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, January 30, 2009

OUR STATE Magazine: Why Do We Love NC?

Before the holidays, I was invited by OUR STATE, N.C.'s beautiful monthly magazine, to write a short piece on the topic "Why We Love North Carolina." I would be joining other North Carolinians in this feature, including Jan Karon, Bob Timberlake, Sharyn McCrumb, Fred Chappell, and David Holt. A pretty big topic! And wide open for schmaltz and cliched writing, if I weren't careful. Where to begin? I looked up and saw an old photo over my my desk, taken while I was working on poetry-writing with my daughter's second grade class. All those young faces bent over their sheets of paper! That's it, I thought. That's MY topic.

The February OUR STATE is now on the news stands. So, here is how my little essay turned out.

Being North Carolina's Poet Laureate for the past three years has given me plenty to love. Our generous community of writers, for starters. The writers themselves who continue to amaze me with their talent and energy. Those folks who come up to me after a reading to say they didn’t think they liked poetry but now maybe they would give it a try! What I've come to love most, however, are the students I've met in our schools, especially the ones in K-8. This love affair began in 1986, when I visited my daughter’s kindergarten class at what was then Camp Lab School in Cullowhee. We talked about pets and I jotted down their stories. I asked one little girl if her hound-dog was spotted. No, she declared. “He’s all the way white.” I wanted to hug her.

In the years that followed I visited nearly every class in which my daughter sat. Little did I know that I was rehearsing for my laureate role! Imagine an auditorium at Iron Station Elementary School filled with k-2 students sitting cross-legged on the floor, chirping like birds, while I stood there, wondering how to begin! We talked about pets again (always a dependable subject), I read a poem or two, and as they filed out, they wanted to touch my cowboy boots and the laurel crown I had been given the day before at East Alexander Middle School. That’s where, after my reading in the gym, the students rushed me, wanting my autograph, as if I were a rock star! And how can I ever forget the students at N. Canton Elementary, again sitting at my feet, one of whom, a little girl wearing sequined shoes, asked if she could grow up to be poet laureate. (See photo above; she's in the middle!) Oh, and there were the enthusiastic 4th graders at Greenfield School and St. Therese’s in Wilson, eager to talk about haiku and Milky Way cake! What I love most about this state are these young faces looking back at me, ready to say who they are. May we all listen well to them.

And may we grown-ups who love language and poetry give our time to them when we can.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

INAUGRATION DAY POEMS from North Carolina Poets: Aretha's Hat

(Ron Edmonds / AP / January 20, 2009)


(for doris, on her birthday)

I Praise Aretha’s Hat
because nobody else
but Aretha could wear it,
nobody else with a hat
up there on the stage
that I saw
with the wind whipping round
like a whiplash,
an apron sash,

like a whole lot of ash
we are scattering now
to the wind
saying rise up you
dry bones,
you burned-down
to the ground slave cabins,
all of you out in the cotton fields
I saw, little girl
passing by
in my Mama’s big car.

I Praise Aretha’s hat
because nobody else
could wrap round
her head such a swag-
gering "Here I am
and you out there
to me, you had
better be, too,
my country, ‘tis
of thee is the reason
I’m here, is the reason
all of us right here
and ready
to shout
it out: HERE!"


(doris davenport)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

INAUGRATION DAY POEMS from North Carolina Poets: Lenard Moore

Lenard Moore's new book of poetry, A TEMPLE LOOMING, was featured in a December post on this blog.

Sunday Reader: The Raleigh News & Observer
Published: Jan 25, 2009 06:17 AM
Modified: Jan 25, 2009 08:07 AM

Letterpoem, November 4, 2008

By Lenard D. Moore

Comment on this story

It was in boyhood that I first listened to my maternal grandfather speak wisdom while I stood attentive in my mother and father's front yard. He also spoke wisdom while working in his garden. My grandfather told me how he had worked for 50 cents a day. In short, he didn't have much opportunity in a segregated world, nor was he allowed to vote. Therefore, I thought it was only fitting for me to address this poem to my grandfather. I wanted to express my jubilation about this new era in American history, this time when we have elected Barack Obama as the first African-American president of the United States of America. On Tuesday, I watched Obama's inauguration on television, knowing my grandfather smiles from heaven, nodding.


Dear Granddaddy,

Did you see the star

eleven and a half years ago?

I know you hadn't heard about the new nova

illuminating the global landscape.

I write to tell you that I don't know what

to say at this moment when a black man

has risen like a flag into the sky.

He's just been elected the President

of this country where your grandfather slaved.

I remember you telling me

before I became a teenaged boy,

just how tough it was in Hoover days

when you plowed fields,

dug septic holes, graves, drainage lines,

carpentered houses with your hands.

