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Friday, June 26, 2009

POET OF THE WEEK: JANICE TOWNLEY MOORE


Janice Townley Moore at Coffee With the Poets in Hayesville.

Over the years Janice Townley Moore has been working hard at the craft and technique of poetry. She has worked quietly, hardly ever calling attention to herself, but the writers with whom she has studied will attest to her talent and determination. Janice has taught for many years at Young Harris College, in Young Harris, Georgia, while living in Hayesville, NC, just across the state line. She's been instrumental in the renaissance of writing in the Clay County area, leading workshops and giving readings. I've known her since 1979. The attention she is receiving is long overdue, including the recent first prize in Press 53's National Poetry Contest, which I judged, not knowing of course that the three poems I immediately set aside as the creme de la creme were hers.

Here's her official biography:

Janice Townley Moore lives in Hayesville, NC, and is a member of the English faculty at Young Harris College in the North Georgia Mountains. In 2005 she published a chapbook, Teaching the Robins, with Finishing Line Press. Her poems have also appeared in The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, Cortland Review, and Apalachee Review. New work is forthcoming in The Pharos and Main Street Rag. Her work is included in several anthologies: The Bedford Introduction to Literature, The Poets Guide to the Birds, In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare, and Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia. She is actively involved in Netwest and serves as the facilitator for the monthly critique group.

For more about Janice go to Nancy Simpson's blog, Living Above the Frost Line.


Note to the King of Green Lawn Service


Your grass fails to intrigue,
programmed as cloned blades--
bermuda or centipede.
No pleasant wild onion reek,
luck of the four-leafed clover.
Where lies the allure of strawberries,
the first tiny hearts we ate
on a dare for their poison?
No ripe boys roll cigars from weeds
No queens of the May
sit splay-legged, threading clover
stem upon stem for the longest chain.
In your sad sod dandelions remain extinct,
their little parachutes never blown
by children with grass prints on their knees
into the wild green yonder
till our mothers’ voices call us in
across the patchwork giving up its light.



from Appalachian Journal



Supposedly

“The breath goes now, and some say, no:”

--John Donne

In Michigan’s Museum I stop,
startled by a cube of glass
that holds the vial that holds
the final breath
of Thomas Alva Edison.
Who can tell if the air is real,
collected by his son
at Henry Ford’s insistence?
A task of false starts,
in this case endings,
I imagine Charles Edison
on his knees
listening at bedside,
like a doctor pronouncing,
capturing, he thinks, the last
of the genius,
but having to toss out one gasp
for another, and another
before he saves the final wisp,
genie breath, if uncorked
would shatter the cube, the ceiling,
blow the steel roof off this building.



first published in Golden Poetry (Brumby Publications)



Photos From Another State

Whatever room for romping
a wide back seat offered in the Forties
that day ours hosted a picnic.
My father lifted it out, lugged it
from the rhinoceros belly
of our black Desoto.
In the shade by the curving cliff
it became table and bench.
My mother brought forth
sausage left from breakfast
and three oranges like Christmas.
Lyrics from the unseen
creek trickled through laurel.
This was before Alzheimer’s and chemo,
the one time the rhino
with its hood ornament like a horn
reached another state
without needing new parts.
This was after my father
paid a week’s allowance
for my photo with the Indian chief,
arms folded across his chest.
Beside the wigwam
I quivered in white sandals.
On the trip home, in the back seat,
I spied on my father, his hand
making mysterious signals out the window
or pointing at something
I could never see.


first published in Southern Poetry Review


TEACHING THE ROBINS
If it's true what the Chinese say,
souls can filter into birds like those
two robins outside my window,
swooping down. Their feet land
on March's early green
at the same moment I am teaching
Emily Dickison's grief,
my throat more taut from last year's losses
than the students slumped,
sleeping under lowered brims
of their baseball caps.
The robins stare in at me. They listen
to my voice hobbling over "tombs,"
"the feet, mechanical." They watch me
pacing forth and back befhind the panes.
The students sleep on in their numbness
where poetry does not exist
in the lighted arena of their dreams.
I think of all the dead,
how they do not have to worry
about being dead. This morning
life is on the other side of the window
where one robin remains
like an eye coprehending me,
long after the other dies.


Previously published in Prairie Schooner
and included as the title poem of
TEACHING THE ROBINS, 2005



UNDER THE EARTH

Where the road slices
through Needle Gorge
animals of stone
root out of the cliff.

Their snouts, heads, shoulders
bulge from red clay
as if to catch the scent of
ancient water.

Eons piled upon eons
this is the only place
where the mountain lion
will lie with the lamb.

Stacked together,
the buffalo, wild boar,
oxen, the goat
with its grassy beard--

Did they all stop
before they reached
the saving water of the river,
caught in their final breath?

--Janice Townley Moore

Previously published in Southern Humanities Review
and included in TEACHING THE ROBINS

Here is a note from Nancy Simpson, posted on her blog, Living Above the Frostline:

I sometimes feel I know Janice T. Moore's poetry as well as I know my own. We have kept in contact about our writing down through the years. We touch base on the phone. She would sometimes ask, "Have you heard from the editors yet?" I'd say, "I got a rejection from X." She ask, "Anything in the human hand?" We consider it encouragement if an editor writes any kind word on the skimpy Post It size rejection, such as "send again" or even the word, "Sorry."


On the phone one time, I asked Janice where she keeps the poems when she is working on them. That was a long time ago and the place may have changed, but her answer was, "In the kitchen in my cookbook. I always have and still do keep my new and in process poems on a clip board and the clip board goes everywhere with me.

"What are you working on." I asked one day. She said, "Do you know the old road between Hayesville and the Folk School?
I'm working on a poem titled "What Lies Under the Earth." I have some images of huge animals. They're coming out of the bank, heading toward Brasstown Creek. "

"Yes, I've seen them."

She finished the poem, submitted it to Southern Humanities Review and it was quickly selected for publication. Later
UNDER THE EARTH was reprinted in LIGHTS IN THE MOUNTAINS: Stories, Essays and Poems by Writers Living in or Inspired by the Southern Appalachian Mountains (2003) and in Teaching the Robins, Finishing line Press 2005.)
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8 comments:

Nancy Simpson said...

Kay, I enjoyed this post about Janice Townley Moore as Poet of th Week very much. She is one of our best.

Stephen said...

Good to see this work you are doing for North Carolina poetry and for poetry in general. I'm sorry I didn't come across it sooner.

Malaika said...

Gorgeous. Thanks, Kay. "Under the Earth" particularly resonated with me.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Stephen, welcome to my Lasso. I hope you will come back often. Nancy and Malaika, thank you for being among my faithful followers. "Under the Earth" is one of my favorites, too.

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

Janice Moore is one of my favorite poets. I'm glad you selected her as "Poet of the Month." She is an inspiration to all of us and does a fantastic job coordinating our NCWN-W poetry critique group that meets each month at TCCC.

Pat Workman said...

Oh I enjoyed this post. Janice is a great poet. Her work is always a pleasure to read.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Pat and Brenda, so glad you enjoyed this post!

Anonymous said...

Hey Kay, welcome back from San Francisco. Susan Lefler read at the launch of Women's Spaces Women's Places at Accent on Books on July 3 and I had the chance to ask her about your trip. She said you saw The Ring and it was a wonderful experience.
Nancy D.