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."

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Article in Raleigh News & Observer

Today's Raleigh paper has published an article on the Student Laureate Awards. The link is

Teachers, now is the time to begin thinking about student work to submit.

Tomorrow is the start of National Poetry Week. Get ready to dance! The flamenco, of course!

Friday, March 27, 2009

SARAH BRUCE: Special Commendation Winner, Student Poet Laureate Awards

You can see from the three most recent posts how difficult it was for me and my first reader John York to select the final winner for our first NCETA Student Laureate poetry award. Reading Sarah Bruce's "yellow," we were captivated by Sarah's often surprising turns of imagery and phrase. We found her last line especially memorable. Sarah continues to write poetry. Her "Swaddlling" follows her prize winning poem. Reading this poem, I know I'm hearing the voice of a real poet. (I like her play on "a room of one's own"!)

Sarah Bruce is a native of Raleigh, currently studying in Richmond at VCU and majoring in International Studies. She enjoys wandering around parks. She reads the newspaper every day that she can. And she loves to watch the sunrise before going to bed.


we all die young
and we all grow old.
we all take more capsules and pills than we’re told.
I don’t wear my yellow sweatshirt

tricycle children pull out their hair
like the little-girl-grandmothers rocking in chairs,
spectacles smeared
with chalk and a fountain pen.

lips curling in, spine twisting out
as my ancestors
teach me to drink.
venerate me; I have wrapped myself in string.

the color of lead is the color of all my dreams.


My suit jacket
is smothered in the dust
of communion wafers as I
nestle under this pew. I need
to be small and safe,
a sanctuary within a sanctuary,
in a womb of my own.

A bed once cradled me, soft
like a nascent fire's
first breath. I lay
for hours and hours
in something like slumber,
my forearms draped
over my ribcage and hips.

Three decades ago,
before sundown in the summer,
I would catch fireflies
in my jar. Mother told me
to release them peacefully,
but I envied the peace
that they already had.

(Judges Special Commendation winner Sarah Bruce with her parents.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

ANUJA ACHARYA: Student Poet Laureate Honorable Mention

Anuja Acharya was our Honorable Mention winner in our inaugural Student Poet Laureate Awards in 2008, sponsored by the North Carolina English Teachers Association. This is a luscious poem. John York and I wished we'd been able to enjoy a meal like this one.

Anuja is a freshman at NC State University. Like Katherine Indermaur (see previous post) she graduated from Enloe High School in Raleigh. Her poem was submitted by Priscilla Chappell, her English teacher there.

Death By Chocolate

Crusty chunks of Rosemary olive bread
With a thick, fruity
Extra virgin olive oil
Flavored with garlic and dried rosemary.

Followed by
Insalata di Palma, the roasted peppers and artichoke hearts
Caressed in the depths of mesculin greens
Laced with robust lemon mustard vinaigrette.

Followed by
An airy, light, tart raspberry sorbet
Sliced with a sharp, peppermint edge
Garnished with a single sprig of fleshy spearmint.

And for the execution
The layers of chocolate
Her layers of Dante's hell
A fine dark experesso chocolate pudding
And a crusty white chocolate crumble cake
Cut with chocolate shavings and milk chocolate
Death by chocolate. And then some.

--Anuja Acharya

(Our Honorable Mention winner, Anuja Acharya with her parents.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

KATHERINE INDERMAUR: 2008 Student Poet Laureate Winner

Katherine Indermaur impressed both John York, my preliminary reader, and me with "Downtown After Dark", submitted by her teacher Priscilla Chappell at Enloe High School in Raleigh last spring. We were delighted to name her our Student Poet Laureate Award winner in the inaugural contest sponsored by the North Carolina English Teachers Association. We are hoping to receive poems as fine as this one by our April 15 deadline. (See details for the NCETA submission process on the sidebar.) In the next two days I will be posting poems by Honorable Mention and Special Commendation winners, Anuja Acharya and Sarah Bruce.

As you can see from the following biography, Katherine is fascinated by many things. Including Starbucks! She continues to write now that she is a student at UNC; one of her new poems follows her prize-winning poem.

Katherine Indermaur has lived the majority of her life in Raleigh, NC
with three brothers, two sisters, a dog, a cat, and several fish.
Though this household wasn't exactly conducive to writing, it certainly
helped with inspiration. She graduated from Enloe High School, where
she was inspired and enlightened by Ms. Chappell's "Poetic Voices"
elective - twice. She now attends UNC-Chapel Hill. In her free time,
she enjoys playing piano, rock-climbing, writing, and taking trips to
Starbucks. Some of her favorite poets are Vassar Miller, Pablo Neruda,
Michael Chitwood, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Walt Whitman. She hopes
to major in English with a double-minor in Creative Writing and Music.

Downtown After Dark

Hairspray, beer, hot plastic:
Fabric makes sounds against our legs,
rhythmic and steady like our pulses.
We fall silent, listening to their laughter.
The city slips into an easy slumber,
a November night hibernation.
Paper bag tumbleweeds scratch the asphalt,
the soles of our shoes in close procession.

All is not well, you seem to say with
fidgeting fingers, fumbling with car keys, metal.
There is a fire escape up above,
romantic in all its rusted red charm,
a slinking tomcat, a glowing exit sign, backwards E.
You refuse to break the heated silence,
mist through our nostrils and empty mouths.

We are airy tonight, which makes us dark
like the coffee I drank, so bitter
you hesitated in kissing me. But you gave in;
you always do. You will speak, I think.