All day rain didn't stop voters from voting.

I know you would be a century now.

I am a half-century old, seeing

the dream walk across the stage this fall night.

Your grandson,


Lenard D. Moore, the first African-American president of the Haiku Society of America, is the author of "A Temple Looming." Learn more about Moore at .

© Copyright 2009, The News & Observer Publishing Company
A subsidiary of The McClatchy Company

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


(Laura Hope-Gill and Glenis Redmond, from Jeff Davis's Blog, Natures,

Laura and Glenis read the following poems at the Inaguration Day celebration held at UNC-Asheville a week ago.


In this moment there is everything to say.
In this moment there is nothing to say.
So let the poet speak, for the poet is carved
for moments like this equipped for sorrow and celebration, 
for the poet gives the heart its mouth
blood to warm the hour. 

This hour wants a poem, held in a song 
fueled by the heat of wings,
something akin to flight, wrapped in grit
fashioned by the mouth of Goree.

Not to speak to the heart, but give the heart
life.  Forget the high octave perfect pitch
give us Mahalia, Nina, Odetta, Miriam Makeba
or Fannie Lou’s sweat to complete the arc
of this moment, not just a beautiful thing
but a soulful moan that has everything in it,
a circle drawn with light and shadow delivering:
curse and prayer
cure and poison
heat and chill
root and branch
core and meat
drink and thirst

Geometry’s incantation that holds faint and swell.

Let the circle be drawn.
Let the circle be a raw voice
that pierces the rooftop of heaven 
shakes the rafters and Gabriel’s hand 
but also graces the ground beneath the feet 
of the migrant worker igniting hope in each and every weary step.
Let the circle be a voice that suspends strong 
wide, a woven bridge linked to the past
tied to the place King talked about:

the fierce urgency of now.
Let us see that all the soil has not been tilled
but with rake and shovel, hoe and axe 
we can get beyond the surface
locate our circumference of we.

In this uncanny loop of hands and hearts
let us find the power from the realm of angels and ancestors 
to blend our Oh Say Can You See 
to our Lift Every Voice and Sing histories.
Let us embrace our complicated gorgeous mess of a country,
built upon Native American and slave massacres.

Let us excavate and examine our contradictions:
hold to the light the slave hands on white house slabs
see it not as a cornerstone but a circle
with everything in it.

Let us locate the moments
hope died in texas and tennessee
Let this day be an exorcism
to rid the bad spirits.

Let us be filled with a holy heat
Let Odetta, Nina, Miriam, Mahalia and Fannie Lou
sing to that roundness in our chest
gives us the courage to go with soul
find the music that makes us
the poemsong of our lives, 
jarring and soothing
pumping with potential 
not to wreck our world 
with division but open 

ourselves in a terrific circle
wide with holding
tender and fierce hearts
holding like this land
holding like the world
everything in it.

-------Glenis Redmond

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance at the Neighbourhood Ball in Washington DC. Photograph: Mike Segar/Reuters

--for Michele and Barack Obama

He has grown into an old man,
Even older than Mandela did who also did
The remarkable thing simply by doing the only

Thing he could do. Be.
His hair is longer now, not fully gray.
It is as though he has stopped time the same way

Anyone who changes the course of history holds a power over time.

He stands tall, still,
Dressed, as always in his best
Because that is what his grand-mother taught him.

He remembers every single one
Of her lessons because she gave them in the
Soft language she knew could shape a man from the inside.

His wife is old now, too, and she
Still holds him to her every word and to his
Word and to the words of the world. She is his weaver

And he is her web. Their love forms
A constellation of stars all the places they walk. It lights the path.
Two presidencies down, they still talk mostly of their daughters who are

Grown and do not recall
A time when either a woman or a person with dark
Skin could not make a home of the White House or any other house

For that matter. The years
Have been good to them. The nation, grateful.
They have served and they continue to serve, traveling.

They always hold hands. They still have
That smile for each other they’ve kept going
Since college. It has been a good life for both of them.

They have lived a long time.

-------------Laura Hope-Gill

Monday, January 26, 2009

INAUGRATION DAY POEMS from North Carolina Poets

On Inauguration Day last week, I posted two poems by North Carolina poets David Hopes and Carole Boston Weatherforld. Since then, I've received others and have even begun an interwoven group of Inauguration poems with my friend Penelope Scambly Schott, who lives in Portland. The first poem that I sent to Penelope is below. I will be posting other poems by NC poets celebrating Barack Obama's Inauguration, beginning with those from the Inaugural Celebration in Asheville, and I invite other NC poets to share their poems in our comments section.


