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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.      


Teresa said...

Kay, thanks for the introduction to Glenis Redmond. I am writing this comment then going straight to some places where I might find some more of her poems and/or her books. Her work is inspiring. Teresa

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Thanks, Teresa. That's what I hope my "poet of the week" posts do for readers!
How's your own poetry coming? I hope you enter some in the Hikmet competition.