Listen, you say, to those people, (Ha!)
incredulous, your shoulders shimmying in laughter.
I open my ears, tense,
waiting for some hint to their vibrancy
even in the dead of the night, but you
have already unlocked the car - a handle offensively cold against thin

Those silhouettes in a lighted window,
glasses clinking and voices rising melodiously,
speak louder to me than your silence.
I release the cold of the metal,
take one step, and recoil into the passenger seat,
away from the night's display, hard leather
consciously beneath my thighs. The sky
is like a bruise, purples and blues,
ink - and the car soon has its own mist,
speech, speeding us off into the muted senses.

(Katherine with her mother at the Awards Luncheon in Winston-Salem last fall.)


Lot's Wife

You do not even know my name
But I smelled the fire and brimstone.
I turned back and saw the flames.

Lot took my body and my home,
Salt and ashes. Here I cringe - I am no more than my own tombstone.

Perhaps in my heart some string did twinge
As I looked upon the dying flight
Of souls on whose sin my fate did hinge.

I can't remember much but the sight
Of ashes flitting like moths and steel
Splitting the singe of Lot's prophesied light.

Before his god my blood congeals
In smoky aftermath, at last, alone - A statue with enough salt to heal
Anyone's wounds but my own.

Katherine Indermaur
UNC '12

Saturday, March 21, 2009


(Fog rising from the valley beneath our house)

As we prepare to bid March farewell, it's fitting to offer a poem that brings a new perspective to the month. March comes in like lamb, goes out like a lion, or vice versa. How about March coming in a a great, wet thing? A big washrag of fog!

This poem is in response to my invitation posted a few days ago, on both my "Laureate's Lasso" and "Here, Where I Am" to write a poem sounding like "green." Mindy followed her own bent.

Ode to March

Oh you great, wet thing!
Vast as a mountain
Lithe and lean, carried by the wind.
How will you, with all your promises
Fulfill them?

Push out the green of bulbs, the buds, the birds!

For today, the very first
You’ve covered me in fog.
Made me a soggy thing of little worth

Mindy Evans

Friday, March 20, 2009


(Green as seen through a scrim of still-leafless Sweet Shrub)

In response to my appeal for poems that sound like "green," I received only one! Where are you, spring-crazed poets? You are supposed to be out smelling the first green, inhaling the sunshine, listening to the tree frogs and letting your imagination fill up to the brim! Come on now, send me some poems.....

Thank you, Diane. This is a lovely poem, and as I told you in my comments, I particularly like "The days stretch, the nights shrink." I wish I knew more about you. Your students are fortunate to have you as their teacher.

Diane, Teacher said...

As I stood on my porch at sunset today, I could hear the "sound of green".

Tree frogs sing
Crickets cheep
Pink fingers of sunshine stream along the horizon
The days stretch, the nights shrink
Nature’s music reveals
Spring is here!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009



I can't think of a better poet to lead the way into April, National Poetry Month than Katherine Russell Barnes. I met her a year ago during my visit to Wilson; she and her daughter Rebecca, with friends, took me to a fabulous restaurant outside town. There we talked poetry and even wrote a collaborative renga before the meal was done. "Katie" Barnes knows well the profundity of her book’s title, Treading Water, which was publish this year by Old Mountain Press and is well worth celebrating. Barnes has been a poet all of her long life and she knows what writing a poem is like, what living a life means, and how the two intersect in ways that nobody, least of all the poet, can predict. She brings to her poetry wit, craft, pathos, and all the thousand and one pleasures that language can offer. “Lips bright as birthday balloons’"? Yes, they are here. Keen observations of youth and old age. Memories that never descend into bathos or cliche. The poet treads water, the water of language and what the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke called the “heaviness” of life. But in the distance she hears what the earth sings, as in “Rest Homes, where “machines the size of dinasaurs/dug into ant hills, snake holes,/rabbit burrows,/Indian mounds” to make these domiciles for the elderly. The spirit of place still sings, despite the degradation visited upon it, even if the song is a dirge. “Tonight,” she tells us...for the poet is always pulling us back to this moment to LISTEN--”tonight wind keens through the tall pines.

When Treading Water appeared, Katie Barnes was honored with a reading/signing in Wilson.

(Katherine Russell Barnes at the lectern with her daughter Rebecca Tighe, to whom her new book is dedicated.)

Here are some of my favorite poems from TREADING WATER.


He sleeps quietly beside me.

I want to go back to the garden,
but it is past midnight and no light.
Not even a snippet of moon.

I want to force up weeds settled
beside jeweled flowers, finish
the task begun in full sun.

Bleeding hearts must be saved
from encroaching knotweed. Trailing phlox
and verbena are already smothered by Oxalis.

Its delicate leaf and stem mask
a tenacious root-knob that rebounds and thrives
from merest fragment left behind.

Lying here in the dark, I picture
his imposing face, unmarked by a tragedy
he cannot know or name.

I imagine his brain, a bulb in soft earth.
Its twining roots search, but cannot connect,
cannot bring forth.

I lie knotted in distress,
unwilling to abandon bright years
to darkness.

When morning comes, I tell him I must go
weed the garden.
His answer affirms his failing mind,

but lights my blighted heart.
“Weeds?“ he asks. “Weeds?
I remember only flowers.”

(Katie signing books for friends and admirers in the Wilson community.)


White as the lightning
that burned down the barn
and charred his voice
into a rasp.

White as the sun-glare
that beats off the tin tub
where Mama scrubs white clothes
then dark, and wonders how
she'll ever get them hung
on the rickety line strung
between the corner of the shed
and one white board
propped up with bricks
and cinder blocks.

But that's not the worst of white.
The baby lies still and white.
No longer pink with fever.
White against the dirty rag quilt.
Mama's face is white when I yell,
"The baby ain't breathin' no more.
I think she's dead."

My mind runs white.

In the field near the woods
where blackberry blooms hang white,
his hoe rises, falls
in sun-baked clay as he replants
the early corn.