(after the songs of our country’s first Americans)

The sky
on Inauguration Day
on the millions
of faces
the sky stayed
and stayed
the sky had
not one word to say
the sky settled
down for the long
haul, the sky
hauling day over
and over
and over and
the sky on
Inauguration Day
up for as long
as it took
to make millions
of faces turn
up now and
then to sing
ay! such a clear
day, the sky
there it is
where it’s always
been, but
so much more
sky than
we ever thought


Thursday, January 22, 2009


Bill Griffin's SNAKE DEN RIDGE has become one of my favorite books. I've become fond of all these animals' voices, each one with its own personality. What a great text this would make for writing students! Doesn't everyone want to imagine a way into being an animal? SNAKE DEN RIDGE is on my list of recommended books for k-12 teachers of writing and poetry, and for everybody else, too.

Reading by Bill Griffin of his own poetry and a display of Linda French Griffin's art
McIntyre's in Fearrington Village. It's Thursday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. Co-sponsored with the NC Poetry Society.
contact person:
Jamie Fiocco
Manager ~ Buyer
McIntyre's Fine Books & Bookends
220 Market Street Fearrington Village
Pittsboro, NC 27312
Direct Tel: 919/545-5727, Main Tel: 919/542-3030

BILL GRIFFIN is a family doctor in rural North Carolina, where his ‘writers’ group’ is a hawkswept footpath that wanders the crest of the Blue Ridge. His poems have appeared in many regional and national journals, including Tar River Poetry, POEM, NC Literary Review, Pembroke Magazine, and Illuminations. He has two chapbooks in print: Barb Quill Down (Pudding House 2004) and Changing Woman (Main Street Rag 2006).

Every summer Bill assists Mike Barnett with High Adventure Camp, leading a small crew of teenagers on their first backpacking experience in the southern Appalachian wilderness. They hope to instill in the young people not only a greater sense of self-reliance and teamwork, but also a deep sense of connection to earth, water, sky, and all life. For a week in 2007 Bill and Mike hiked Snake Den Mountain and its connecting trails; they encountered most of the creatures that speak in this collection (especially Mouse!).

Bill and his wife Linda have collaborated on plenty of creative endeavors during their 35-year marriage (including raising their two children, creative in their own right), but Snake Den Ridge: A Bestiary is their first book project undertaken together.

LINDA FRENCH GRIFFIN is a self-taught artist and trained historian who studies human attitudes and actions toward the natural world in Europe and America during the late medieval and early modern periods. Her writings and printed designs analyze and often celebrate this complex relationship. Many of her pieces have been adopted by religious publishing houses and international peace organizations because of their emphasis upon reconciliation, stewardship of Earth, and spiritual harmony.

Living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge since 1981 with Bill and their growing family, Linda feels daily the inspiration of the surrounding natural wonders and the vital importance of their preservation. She and Bill hike local mountain and river trails regularly, and support environmental protection efforts of many local and national groups, including the Piedmont Land Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, National Audubon Society, Cornell Ornithology Lab, and the U.S. Geological Survey.

While engaged in their joint venture of Snake Den Ridge: A Bestiary, the Griffins eagerly awaited the arrival of their first grandchild.

SNAKE DEN RIDGE – a bestiary
$15 USD
March Street Press (
3413 Wilshire
Greensboro, NC 27408
© 2008 Bill and Linda French Griffin


I’m not going to say this twice.
The sum and product of words
is no mark of intelligence.
Case in point – cousin Crow,
not half as smart as all his talk.

So listen,
I know three things:
Sky, that small kiss of warm air
that rises through my primaries;

the Water on its breath, ridgeblown mist
that bathes us all and makes springs
overflow into Inadu Creek;

and Earth, slope and cup of cove,
the steep that gathers with wide black wings
to draw down Sky,
draw Water up,
that sets free all things green
into a world first fledged.

But listen.
I know from twenty circles
of snowdeep and hungry moons
and twenty circles of fresh shoots
that Sky . . . Water . . . Earth . . .
none of them are mine.

And I know none are yours.


This is my gift –
to change.
From Inadu Creek I leave behind
my frilly gills and climb
the spire of blue-eyed grass.
Having become a creature of air bathing
myself in dew, am I not still
a creature of water?

I invite you to discover
in each of my family our variations,
discern that every runnel, every spring,
every palm-sized cup of moisture
holds its lithe expectation, for this
is my gift to you –
to notice changes.

I will let you lightly touch
the welcome of my smoothness
while I drink a little warmth
from your hand. Now count
the dapples down my length,
measure the blush of my cheek,

then find when you descend
the eastern face of Snake Den Ridge
those subtle alterations my cousins
are accumulating until finally
they acquire a new name.

