THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE. For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
Go to http://www.yourdailypoem.com/, managed with finesse by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, who says, "Our intent is to make visitors to Your Daily Poem aware of the joy and diversity of poetry."
Monday, May 4, 2009
BURKE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY CELEBRATES NATIONAL POETRY MONTH
On April 19, a fine Saturday, with redbuds abloom and gardens burgeoning, I drove over to Morganton for a special poetry event at the Burke County Public Library, one of the loveliest libraries I seen. Our libraries are the the heart of our communities, and being able to visit quite a few of them around our state has made my term as Laureate especially gratifying. This event pulled together four poets: Rand Brandes, Scott Owens, Ted Pope, and me. I'd not seen Rand nor Scott in years, and Ted was an unknown. I was looking forward to meeting him.
The event was spearheaded, in part, by Mindy Evans, whose work has appeared on this blog, as well as in the comments section. Mindy is hoping to further her development as a poet by enrolling in an MFA program. Which one remains a question mark. Any program would be lucky to have her.
Viranya Filipiak, the Adult Program Coordinator for the Burke County Public Library in Morganton,(828-437-5638 Ext.1208--just in case you want to give her a call to thank her for supporting NC poetry) organized the celebration and served as emcee. Here she is at the punch bowl afterward.
I was glad to see my old friends Rand and Scott and meet the kinetic Ted Pope, whose performance was riveting. The four of us made a pretty good team, if I do say so myself. Rand is Martin Luther Stevens Professor of English and Director of the LR Visiting Writers Series at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory. Scott was my POET OF THE WEEK, two weeks ago. Ted has recorded two collections of his poetry performances and performs frequently in Hickory, where there seems to be a lively poetry scene in the making.
In the audience was a novelist with whom I'd communicated only through blogging--Joan Cannon, whose Hilltop Notes is well worth a visit. In the photo of Joan below, you can get a sense of the spaciousness this library offers its patrons. Joan has given me permission to quote in this post one of her brief essays from her blog.
Ted talks with a member of the audience after the reading.
TWO POEMS FROM RAND BRANDES'S READING:
How Little Light is Left
How little light
When all the bulbs
One by one
In a clear sky
On a moonless
For no apparent
The Last Class
I want to leave them, them to leave me
Feeling the poems’ pulsing lines in their veins
Hammering at the forges of their hearts,
But it’s just “Intro. to Poetry” and they’ve already sold
Kinnell and Collins, Hughes and Heaney
For 50 cents each to the college bookstore.
The room has grown silent and sleepy in the late morning
Light. The papers are piled high on my desk,
Titles peeping out like “The Illuminated Blake,”
“Lawrence’s Ladies” or “What’s Eating Plath,”
Not wanting it to end like this I impulsively pull out
“Great Poems Read by the Great Poets Themselves”,
Slip the disc into the slot and hit play: Yeats chants,
Thomas rages, Williams chatters, and then
We come to Kinnell, the last poet, the last poem,
“The Last Gods”— a poem I do not know,
But should have. Suddenly the goddess is spreading
Her legs as the sea surges around the rock
Upon which she lingers, the god wades out to her
Sliding blueberries and blood between her wet lips.
Mortals that we are, we sit silent, embarrassed
By the gift we have been given in communion
In a classroom on a Tuesday in December.
This is what it’s all about, I say, the power
Of words to call forth a love so elemental, so powerful
And profoundly deep, that we must, like Stephen Dedalus
On the strand, exclaim “O’ Profane joy” as the bird girl
Wades forth lifting her dress over ivory thighs.
We have been blessed, I say again, blessed,
So now go study for your final and the real test. ----------------------------
(THE COVER OF ONE OF JOAN CANNON'S NOVELS)
Joan's post of April 9:
ARE MINDLESS TASKS A HELP?
There are some times in your life when you can't keep track--of time, of tasks, of conversations even. There's a group of landscape maintenance workers buzzing and roaring around the house today. Each of them plods or rides along, heads down, eyes ahead like donkeys intent on getting one foot in front of the other. I wonder if their minds are as blank as their faces. Is there some unacknowledged collateral benefit in mindless activity? I'm reasonably sure the answer to that would be a qualified yes. However, surely it must depend on the mind that's unoccupied during the performance of these repetitive, uninspired and uninspiring jobs. The world is so full of them and the people who perform them, it astounds me to think about it.
Right now, I believe that in some circumstances, this half-unconscious trudging from one end of a day to the other might be a blessing. What I can't believe is that a lifetime spent like that can be anything but a curse.
Do you have an Oriental rug? A handmade basket? Even an Aran Island sweater? I knit (I used to knit a lot), but I can't do anything interesting without extreme concentration, and even then, I find mistakes that have to be corrected. How long does it take to get so skilled that you can stop paying attention? If you reach that stage, can the work become a kind of meditation? Try to imagine the hours and days, even years invested in producing beautiful crafts. Is the guy behind the walking mower making up poetry or a protest essay in the din of his machine?
That's the rub for me. I'm trying to make this little piece of disconnected verbiage fill that need for distance. Somehow, writing doesn't seem to fill that bill. A long time ago, there was a man who invented what he called "automatic writing." The name is self-explanatory. It was supposed to be helpful for the mentally ill. That is not what I want to do, not just out of the fear of embarrassment, but because it would be too self-serving and of no interest to a reader.
Maybe when enough time has passed after the loss of the person who was half me, not just mine, I'll find out how to use this craft of putting words on paper (or into the ether). If some day I think I can, maybe that's how I'll know I'm returning. Maybe what I should do is go and prune the pyracantha. It should take a long time.
I've lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since 1968, though I'm a native of SW Georgia. My paternal grandmother was born in the Blue Ridge, and I grew up wanting to live here. Where I am.
I've published five collections of poetry, the most recent 4 being with LSU Press, and have published poetry in magazines ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage. But I also hike, bang pots and pans around in my kitchen, and love several dogs who leave fur all over my carpets. I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.