If I should keel over while sitting here
straining for right words in this secluded place,
this office space, no one on either side
to hear or care,

If I should fall in what my husband calls
my play-all-day-hide-away,
lie stiff as a door peg, silent as the unplugged
telephone, would I be found eventually?

He has a key and cruises by occasionally.
I don't know why unless he needs to summon me
because the food is down to molded cheese
from last week’s poker game.

Would he try to explain when neighbors
bring their finest casseroles and ask why
his wife was dead for days before he found her?
Would he stop chewing long enough to say,

"Wish she could answer that.
Words were her bag.”

(Katie Barnes visits with her friend Julie at the reception in honor of her new book.)


They sit on their never-painted porch,
four ladies, eighty years old, or more.
Clouded eyes peer from gingham bonnets.
Hands cup ears that no longer hear
the wooden rockers' rhythm.

Long together, yet alone,
they ramble, clamor, drone. compare patchwork memories and judge
each visitor a prize
to be won and held.

A car shoots by on the new-paved road.
A jet streaks toward the lowering sun.


In the field across the road,
they have built homes for the elderly.

Machines the size of dinosaurs
dug into ant hills, snake holes,
rabbit burrows, Indian mounds

Degrading the land where season after season
plow had unearthed shards of pots and pipes,
remains of roving native tribes.

In those days, flint-gleam of arrowheads
rose and fell as soil turned, turned
in the shadow of sapling pines.

Tonight, a waning moon rises, casts
pale light on secure, squat houses
that lodge today's restless people.

And wind keens through the tall pines.


“The poet has no authority,”
he said, then repeated it.
He shook his shaggy white mane
and said it yet again,
“He has no authority.”

A lady in a crooked hat,
seated in the audience,
raised her hand and looked aghast.
“Sir, on whose authority
do you say that?” she asked.


Katherine Russell Barnes lives in Wilson, North Carolina. She is a retired nurse, a wife, mother and grandmother, who had been writing poetry for three decades. Her poems have been published in Crucible, Pembroke, Dragonfly, The Lyric and many other literary magazines. Her poems are included in numerous anthologies--- Weymouth, Here’s to the Land by the NC Poetry Society, Poets for Peace, published by Chapel Hill Press and most recently many thematic anthologies by Old Mountain Press.

She is particularly proud that her poems appear in the anthology Earth and Soul. This was a joint literary venture with a Russian press in which poems were printed on facing pages in both Russian and English. The resulting books were distributed throughout Russia in schools and libraries.

She has been a member of many literary organizations in North Carolina such as the NC Poetry Society, the Poetry Council of NC, and the NC Writers' Network and is a charter member of the NC Haiku Society. Her involvement in these organizations includes holding offices, leading workshops, and judging contests in the hope of advancing poetry and its appreciation throughout the state.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ST. PATRICK'S DAY: The Sound of Green

This morning I posted on my "Here, Where I Am " a poem by Thomas Hardy, "Neutral Tones." I noticed yet again how he uses language to sound the "tone" of the poem, the emotional center of it. Words like "chidden," "bitter," and "stood," for example, in the first stanza set up the way we hear this poem of desolation.

WE stood by a pond that winter day,
And the sun was white, as though chidden of God,
And a few leaves lay on the starving sod,
—They had fallen from an ash, and were gray.

Just listen to the vowels here. Most of them fall in the lower range, coming close to the shudder vowel, the ugh, the lowest register our voices can reach. The chest voice, as a singer would call it. The vowel scale rises from that all the way to the top of the throat. Try moving up it aloud, beginning with the shudder vowel, rising, rising.... The long eeeee at the top goes right to your head, doesn't it? Like the sound of green. (The long "e" and "a" are in Hardy's poem, too, of course, but they are muted by vowels in the lower register.)

How does "green "sound? On St. Pat's Day, that's a worthy question. So, I'm inviting anyone--student, teacher, parent, child--to send me a poem that sounds like "green." You don't even have to be Irish to give it a try!

The first poem posted in the comments section will be given its own post tomorrow, with special commendation. The others? They'll be posted, too. So don't miss out on this chance to be part of the "singin' o' the green."

Monday, March 16, 2009

REVVING UP FOR NATIONAL POETRY MONTH: Calling all Elementary School Students

and teachers! Let's get ready for April--National Poetry Month by writing some lists. I am making lots of lists of things I need to do for the BIG MONTH. What I'm talking about, though, is list poetry. A "list poem" like this one by Bruce Lansky. (

What Bugs Me

When my teacher tells me to write a poem.
When my mother tells me to clean up my room.
When my sister practices her violin while I'm watching TV.
When my father tells me to turn off the TV and do my homework.
When my brother picks a fight with me and I have to go to bed early.
When my teacher asks me to get up in front of the class and read the poem I wrote on the school bus.

I could write many list poems about what bugs me! I can also write some about what I love waking up to:

Waking Up

I hear Byron snore on the bed at my feet.
I hear Ace of Dogs sigh on the floor by the bed,
waiting for me to say, "Come on up."
I hear Bro shake his 80 pounds of fur,
saying "Let me out of here!"
And now I hear Bro and Poo Bear barking at nothing
outside. I feel Ace's
tongue on my hand hanging over
the bed. I hear rain
falling on the roof,
and I look out the window
where daylight comes slowly as falling
asleep comes when I don't want the day to end.

OK, let's write some list poems together. You send me yours over the next few weeks, which I will post on this site, up and down the side bar, as well as in special posts. And when April, National Poetry Month is over, I will pick one or more poems whose authors I will send special notebooks, where you can continue to write lists, lists, and more lists!

(A Visual List Poem!)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival: Call for Submissions


“To live! Like a tree alone and free, Like a forest in brotherhood”

Nâzım Hikmet Ran
Greatest Modern Turkish Poet


Named in honor of the distinguished Turkish poet, the Nâzım Hikmet Poetry Festival will be held for the first time
on Sunday, April 19, 2009 in Raleigh, North Carolina. This event will include Nâzım’s poetry, a look at his life,
and readings of poems by the area poets.