And when you have returned me
to my bed of blue-bead lily, then touch
a smooth place within yourself
and carry with you into the world
your own changes.


Today Inadu Creek’s so clear
it’s like swimming in the sky.
Oh yes, sky . . . for even Trout
look up, if usually for the hopeful
rainfall of Mayflies, then again sometimes
to dream of discovering
a hatching out of stars
that sprinkle down the stream of night
between the blackgum leaves.
Heaven isn’t the other side
of darkness, it’s here
above the rocky spray that holds
piscivorous Brown and Rainbow down
in Cosby Creek, and here below
the love embrace of shade
that drips manna
every morning from its leaves.
Look closely. Learn heaven’s language
scripted on my sides –
ripple shadow of pure water,
lace of insect wings,
gold and silver speckle stars –
kisses of God.


If you hear me, it will be a nut falling
from the buckeye. If you hear me,
it will be a dry branch
seeking earth,
it will be slender fingers
of mountain ash waving praises
to the ridgelined sky.

If you see me, it will be a shadow
only one breath deeper
than twilight.
If you see me, it will be the twist
of heart that skips
a beat, the stark
of pupils gone abruptly wide.

I am mist that enfolds the laurel.
I am stone that reclines beneath black hemlocks.
I am a rumor at Maddron Bald,
a tremor at Mt. Guyot.

Raven is mistaken – this Ridge is mine.

And if you hear me, it will be the rising chest
of the mountain and its timeless slow
and if you hear me
it will only be because
I didn’t hear you first.

Click on the poem to make it larger--it's a jpg image.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Poem of Rejoicing by Carole Boston Weatherford


by Carole Boston Weatherford

        An ancestral spring rises in us
   as we scale a mountain to cast this vote;
a stream once dammed up beyond possibility,
      now liquid and electric in our veins.
        A river of tears greets the news
       that’s been generations coming,
     and we wonder, “Is this like Jubilee?”

       The movement cradled by a dream
     is now a wave.   We are surfing toward
                             the horizon
       when the tide of tomorrow
   carries millions more like us—multitudes
    cresting in a sea of hope and humanity,
    a second coming—to a hallowed shore.
  As Lincoln overlooks the reflecting pond,
     we know that we stand on promises.

      Ghosts wade into the Mississippi.
     Surely, America has been baptized.

For the Inauguration of Barack Obama: David Hopes

(David Hopes, UNC-A)

One of our best NC poets wrote this poem for the Inaugural Celebration in Asheville last night. It is large-spirited, its perspective broad, its language soaring. David is also a splendid prose writer. I heartily recommend his BIRDSONGS OF THE MEZAZOIC. Does poetry have a role to play in our public and civic life? I believe we have some clues in the poems and comments we have heard, as well as in Obama's speech. What are your thoughts on this?

(The long lines in this poem are sometimes squeezed by the limits of the blog format. Please keep that in mind as you read.)


I see you, Waldo Emerson, looking down from the white steps
of the white church in the green town square, your shadow
longer than the steeple’s. I see you with your calipers out
to measure the progress of the Republic.
I see you dragging your stepladder to the center
where all the political speeches are made. I see you
climb to the top step, arms outspread like wings,
waiting for somebody to take you up, waiting for somebody
who, with words like a flight of new stairs, with hand
beckoning at open door, will take us out and over.

I see you Abraham Lincoln, stirring on your great stone seat
in the nation’s capital. I see you stare through the Potomac fogs
and the smog of automobiles wondering if the flags that fell
into the dust when you fell will be lifted up by anybody, ever.
People who stand before you day after day
have seen the great head tilt, the eyes turn the slightest turn
to the north and west. You are listening.
Thunder rolled once from the plains of Illinois, and I think
you hear it again, the first report, the gathering of voices
under a troubled cloud fringed with glancing brightness.

I see you, Walt Whitman, eyeing the men in their white shirts
coming out of offices, wondering when, if ever, to announce
the long-awaited wedding between politics and poetry,
the white knot to unite the tenderness and the will of nations.
I know who would lift his beard to the rising moon
to sing the prothalamium. I know who would dance naked
where the real Potomac meets the Potomac of the mind,
with its clear stream watering all the nations. Souls you saw
for sale and sweating in the noon sun have taken the harp
and the scepter in their hands. I hear you dancing on the bent grass.

So I say to you now, you old solemnities with your gray eyes
and your worries and the bit of deafness from the continual bombardment,
you martyrs from the sad gone past, warriors
and nurses and mostly-ignored, poor-dying poets,
breathe deep. Put grandma’s casserole under the checkered cloth.
Take the cider and the moonshine from their alcoves under stone.
Tie the ribbon on you haven’t worn these twenty years.
Come down to the water to drink.
The tables are spread and the fiddlers are tuned,
Come down to the dancing place to dance.

