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."
Monday, December 8, 2008
The Fractured World, by Scott Owens
by Scott Owens ISBN 13: 978-1-59948-120-3 88 pages, poetry, $14 Main Street Rag http://www.mainstreetrag.com/store/NewReleases.php
The Fractured World is a courageous examination of the long term effects of child abuse in our society. Owens' poems are at times heartbreaking, at times humorous, yet always triumphant.
Scott Owens' poems grab the reader by the throat from the opening line and don't let go, unspooling down the page with verve and startling moments of insight and imagination. He's the real thing.
Nothing prepared me for the immediacy and yet intimacy of the poems in Fractured World. Nor the intensely painful revelations about our woundedness and vulnerability, not to mention our despair at being turned into empty vessels by the "game" of a world divided into sides always at war with each other. As "Taking the Field" declares, And this is the way/you play the game/...you are nothing unless you win, says the black booted man who draws a line and tells you, whoever stands/across that line/is your enemy.../and you must hit him/and you must beat him/until he falls... The irony in these often bruising poems is that the winner in this game becomes the lost one, the numbed and empty one who moves through his world either enraged or numbed. Scott Owens has given us a powerful, disturbing look at our contemporary fractured world.
--Kathryn Stripling Byer NC Poet Laureate
(Photo by Damien Blankenship)
Scott Owens is the 2008 Visiting Writer at Catawba Valley Community College and coordinator of the Poetry Alive reading series in Hickory, NC. His first book of poetry, The Persistence of Faith, was published in 1995 by Sandstone Press. He has received awards for his work from the Academy of American Poets and the North Carolina Writer's Network. Recent work has appeared in North American Review, Main Street Rag, Pedestal, Georgia Review, Chattahoochee Review, and Cream City Review among others. Born in Greenwood, SC, he has lived in North Carolina, where he completed his MFA from UNCG, for over 20 years.
Fates Worse Than Death
One said dying slowly. Another said living and barely cracked a smile. Many said extreme pain, torture, in all its varieties: burning, drowning, beating, crushing, starving, cutting the body away in small pieces, breaking down the mind bit by bit. Others said insanity, loneliness, paralysis, catatonia, coma, blindness, isolation, deprivation. One said watching others be tortured, family, friends, total strangers.
In a dry white season they tried to teach us the reach of human cruelty-- a bloody face turned upward, the body suspended by elbows, electrodes on nose, nipples... A young guard walked in, unsuspecting, unknowing.
Imagine having to live with the knowledge. Imagine how he sees people now from the corners of his eyes, how he hurries home each day, squeezes the handle, cracks the door. Imagine how he holds his wife, his children, afraid of what his own hands might do. --------------------
Saving the Earth
Collect a variety of soils: red clay from river banks, black dirt from under rocks, white sand from beaches. Use milk jugs, coffee cans, oil drums sealed tight.
Cover mounds of good earth with plastic tarps, sheets of tin. Bury the edges with fallen things, trees and fences, houses and walls.
Store it in cellars and bathrooms, closets and stairwells. Bury it in coffins, carefully marked for resurrection.
Pack it in snuff cans to make it compact and portable. Stack them along the walls. Pile them in windows. Carry what remains in plastic bags.
Taking the Field
And this is the way you play the game the only way to win. And this is the man with the huge right hand and the black shining boots and the pounding gullet who calls you boy and tells you you are nothing unless you win, you are nothing and stands above you and stands before you and draws a line and tells you whoever stands across that line is your enemy your enemy and you must hit him and you must beat him until he falls and if he gets up you must hit him again and if he gets up you must take him down.
And these are the hands and these the feet and this the body you give up for the game. And these are the clothes you wear, these the bold numbers, these and draws a line and tells you whoever stands across that line is your enemy your enemy and you must hit him and you must beat him until he falls and if he gets up you must hit him again and if he gets up you must take him down.
And these are the hands and these the feet and this the body you give up for the game. And these are the clothes you wear, these the bold numbers, these the bright colors, this the iron mask. And this is the map that shows you the way and these the people who cheer you on and tell you to go And you go to play the game the only way to win. ---------------------
On the Days I Am Not My Father
I don’t yell. I don’t hold inside the day’s supply of frustrations. My hands stay open all day. I don’t wake tired and sore, dazed from senseless, panicking dreams. On the days I am not my father I hold my son when he cries, let him touch my face without flinching, lie down with him until he falls asleep, realize that just because he has a sharp tongue, just because he’s sometimes mean, just because he is smarter than me doesn’t mean he’ll become my father.
On the days I am not my father holding you is enough until holding you is no longer enough for either of us. I listen well. I let things go unfinished, in an order I didn’t plan. My mouth is relaxed. My teeth don’t hurt. My face stays a healthy shade of pink all day. On the days I am not my father I don’t fill the silence with my own irrational rants. I don’t resent the voices of others. I don’t make fun of you to make myself feel better.
On the days I am not my father I don’t care who wins or loses. The news can’t ruin my day. I water plants. I cook. I laugh at myself. I can imagine living without my beard, with my hair cut, without the fear of looking too much like my father. On the days I am not my father I romp and play, I don’t compare myself with everyone else, the night is always long enough, I like how much I am like my father. ----------------------------------
Love and the Daughter
There is little you’d take as truth from him, but this pounding death seems impossible to imagine even from one who dreams voices into walls, eyes in every pane of glass.
In the season of dogwoods and Judas trees your father calls to tell you Stuart is dead -- a heart attack brought on by morphine taken to treat the phantom pains of a lost leg.
The ghost of your image moves mourning before the door, spring’s tender green turning in panic behind you. Your anger, inconsolable, will not unknit itself.
What you mourn is not the loss of life, but a world of childhoods, your own, your brother’s strapped to his iron chair, your mother’s innocence sacrificed to angers that would not go away.
I want to prick the howls from your tongue, bring down your fists on these faces looking up from memory’s dark pools, open your eyes to spring’s season of crying.
At night, in the mirror, sometimes you see his face, unsoothed, your own, clenched tight, my half-wanted hands easing you back to me, spooning away anger like tears unwilling to cry.
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.