As we bring together poets and poetry lovers, participation of the area poets will be an essential part of this
Festival. Interested poets are invited to submit their poems to the Festival Committee by Wednesday, April 1,
2009. Selected poems will be published on-line at the Festival web site as well as in the Festival Booklet, and the
poets will be invited to read their poems at the Festival.

More information is available at the Festival website:


Nâzım Hikmet Ran (1902 –1963), commonly known as Nâzım Hikmet, was a Turkish poet, playwright, and novelist.
He was recognized as the first and foremost modern Turkish poet, and regarded throughout the world as one of the
greatest poets of the twentieth century for the "lyrical flow of his statements”. Described as a "romantic
revolutionary", his humanistic views are universal.

His poetry has been translated into more than fifty languages. UNESCO declared 2002 the "Year of Nâzım Hikmet"
on the occasion of what would have been his 100th birthday. He received the World Peace Prize (the USSR's
equivalent of the Nobel) in 1950. Even though he faced many challenges in his life, he always remained optimistic
about the future.

His poetry reflects his undiminishing hope for social justice, his love of life, and longing for his homeland.


This event is organized by
American Turkish Association of North Carolina ( ) and
Gregg Museum of Art & Design, North Carolina State University ( ).

Organizing committee:
Buket Aydemir, Pelin Balı, Mehmet Öztürk, and Birgül Tuzlalı


Event Location: The Gregg Museum of Art & Design, Talley Student Center, NCSU

Entries received by Wednesday, April 1, 2009 will be considered for selection.

Submission Requirements

 All entries MUST be submitted via
 All poems submitted to the Festival must be unpublished, original works.
 Each poet can submit up to three poems.
 The poems should be written in English.
 The selected poems will be published on-line at the Festival web site as well as in the Festival Booklet which
will be distributed during the Festival.
 The poets will retain the copyright of their poems.

Selection & Notification

 Submitted poems will be evaluated anonymously and the names of the poets or their contact information will
not be disclosed to the members of the Selection Committee.
 The contact listed on the entry form will be notified of their poem’s status via e-mail by April 12, 2009.


Kathryn Stripling Byer, NC Poet Laureate
Jon Thompson, Professor, Department of English, NC State University
Greg Dawes, Professor, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, NC State University
Erdag Göknar, Assistant Professor of Turkish Studies, Slavic & Eurasian Studies Dept., Duke University
Joseph Donahue, Senior Lecturing Fellow, Department of English, Duke University
Hatice Örün Öztürk (ATA-NC Representative), Associate Professor, Department of ECE, NC State University


Opening Remarks
Greg Dawes, Professor, Department of Foreign Languages And Literatures, NC State University

Talks on Nâzım Hikmet's life and poetry:
Erdag Göknar, Assistant Professor of Turkish Studies, Slavic & Eurasian Studies Dept., Duke University
Güven Güzeldere, Associate Professor, Philosophy Department, Duke University

Nâzım reading his poetry – a recording of his voice: In Turkish with English translations available

Fazil Say’s Nâzım: An oratorical composition of one of Nâzım’s poems in Turkish with English subtitles

Poetry Reading: Nâzım Hikmet’s poetry in English

Poetry Reading: Selected poems from the entries


A documentary on Nâzım Hikmet's life – In Turkish with English subtitles
Blue Eyed Giant / Mavi Gözlü Dev, directed by Biket Ilhan (2007)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Back in the fall I wrote the words below in my "Here, Where I Am" blog. I think they introduce Glenis Redmond as well as any new comment might, for her coronation as POET OF THE WEEK. Glenis's crown? A wreath of Forsythia--or Yellow Bells. (See "Naming," posted beneath "Footnotes.") Now in the MFA program at Warren Wilson, she is writing poems that deepen our awareness of our shared cultures and our place in this "place" we call home.

"Footnotes" closes out the fall issue of APPALACHIAN HERITAGE, and I will have to give five-star credit to editor George Brosi for that decision, because the poem is, in addition to being a stunner, a piece that lingers in your mind long after you've closed the magazine. Glenis, well-known as a performance poet, has been honing her poetic skills and expanding her poetic territory over the past few years. In "Footnotes," she brings a world near-gone back to us. Here i can find a word like "tote" and remember my grandfather using it, so many years ago. Who uses that word anymore? Glenis brings it back from that "silent edge" over which so much might disappear if we did not have our poets to bring it back to us.


Where does history go
when it hasn’t been tended?
I say it grows wild amongst
the Periwinkle, the Turkey-foot fern
and my mind. There it is
right along side my heavy heart
like that mass of stones left on a hill
the only remnants left of the Kingdom
speaking of mountain royalty,
King Robert and Queen Louella
leased for ten cents a day
by a Civil War widow, named Serpta.
Their rule over 200 acres
of chopping, hauling and toting.
I understand this urgency
the need of self-appointment.
I hear it in the restless wind on the ridge
or are those ancestral voices crying out
about the uneasy quilt stitch heresay
of their lives being left to myth and lore?
Where does history go when it dies?
When corn cribs and makeshift houses
no longer riddle the mountain slopes
and forty years of hands culling
Comfrey into a healing balm
along with Gospel Songs cease.
This silent edge is where I live
filled with heartache remembering history
and where it goes without a foothold.

When I heard Glenis read the following poem at the last spring's Asheville Wordfest celebration, I knew I wanted to keep it! And so I did! This villanelle about forsythia is still singing inside my head.


I tell mom Forsythia is blooming in the neighbor’s yard.
She says, For-sith-a-what? I say, a golden bush burning like a fire.
She says, we call them Yellow Bell the other word is too hard.