Barack Obama is President now. I’m saying this in a quaint old way
so my grandmother gliding from the ghost of the Shannon
to the ghost of the French Broad, seamless and mystical, will understand.
I’m saying this all down-home and elementary so Sherry from the third grade
and Jesse who fished the ponds with me and red John from the Projects,
who were children when I knew them, and may be children still,
come running unafraid. It is a new day. Have you seen such
gold on the flowers of the riverbank? Come down to the water to drink.
Justice is spreading white cloths on the tables,
and Generosity is heaping them high, and finding room for more.

And I am invoking allegorical characters so that Locke and Paine
and Rousseau and Aristotle under their crowns of laurel
may feel at home, wandering in from their Elysiums, the invitations in their
hands written in bold American, come home, come home.
The President of a Land Made New in an Age Made Just invites you.
Your names were mentioned but you never sat down at the table.
Sit now, Walt gossiping at your side and Abraham with his long arms
passing the platter. Come down to the water to drink.
The feast is prepared and no one has been turned away.
I bell thee, I summon thee, I sing thee home.

David Hopes

Monday, January 19, 2009

INAUGURATION Celebration with Albany State University Students

(Poet and Professor Doris Davenport in the center, flanked by performance artist Seed and celebratory students!)

Most of the time my laureate blog is devoted to North Carolina writers and events, but on this historic day, the Inauguration of our first African-American president Barack Obama, I decided to turn this post over to former NC resident and NC Arts Fellowship winner doris davenport and her students at Albany State University. I was born and raised about 25 miles down the road from Albany, so being a part of ASU's second annual Poetry Festival was like going back home.

I began my workshop with two poems by our new president, written when he was a nineteen year old college student. You may find those poems at on this blog at The students jumped right into those poems, no doubt about it, and some of what came out of the afternoon's gathering follows.

(Professor Davenport applauding her students!)

From Dr. Doris Davenport, Professor of English, Albany State University:

“Night Soil of Dream” Poetry Workshop Poems*
led by Kathryn Stripling Byer
13 November 2008
2nd Annual Poetry Festival,
Albany State University, Albany GA

(Festival Display at Library where the workshop was held.)

(* In a well-attended workshop of at least 35 students, all of them created poems in the two hour workshop, using the prompts of two poems by President-Elect Barack Obama. Of that number, at least twelve read in the Performance segment that night. And of that twelve, here are some of the poems written and submitted.)

Our first young poet is Shawn Sessions. He was the first student brave enough to read what he had written in his small group. Right away, I knew we were going to hear some fabulous poetry before the workshop was over. Shawn is a young man with a whole lot of talent.

(Shawn Sessions)

UNDERGROUND by Shawn Sessions

Tossing and toiling as the water drowns my feet, I feel
the wind lifting my worries away. As I crash and
burn, these feelings churn through my body, teasing
me. Relieving my soul, this darkness asks me, “Can
you stay a little longer?” And though I would love to
say yes, I regretfully turn away cause I know
daylight is on its way. As my alarm clock echoes
loudly, I open my eyes as if being born for the first
time, Hello, my name is Shawn!


Quavis Carter's impassioned poems, read with real urgency, stirred my emotions and made me realize yet again how powerful an event the election President Obama was, and will continue to be, to these students.

Two by Quavis Carter

"Times Change"

Neva thought I’d be at ASU better yet any college
I mean I always had good sense and book knowledge
Back then all I wanted was a fancy car with big rims
Now I take up time reading and studying for exams.
I have matured a lot maybe bcuz of my age
I’m still young times changed and Mr. Carter has turned da page.


We were chosen 2 be slaves bcuz we were stronger than others
We make the best athletes & black women make the best mothers
Many black ppl won freedom & one black man won an election
So if you’re black look in the mirror & be proud of your skin complexion
Back many years ago we were on the plantation
Now they have HBCU’s* and we can earn education
I don’t care what anybody say we have come along
Want me 2 prove it Nov. 4 2008 remember that day.

(*Historically Black Colleges & Universities)

Cassandra Starr nearly moved me to tears as she read "Tapestry." In it you can hear echoes of President Obama's poem about his grandfather. Cassandra is clearly a poet, and I hope she will continue to follow that calling.

