer Into the room filled with unfamiliar faces.
A tall, dark-haired woman greeted me With her reassuring face and kind eyes And showed me to the little table I was to share with three other children.
Around me was so much sadness But in front of me a cute little owl Looked up at me pleading to be colored With the little crayons in the basket.
My parents hugged me through teary eyes Gave me a kiss and said “Good-bye.”
The trucks were washed and polished. The flowers had been picked up. The dress and tux were matching. Everything was ready for it to come.
The precision of time was a must. The date could not be late. The family was ready for the arrival. The arrival of the night to come.
He reached the house at the moment That he had been told be there. There she stood in the dress That her father had paid many a buck.
Flash! Flash! Flash! Went the cameras The first the night would bring. For neither knew what to come. The adventure had just begun.
They met their friends to eat. For this was a rare special treat. Everyone was getting along. The excitement was yet to come.
That time I heard the phone ring at One o’clock in the morning.
My grandmothers’ voice at the other end Stricken with fear she screamed “My house is on fire.”
I stood motionless – Time stood still.
My parents broke my hypnosis – my trance- as they pushed me out the door.
As we grow closer, I could see the Gray clouds of smoke consuming the night Sky, leaving no star in sight.
Did not know what to think.
Sirens drowned out my ability of comprehension.
My mind took me back to all the memories – Eating banana popsicles on the tailgate Of his yellow 73 toyota pick-up, playing dress-up in her Enchanted closet filled with princes And white stallions, camping under The blanket canopy tied to the bedposts That reached as high as Jack’s beanstalk, The famous fried bologna sandwich and fast fries, A meal fit for a king – Then, a nudge from someone trying to steal a glance - a nudge – back to reality – Tears flood from my eyes Frantic, I search for them – Praying, I ask God for Granny And Papa to be okay. Peace filled me. My eyes opened – There before me stood my Grandparents and my childhood Walking hand in hand.
That time when I was going to go on my first date I sat there and wondered if I could ever be her best mate. I thought and thought about what should be done And finally came up with the attitude to just have fun That for me was the best call Because for her, she didn’t expect anything at all Thought everything we did was all from my head I felt that I was doing everything that she had said Nothing ever came from that time we spent together But for me it is something that I will remember forever For me I wish that the spark could have simmered But for her it was just some guy she met in late December.
That time was just a Short Second that seemed To last an eternity-
Eight 'o clock in the morning, "I'm late for school" I screamed When Mama came around the corner And I just knew.
But I denied it when she leaned down and told me. I shook, I screamed, I cried, My heart was breaking.
That time, that morning, My Hero. My Best Friend. My Daddy. Was gone.
That time That I fussed over my hair dryer, My frizzed , Curled hair. That I cried and complained, Looked forward to times I knew would come. That time I ignored her face, Her eyes, Her feelings not spoken. But blurred. And I complained of what was to come, Not seeing what was there. That time When all I cared about was me. Me, me, my friends, my life, my parent’s divorce, Me. And forgot everything else. Her loss, her separation, her pain. That time, That she mentioned she had gone to a doctor. Pills. Depression. That time, That maturity let me see hind sighted blindness. And that time, When I realized the divorce was more, Than me leaving my friends, Me leaving my house, My past, And was more about her ending her marriage, Her alone, Her alone with a blinded daughter. But I’m here now. I see now. That time has ended. Is over.
That time I sat crying in my dorm room Believing the world was over because he had broken up with me I opened the card – removed it form the beige envelope written in a familiar but awkward hand The card was Care Bears, but with a twist The hand-drawn grenade being dropped form the blue bear on the puffy cloud Onto the head of the stick figure labeled with the ex-boyfriend’s name
And the words… the words written inside Specifics unremembered now, but the semtiment – “I’ve got your back” Was more than I’d ever thought Meant more than I’d known then – Means even more now – That silent solidarity The blood-tie unbroken The love – louder than any gesture before or since – the card from my brother
I've lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since 1968, though I'm a native of SW Georgia. My paternal grandmother was born in the Blue Ridge, and I grew up wanting to live here. Where I am.
I've published five collections of poetry, the most recent 4 being with LSU Press, and have published poetry in magazines ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage. But I also hike, bang pots and pans around in my kitchen, and love several dogs who leave fur all over my carpets. I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.