The proper name pricks her tongue like a useless shard.
Her folklore lessons unfold like the bush that inspires.
I tell mom Forsythia is blooming in the neighbor’s yard.

The golden leaves aflame enchanting the heart of a bard.
She says, For-sith-a-what? I say, a golden bush burning like a fire.
She says, we call them Yellow Bell the other word is too hard.

Her looking back always carries me like a river forward.
The balm of her history flows from the heart without tire.
I tell mom Forsythia is blooming in the neighbor’s yard.

She listens, retrieves her past memories unmarred.
She’s still entranced by this bright beckoning spire.
She says, we call them Yellow Bell the other word is too hard.

Foreign words anguish her tongue and leave it scarred.
Yet her simple words heal and lift me gently higher.
I tell mom Forsythia is blooming in the neighbor’s yard.
She says, we call them Yellow Bell the other word is too hard.

Glenis's new book of poetry, Under the Sun, was published in 2008.


poems by
Glenis Redmond
Main Street Rag Books
ISBN 13: 978-1-59948-133-3
140 pages, $14.95

Glenis is a 2005-2006 North Carolina Arts Council Literary Award recipient and a Denny C. Plattner Award winner for Outstanding Poetry sponsored by the Appalachian Heritage. She has been inducted in the Mt. Xpress' Hall of Fame for Best Poet in Western North Carolina after winning for over seven years. She is a Kennedy Teaching Artist and her work has aired on National Public Radio. She is a past winner of the Southern Fried Slam and a finalist of National Poetry Slam.

She has been published most recently in Meridians, African Voices, EMRYS, The Asheville Poetry Review, 2006 Kakalak: A Journal of Carolina Poets, Appalachian Heritage and the Appalachian Journal. Glenis is a native of Greenville, South Carolina. She currently resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her twin daughters Amber and Celeste.


For more about the new book, go to

Six poems by Glenis Redmond


Name every nighttime shadow.
Call them out
from every corner,
every crevice of the past.
Fill yourself with the power
named survival.
Your voice will flower silver
into a circle blooming
of compassionate witnesses,
burning trembling lights.
In the brightness
my voice becomes your voice,
your voice becomes mine.
Together, our voices form
a tight constellation of hope,
a calligraphy written in stars.



I stand at the door reverberating spring
hundreds of quiet mouths pink mouths speaking,
April’s here the month of the poet.
So they too gather blaring hard wrung words
even harder wrung feelings.
Congregations gather to hear hums of love
And richters of sorrow.
Each poem opens the heart.
This is the work of poets and flowers
centerpieces punctuating passages
keeping the door open during death and bliss.
Blooms silent with beauty, bards lit with language
witnessing both joy and grief testifying in full bloom.


A Simple Act

Tribute to Fannie Lou Hamer (1917 - 1977)
There is power in a simple act,
an intelligent step,
overriding the ignorance of labor to no end.
When did her deliverance take hold?
Spirit quaking
sending a wave through the whisper of the song
she sang,
we’ve come to know so well.
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine.
On that day, what was the particular?
Was it the white-hot summer sun
or one piece of cotton
adding up to one too many on her back?
Adding fuel to a spirit
ready to jump free of the land
that tied her by slight of hand.
Was it the wisdom of God?
I believe it was
singing to her bones
humming a freedom she only dreamed but never knew.
She became a vessel full of the Holy Ghost
or ghosts of ancient sisters and brothers singing.
It is time sistah, keep the faith, rise.
She could have remained planted there,
her heart and spirit yoked like solid mounds.
Instead the burning bush came to her in the field.
Turned her into the Rock of Gibraltar, moving,
wrestling with fate in downtown doors
leading to white marbled halls—
ready to vote
take pass any test
cross the line
Where God done signed her name.


for Katie Latimore’s  Birthday, 101
Staring into Katie Latimore’s eyes
I go straight into heaven,
rest in a blueness not here on earth.
With her I feel a certain mercy
I have never known.
She who grew hollyhocks, hibiscus, hydrangeas
and drew every stray cat in the county.
She who when not pickin’ cotton,
grew vegetables in her yard,
fished in her spare time.
Rachel’s daughter,
her mother born a slave,
bore sixteen children.
She in those desperate
dangerous times
held aspirations beyond the third grade
but never made it to that one-room schoolhouse.
Her knowledge was of another understanding,
a candle lit by the Almighty.
When I am wise I sit there and study her blue flame.
She smoked her Winston 100’s,
inhaled a little,
letting the ash grow
until it fell like withered dreams beneath her feet.
She drank her Coca-Cola like medicine,
loved her potatoes sweet.
She made me thru my mother
thru and thru ‘til
I am what I am
which is why even now,
I have a penchant for all things old;
never been particular about the new.
It is why I gave birth to two incredibly old women. 
I called them the Delaney sisters.  
They came that way.
It is their spirit not their age.  
She, my mother’s mother, I am not calling a saint
but is there anybody living who would want to walk in her shoes?
She has earned the glory of these words,
any respite they might bring.
She with her jet black ambition
tied to her hands,
her running feet
running thru cane fields,
cotton fields
always somebody else’s
sharecropped land.
She deserves to run,
fight, do battle no more.
Lay it all down by the riverside.
But she is in the nursing home
with a fire, a rage burning bright.
I know because sometimes,
she won’t let no white hand touch her.
When I leave there, She whispers,
“Loves everybody, Chile,
no matter how black,
how blue,
how brown,
or how white,
loves everybody.”
For in those times
she was running water
clear, clean in that ingrown South
where revolution never happened,
not even now.
She was
IS the point of my inspiration,
showing me the revolution
is in staying alive.
I don’t know what happened to her
101 years of living in the south.
I only know
She is closer to God
than anyone I have ever known.
Coming from a shattered past,
imagine heartache after heartache,
outlasting the death of almost everyone,
lasting 101 years of living.
What are we gonna say
to that black woman?
We gonna look around pretend she not there?
What we gonna say to 101 years
of having no monuments erected in her name?
The only thing resurrected daily was the struggle and the fight.
What we gonna say to all those years of living?
If we want to be well,
we sit down and listen
with more than our ears.