(Cassandra Starr, second from right, and friends)

"Tapestry" by Cassandra Starr

Locks of hair
lengthy, salt and pepper colored,
sitting on the cerulean couch
firmly planted in the middle
of the living room,
in front of a painting
of a flower
that reminds me of her,
stunning, similar to the
petals of a flower,
for she has many layers,
mother, caregiver, quilter.
While sitting firmly
on the couch,
I see her hands,
fragile, small, worn from years
of work
sewing, sewing various pieces
signifying history,
for I am a mirror image
of her,
she is . . . grandmother,
binder of my
family’s tapestry.

What to say about Maggie Emily? She's a spectacular emcee, as she proved earlier at the morning session of readings by faculty and students. AND he's a promising poet. Maggie, I would guess, could be just about anything she chooses to be.

(Maggie Emily)

"Pull Back" by Maggie Emily

The thin sheets, icy
stacked smartly
against the
thumping warm
whole hold whole
cordial cold, hello
“wonderful, and you?”
we smile, or mouths
do - eyes glossy
stare - somehow
the image through the
glass (filtered image)
is distorted you - I
loves-hates hot cold
I cannot feel the difference
(trying to) pull back I rush (trying to ) forward
(trying to) pull back I rush (trying to ) forward
the shattering sheets split and under
the pressure they dissipate

Tiarra Mitchell is a firecracker! If you could hear her read the poem below, you'd know what I mean. The rhythm of this poem is irresistable. She blew me away!

(Tiarra Mitchell, foreground, with friend)

glistening beautifully I, I, I, I...
she pounding, throbbing, hanging in...
flowing down fluidity
speaks turquoise skies
she flutters, flies, flagellant singing...
"I bust the windows out your car"
highlighted anger
addicted, trembling
YELLING, HELP REScue me...please
hangover of juicy love that it..that she..that we..that I
us,we,she come together
ambiguity with tongue loaded, softly, moist feelings, dry dreams
leave, leave, leave me
be, being, being
a new woman...
today, today...I am you
only beep beep, beep beep
loud whispers, slow whispers, no whispers
no talk
just you
those eyes
that glare
that feelings, so natural, that way
I, I, I, I, I,....feel


(Performance Poet "Seed," who led a multi-genre workshop during the festival)

"Geno" won my heart with this poem, and not only because it has one of my favorite foods, salmon croquettes, in it. This poem shows how powerful names can be for a writer.

"Maria and Laura" by Wilbur E. “Geno” Jordan, Jr.

I do love the two names Marian and Laura . . .
and most people with those names.
These two names make me
think of hot homemade vegetable
soup on a cold day and
catered Thanksgiving dinners
for 25. They bring lace
overlay and pearl strands
to mind. The two, Marian and
Laura, Wylie and Hart,
Stokes and Jones, Bishop Allen
and John Wesley, hymns and
jazz, salmon croquets with
grits and Special K with fruit.
The loved of my life . . . Marian and Laura,
my grandmothers.

(Wilbur E. “Geno” Jordan, Jr.)


Mr. Daniel Forsythe gave us a poem full of good sounds and raw emotion--t(he mind leaks (great image) and the heart fills}. I loved listening to this one!

Two by Daniel Forsythe

Laughing, yeah laughing
At you, laughing because
You don’t get me
Laughing & smiling
All because of you.


The love that’s lost
The desires gone
While the embers burn bright
For the love I lost

Moving through
All the pain
The subtle feeling
When I hear her name
The love that’s lost

The sun shines
But is much dimmer
The moon is bright
But not as bright as nights I remember
The love that’s lost

The soul grows weak
The body pursues
The mind leaks
And the heart fills
With the blues
The love I lost

Love me tender, love me right
But the love is lost, tonight.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Leslie Phillabaum and LSU Press

The former director of Louisiana State University Press, Leslie Phillabaum, died suddenly last week. "Les" made LSU Press into one of the foremost publishers of poetry in this country. When the Academy of American Poets called me to say that my WILDWOOD FLOWER had won the Lamont Award (now the McLaughlin) for the best second book of poetry in a given year, the young woman praised LSU for doing so much for its poets and their books. She seemed genuinely glad that another LSU book had won the award. Moreover, POETS AND WRITERS plugged LSU's poetry series in an article of several years back; Les Phillabaum was given the credit he deserved for having championed poetry at his press.

Among the NC poets published by LSU Press during Les's tenure were Fred Chappell, Betty Adcock, and James Applewhite. Fred Chappell made these remarks in an essay published in 1997 in the RALEIGH NEWS/OBSERVER:

"Louisiana State University Press publishes my poetry, and poetry volumes make up a large part of its output. The director of LSU Press, Leslie Phillabaum, informs me that North Carolina buys more poetry than any other Southern state, more in fact, than any state except those with the largest metropolises, California, New York and Massaschusetts."

The entire essay, worth your reading time, can be found at

(Fred Chappell)

(James Applewhite)

(Betty Adcock)

The director emeritus of the LSU Press, Leslie “Les” Phillabaum, died Wednesday.

He was 72.

“All of us at LSU Press are shocked and saddened by Les’s death,” LSU Press Director MaryKatherine Callaway said in a statement. “He leaves behind a rich legacy.”

Phillabaum and his wife, Roberta “Robbie” Phillabaum, moved to Baton Rouge in 1970 when he was named editor and associate director of LSU Press.

He began his tenure as director in 1975 and retired in 2003.

“He had a very gentle and wonderful sense of humor,” said Robbie Phillabaum, his wife of almost 47 years.

“He never raised his voice.”

He enjoyed the opera and gardening and had a great interest in poetry, she said.

Two of the 200 books of poetry he helped publish won Pulitzer Prizes. In honor of Phillabaum, LSU Press created the L.E. Phillabaum Poetry Award in 2005.

Phillabaum saw more than 1,700 books published.

His wife said he considered “A Confederacy of Dunces” the most popular of the works.

In addition to his wife, survivors include his daughter, Diane Setzer and her husband, David; son, Scott and his wife, Priya Abeywickrama; and grandsons, Trey Setzer and Stephen Setzer.

Visitation at University Presbyterian Church is from 1 p.m. until memorial service at 3 p.m. Monday.

Find this article at:


Friday, January 16, 2009


(ArtPark display at the Wilson County Arts Council)

I can't think of a better time to feature the new ArtPark poems and displays on the theme of Snow Time. The temperature is supposed to drop to 8 degrees tonight here in the mountains, and although we don't have any snow yet, we plan to spend the night huddled by the fire, dreaming about snow!.

As you can see in this post, Jane Wood has done it again, inspiring Wilson County students to write poems and create displays around the chosen theme. As she explains, "I discuss the 5 senses at length with my classes and the importance of listening to one's own inner voice. I then give the students a theme (such as "Snow") and allow them 10 minutes to write their thoughts. I tell them that they do not have to make complete sentences, nor do their thoughts have to rhyme. I want them to realize that poems often begin with a conglomerate of feelings about a given subject, and that originality is the keynote."

Featured in the current ArtPark displays are Hearne Elementary 4th graders, their work found in 3 ArtPark display areas - The Arts Council, Wilson Public Library, and the local YMCA. CONGRATULATIONS, HEARNE ELEMENTARY STUDENTS!




4TH Grade – Hearne Elementary

Wilson, NC

Snow is a handful of love

by Daega Goode

(ArtPark display at the Wilson County YMCA)

Oh, oh, how I love snow

So many things to do

You could make a snowman


go to a snowy mountain

on a nature hike

by Amber Winstead

(Display at the Wilson County Public Library)

Snow is like whipped cream to me

by Andrew Horne

Snow is white like a bunny’s tail

by Austin Adams


Snow angel


Snow sled



by Jayvon Williams

You can make a snowman

with sticks for arms

and carrot for nose

by Eric Mobley

I do not like snow


people cannot drive


you cannot go to school

by Legacy Eatmon

When it snows

it covers the grass

and makes it look beautiful

by Betzayda Hernandez

Snow is white as clouds

You can have fun with family and friends

making up games

using your imagination

by Guadalupe Hernandez

Snow is like a cold soft pillow

The white flakes make a pretty blanket

by sticking together

by Tykeem Allen

Snow is peaceful falling down

Snow is soundless

Snow freezes my hands

Snow melts in my mouth

Wow! It is cold

by Shonia Hooks

Monday, January 12, 2009


I met Jason Koo the day before Election Day at Davidson College where he teaches. At the Chinese restaurant where we had lunch with Tony Abbot, we both decided on General Tso's chicken (well, it's spelled differently in various menus), so I knew we'd hit it off, which we did. I was there for the Appalachain Songbook performance with soprano Jacque Culpepper and pianist Phillip Bush, but I also agreed to visit Jason's poetry workshop. A great group, and Jason himself had the enviable teacher's persona of being both laid-back and incisive. I asked him to send me some work for my blog and our website, so here is his "official" bio. statement, but first a short piece from his email telling me his good news!

".....the night before Election Day I found out I won an NEA for the upcoming year. Amazing news-first time I've ever really WON anything for my poetry. It had been a life of second place and honorable mentions (which, as a Clevelander, seemed fitting). And the crazy thing was, I wouldn't have picked up the phone call had Dana Gioia (the NEA rep) not been calling from a Washington, DC number-I figured it had something to do with the election. Once I found out the news I knew there was good energy brewing in Washington."