The Unbearable Heat of South Carolina
for Langston Hughes

When I get to be a poet
I am going to pen poems
about the unbearable heat of South Carolina
and I am gonna put the color of the Carolina sky in it,
that perfect tint of springtime blue
wafting the perfume breeze of the yellow Jasmine,
calling to the Carolina Wren to rise.
And I am going put the frilly froof of the Mimosa in it
and thick generous Magnolia blooms
and the magenta of the Crepe Myrtle
trying to reach its [apostrophe out] twisted sister,
lavender Wisteria turning on its vine.
And I will talk of cotton,
corn and tobacco, too.
But mostly cotton.
And of those crooked tree trunk fingers
that picked the fabric of our lives
and how those large plantation foundations
were laid firm on humped and curved backs.
And I will put some gospel songs in it,
laced with the fire of West African chants,
singing of how these haunted beauties
dwarfed the shotgun shacks
next to sharecropped fields and factory mills.
And I will write down the chain
of broken black white people making a living on prayers--
Whispering the words, get by anyway you can.
And I will stand next to this quiet Palmetto faith
and understand the thunderstorms of the past grounded in red clay.
And I will release my own prayers of gravity
and hold tight to the belief
they will rise like the morning sun
and the nighttime crescent moon.
I will stand fast to the faith that carries my pen across blank pages
and I will sweat strong sweltering lines
of both celebration and woe
when I get to be a poet
and pen poems
of the unbearable heat of South Carolina.      

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sebastian Matthews: A Poem on the 50th Day of Barack Obama's Presidency

(Asheville WordFest organizers Laura Hope-Gill and Sebastian Matthews are bringing together poets from a variety of traditions. Photo by Anne Fitten Glenn. More about Wordfest 2009 will appear on this blog next month.)

Sebastian Matthews read this poem at the Inauguration Day celebration at UNC-A on the evening of January 20. After a glut of Inauguration Day poems filling cyberspace, I decided to wait to post this one on the 50th day of Obama's presidency.

In a Time Before Cell Phones

In a time before cell phones we hiked
to mountaintops unadorned with cell towers

and never once thought to check our emails
or text a friend “What a view!”

We moved along city streets freely, arms loose
at our sides, fingers splayed, gazing out

at the newly powerwashed world in wonder
not gliding on the mind’s traveling sidewalk

or leaving desperate messages to old friends
in faraway places. In a time before cell phones,

grips free, we’d loft avocados and grapefruit
stallside and pet old cats as they yawned in Spanish

on the democratic stoop, and meet by coincidence,
embracing and kissing in the tired dust of public garages

while reciting random Whitman, or at cafes
with long bars dimpled with invisible grief

as Piaf or Hank Williams croon out of radios.
In a time before cell phones we had to shout out

or turn to a stranger for the time, or simply
remain rooted in our spots as the singing moment

ran its fierce course over our stippled skin.
We could only call for help and those cries, often,

were left unheard. In the time before cell phones
we were identified by our broadcasting voices’

maladjusted gait and secret handshakes changing daily,
no t-shirts to announce our affinities.

When we crashed our automobiles we waited
for roadside assistance and lost our way stepping off

the curb, and fell into reversible comas
while waiting out ringtones. At public performances

and in the classroom or waiting in line for food,
we slept soundly in the dead spaces—in the dark

of day, leaning against each other for warmth
or affection and woke to the teacher’s voice,

inconvenient lover’s, light spattering window screens
or someone saying “Next in line, please”

and we knew that meant us. In the time before
a time before cell phones, films were shown in large halls

with hatted men and bejeweled women smoking in the dark,
alone together, and the movie came to us in a cone

of light laced in dust. We came in whenever we wanted,
sure we’d get around to the next scene of our lives,

and departed hopeful that whoever just called
in our empty room of memory would surely call back.

---Sebastian Matthews

Monday, March 9, 2009


(At the annual NCETA convention in Winston-Salem last October: the three High School Poet Laureate Winners: from left Anuja Acharya, Katherine Indermaur, and Sarah Bruce.)

The North Carolina English Teachers Association sponsors three writing awards for students. The deadline for entries is April 15, so it's time for teachers to begin encouraging students to polish the poems, prose, and short fiction they've already written--or write something new!--that their schools may enter for these awards. To find out more about the awards, please go to and click on the student awards link for entry forms and contest guidelines. The guidelines for the Student Poet Laureate Awards may be found on the side bar of this blog.

(JOHN YORK, former English Teacher of the Year, at the NCETA banquet)

In the fall of 2007, my family and I helped endow a new award through the NC English Teachers Association, the North Carolina Student Poet Laureate Awards for both high school and middle school students. I felt that poetry needed a special award to take its place beside the Wade Edwards Fiction Award and the essay awards handed out every year at the NCETA annual convention. The current state Poet Laureate will serve each year as final judge in the two categories, selecting the students who will serve as our Student Poetry Ambassadors until the following year. Students are invited to submit, through their teachers, their poems, which a member of NCETA will read, in order to make final recommendations to the current Laureate. This past year my preliminary reader was John York, whose splendid poem, "Naming the Constellations," won the 2008 NC Poetry Society's Poet Laureate award and was featured on this blog. He will again serve as preliminary reader, offering his recommendations to me.