Jason Koo’s first collection of poems, MAN ON EXTREMELY SMALL ISLAND , won the 2008 De Novo Poetry Prize and will be published in 2009 by C&R Press. The recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, he has had his poems appear in numerous journals, including The Yale Review, North American Review, Verse, Bellingham Review, Cimarron Review, Green Mountains Review, and Gulf Coast. He serves as Poetry Editor of Low Rent and is a visiting assistant professor of English at Davidson College.

The good news about the NEA fellowship and his first book being chosen for publication came during the month of December! What great Christmas gifts!

Here are two of his poems. Both have been published before, the first in LYRIC, the second in GREEN MOUNTAINS REVIEW,.
Other poems may be found at KARTIKA REVIEW ( "There Is No There There," and "Man On an Extremely Small Island," at VERSE (

Look for more about Jason on our Spring Writers & Books site at in a couple of months.


Are you an idea? Or are you everything?
Love, I know I fall short of everything.
On the checklist of everything, I do not
include a country club membership,
soccer memorabilia, or the all-important
Caucasian Executive punch card.
I do come equipped with golf clubs
and a tee, but am missing the genteel spikes
and sticky left-hand glove that cinch
the look favored in Everything Magazine.
Well, at least you get the magazine, you say,
but it costs me a fortune, arriving
every second of every day as it does.
The subscription has completely
decimated my pile of spare change
(which I was saving for you), not to mention
rendering moot my magazine rack.
Can I offer you this double-handful
of ticket stubs? It comprises a sprawling
of my past seven years, which isn’t everything,
but that’s better than two. And the years
before, I was in Everything Training,
which is to say, face to face with the Nothing,
who made me do time tables all night
and liked to hit me with a back scratcher.

How could I possibly know
you were coming? In my Morning Workbook,
which consisted entirely of Heidegger
and Emily Dickinson quotes (and which
my master affectionately called
“The Opening of the Pain”), I learned,
after long staring, that everything is an idea,
a coat we’re constantly trying to fill out
which always remains huge.
Darling, believe me, I’ve been applying
myself, I’ve been working out
with Kierkegaard, Emerson, Nietzsche,
all the heavy lifters, but look, I’m barely bigger
than you, I haven’t gained five pounds
since high school. The Brain is wider than the Sky,
but the sky is just a thin blue slice
of everything. The sky does not include
porpoises, hippos, and small pouches of candy,
for instance. Have you seen a hippo swim
up close? They’re horrible, ugly, and magnificent.
Hard to believe you can live without them
after that. Have I asked you, even once, are you
everything? I love what’s less

about you, your limitations, your smooth body
running under my hand only is
because it stops

at shoulder, elbow, nipple. Imagine
your body expanding to house the Antarctic Ocean,
all its seals, penguins, chunks of ice,
foundered ships and thermal-underweared explorers…
Sublime, a test of my endurance, surely,
but frigid. I want a coat that fits

as I boot my way against the polar blasts.
The coat may fail me, I the coat,
but we’re more than less than everything
together, we go further, and in the end,
gain a greater idea of our limitless capacity,

see that failure, too, is a part of everything.

Publication credit: LYRIC



I was lying in bed again, after waking again,
After sleeping again, feeling demolished but poised
When nothing occurred to me, nothing
Knocked on the door, nothing came swinging
Into my vision. The phone rang, I heard my voice
Saying I wasn’t here; then staticking silence,
Then silence; then the phone rang again, again
I heard my voice, it sounded exactly the same.
I was trying to read the light in the room, the losses
It took as it passed through the dust-filmed
Blinds, from the leaves of the tree, the tailpipe emissions,
Every morning I wanted it to choose me, order
Me up, but it looked merely left there, on the stapler,
The rows of books, the soft calculator buttons,
It didn’t come down from the heavens, it didn’t
Break into the room like a fresh bull of beginning,
It didn’t, it didn’t, it made that sound, didn’t.
I propped myself on my elbow and made a sail
Between my arm and my chest, but the raft
Of my bed stayed put, no wind came billowing
Across the beige ocean of carpet. Oh when
Did I enter this life of facsimile? The calendar said
May, said Water & Light, but those words lay
Over boxes, boxes and boxes and boxes
I wanted to break apart like ice cubes from a tray.
I saw my Scream pillow in the corner, facsimile
Of Munch’s painting on the front SQUEEZE ME
IT EXPRESSES ITSELF But it was just sitting there,
A product, a birthday present, it required a hand
To squeeze it, a will to make the hand squeeze.
Inside the man cupping his face into a lightbulb
Was no great, infinite scream passing through nature
But a little plastic box, and some batteries.

Publication credit: GREEN MOUNTAINS REVIEW