John and I were delighted to be able to give the 2008 Laureate award to "Downtown After Dark" by Katherine Indermaur, Honorable Mention to "Death by Chocolate," by Anuja Acharya, and a Special Commendation to "yellow" by Sarah Bruce. All three students were nominated by Priscilla Chappell at Enloe High School in Raleigh and all three spoke of how much Ms. Chappell had opened up the world of poetry to them. We at NCETA and the Arts Council are excited about this new award and the excellent poetry these three young women have given us. We did not have enough entries for middle schoolers last year to have a real competition in that category. THIS YEAR we hope to have many more submissions from both levels.

(Our first NC Student Poet Laureate, Katherine Indermaur, with her mother, after the NCETA Awards banquet.)

(Our Honorable Mention winner, Anuja Acharya with her parents.)

(Judges Special Commendation winner Sarah Bruce with her parents.)


Friday, March 6, 2009

POETRY OUT LOUD : The Final Countdown

The big literary event this past weekend was the finals of the statewide Poetry Out Loud competition, held in Raleigh at the NC Museum of Art. This is the first year I haven't been able to attend, and I feel downcast that I missed what was obviously an exciting event. Each year the number of participants has grown; this year the number of high schools represented across the state was twenty-nine, well above last year's total. Mimi Herman, the coordinator of the competition (as well as being a fine poet and fiction writer) was thrilled with the turn-out. Poetry recitation, as she says, is a way of falling in love with a poem and with poetry.

(Mimi Herman)

The press release from the NC Arts Council follows, and the poems chosen to recite by the winner, Nadia Nasir, can be found on the Poetry Out Loud website. Congratulations to all the finalists and to the top three winners. Everyone received congratulatory prizes, including books by various NC poets.

To view a video clip of the winner, use this link:

I know well from past competitions how close the results can be, so I send special congratulations to those not named as winner. Having been a judge for two years, I can tell you it's not an easy job to assign numbers to a student's presentation of a poem. If you have not graduated next year, try again. After all, last year Sarah Tramper of Cherokee, who dazzled us with her presentations and was declared runner-up by a very slim margin, was a "repeat." She would tell you "Don't Give Up." And don't give up on reading and reciting poetry!

(Sarah Tramper performs her winning recitations at Southwestern Community College. She was also invited to perform at WCU's Literary Festival and Asheville Wordfest. So, being a runner-up has its rewards!)

You may go to to find more about more the competition and the poetry available for recitation. Astonishingly enough, our resident genius and former Poet Laureate Fred Chappell is not included on the list. A message to the national Poetry Out Loud committtee: Add Fred Chappell and while you are at it, add more NC poets to your list! Our state is, after all, the State of Poetry. Any doubts about that? Go to our Writers & Books and our ncpoetlaureate blog.

(Nadia Nasir)
Orange County student Nadia Nasir of Cedar Ridge High School of Hillsborough nailed the Poetry Out Loud competition Saturday with her performances of "Snow Day" by Billy Collins; "Blackberrying" by Sylvia Plath; and "O Captain! My Captain!"by Walt Whitman.

Nasir, the first place winner, will be on her way this spring to Washington for the national finals.

"She's fabulous. She's mature. There is a sense of humor lurking just behind her sophistication," says Mimi Herman, the North Carolina Poetry Out Loud coordinator.

"There was tremendous excitement and lots of nerves," says Herman about the competition that pitted 29 state high school students against each other in poetry recitation. "They made us laugh. They made us cry but most of all they amazed us."

The second place winner was Courtney Harms of Pinecrest High School in Moore County and the third place winner was Symone Stukes of Independence High School in Mecklenburg County.

Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud is a national initiative to encourage high school students to memorize and recite poetry while mastering public speaking skills, building self-confidence and learning about their literary heritage.

The semifinals and the final competition were Feb. 28 at the North Carolina Museum of History in the auditorium. Students from private and public schools as far away as Buncombe and Dare County participated in the competition. For the first time, home schooled children participated as well.

Students first participate at the school level. Winners from the schools advance to the state level competition. Winners at the state level receive $200 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the national championship. State winners' schools also receive a $500 stipend to be used for purchasing poetry books. The runners-up at the state level receive $100, with their school receiving a $200 stipend for buying poetry books.

The NEA plans to award more than $50,000 in scholarships and stipends at the national finals for winners and their schools. The 2009 National Finals will be held April 28 in Washington, D.C.

Contact Bridgette A. Lacy at (919) 807-6520.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

WORDS, WONDERFUL WORDS at Cartoogechaye Elementary School

On January 29, I spent a lively evening outside Franklin, NC, at Cartoogechaye Elementary School, Home of the Bears! I didn't see any bears that night, but I did see young students and parents engaged in Macon County Schools' efforts to encourage literacy and a love of reading. Diane Cotton, the county literacy director, understands that literacy is a family affair. Students whose parents are involved in their education learn faster and stay engaged in their studies, particularly reading, as they mature.

Diane Cotton had left a comment on one of my blogposts about this event, and after exchanging emails, she invited me to attend. Tip to teachers: I love receiving comments from you and your students, and I will do my best to respond in ways that I hope will be useful.

I arrived at the school early enough to help set up the snack table at the entrance to the lunchroom where the Readers' Theater was to perform. Words are wonderful, but so are cookies and Juicy-juice on a cold winter night.

After a welcome by Carol Bowen, I read my "Piece of Cake" Laureate poem and talked about how good words can taste. Around the room I could see students holding placards with words on them. One little boy stood close by, a shock of blond hair falling over his forehead. He held the word IRATE. "Are you irate?" I asked him. He grinned. He definitely was NOT irate.

All these words scattered around the lunchroom! What was happening? The Words walked to the front of the room, searching for their proper places, and the Readers' Theater, under the direction of Nancy Reeder, a local educator and storyteller, began. The title of the production? "Big Words for Little People," written by Jamie Lee Curtis, with both students and parents performing.

(Nancy Reeder introduces the production.)

Here's the text of the presentation:

for Little People
Written by Jamie Lee Curtis
Illustrated by Laura Cornell

I know some Big Words. I’ll teach them to you.
Although you are small, you can use Big Words too.

BIG WORDS aren’t scary. They’re big fun to learn.
I was taught once and now it’s your turn.

If you need some time to just be alone, for doing weird dancing,
to sit still as a stone, if someone is there and you need to pee,
then say loud and clear:

“Hey I need PRIVACY!

When Mommy can’t fasten the brand-new car seat,
and the twins don’t like what they got to eat---
“This is IMPOSSIBLE Mom says to us. “Please!”
We can’t leave for school till you help find the keys.”

If you answer right when you spell a Big Word,
your teacher might shout,
And then you can CELEBRATE---laugh and have fun---
‘cause you’ve worked really hard to get the job done.

When you are at school and you get into trouble for chewing your gum,
then exploding a bubble, and you stay inside when your friends get to play,
your CONSEQUENCE is no recess that day.

When Dad takes us shopping to buy new shoes,
and all of us shout, “This one I choose!”
and the salesman looks angry—he’s pretty IRATE---
Dad wants us to behave and COOPERATE.

When something is perfectly right for your age,
like TV and music, toys are the rage,
when a G-rated movie’s the one that you seek,
APPROPRIATE is the word Mom will speak.
But many things are too old for you
that lots of your friends may still get to do.
INAPPROPRIATE is the word our mom picks
if you want to watch PG-13 when you’re six.

When you wait and you wait for your chance at a turn
and your feet are both hot and are starting to burn
and there’s still a long way to the front of the line,
PATIENCE is the word you must try to find.

Mixing stuff up from the kitchen to drink
that looks really gross and has a big stink,
as our green-snotted brother’s nose starts to get picked--- “DISGUSTING!”
you’d cry. (It means yucky and ick!)

To understand means you know when we say,
“A street is for cars! It’s not safe to play!”
You understand cows make milk and not juice,
that you don’t run on “Duck” but you do run on “Goose.”

INCONSIDERATE is the word Dad would pick if you woke up Mom when she’s feeling sick. But if you brought her a flower and tea a CONSIDERATE person is what he would see.
I’m RESPONSIBLE,” you’d say when you pick up your toys
and walk our dog, Leo, and try not to make noise.
Responsible people try not to forget to water Mom’s bonsai
or the table to set.

PERSEVERE is to try and to try, even though you might want to give up and cry. When doing a puzzle that puzzles your mind,
you persevere till the right piece you find.

DIFFERENT means nobody’s ever the same.
All bodies are different and so are all brains.
Different is what makes this world so great.
Different is never something you hate.

But not all Big Words are as long as the rest. There are three--- though short---- that I love the best. FAMILY is where we all belong, keeping us safe, making us strong. Family is yours, no matter—whatever!--- we care about you forever and ever.
RESPECT is the way we all treat each other—mother to father, father to mother, brother to sister, sister to brother, and brother and sister and sister and sister and brother…

Love is the biggest BIG word of all. Four little letters that help you walk tall. Love is your family, your siblings, your friends. Love is your ocean without any end.

See Big Words are easy. How well you’ve done!
Now go off and have some really great fun.
And next time a grown-up thinks you don’t have sense,
show them with Big Words your INTELLIGENCE!

After the production, Nancy attached all the "big words" to the wall, after which parents and students chose two break-out sessions to attend. I chose "The Boy Who Loved Words," read by Katharine Brown. The main character Selig collects words, because his mission is to bestow his word wealth on others. Ms. Brown introduced us to several strategies for vocabulary comprehension. She was an expressive reader, and I found mysel hanging on every WORD.

My second session revolved around computer graphics to encourage learning. Here's the jist of it: Donovan has a word jar that's filled to overflowing, and he doesn't know what to do with his special words. The audience heard the story, then was treated to activites to do with words on the internet. Afterward, the students chose their own word jars to take home and fill with favorite words.

(Parents and children listen to "Donovan's Wordjar" and teacher advice for encouraging literacy.)

At the evening's end, students were able to choose a free book and goodie bags for each family. Family Literacy Night is a great idea, drawing together teachers, librarians, parents, and students. I hope all schools will begin scheduling these events. Yes, they require planning and a lot of volunteer work, but they serve a crucial purpose for our children. And, even better, they can be fun!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Cowboy Boots at NCCAT!

(Just look at that toe on these red boots? I want a pair, and who cares about blisters! )

As part of my "spiel" for last week's seminar at the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching was a suggestion for using the renga, a collaborative poetry form, in the classroom. Why not try it now, I enthused, even though we didn't have much time left. Each of us began with 3 lines, passed our paper to the left, so that the person next to us could add 2 lines based on ours, and so forth--3-2-3-2. Of course we didn't have enough time to finish. Here is how the renga I began ended up when we had to break for lunch. (I'd just been telling them about wearing cowboy boots to a gathering of k-4 students at Iron Station Elementary a few years back.) You may go my posts on the renga and how to use it in the classroom--just scroll down the list of posts till you find them.

Cowboy Boots

Cowboy boots
rubbed blisters ripe as plums
on my feet

and by damn did I walk funny
for days afterward

dog caught me weak
dragged me down
where the neighbor took a peek

no, not peeking just looking
making medicine from weeds
healing the heels

why won't new boots come broken in
or come with a blister discount coupon of 20 % off

why don't cowboy boots
open up the wild west where we can roam
free as our imaginations let us?

I won't identify the teachers or writers who added their lines to this brilliant poem; the beginning and end are mine,
for which I take full responsibility!