For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
HERE, WHERE I AM HAS BEEN NAMED ONE OF THE 30 BEST POETRY BLOGS.
How a Poem Happens: http://www.howapoemhappens.blogspot.com/
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."
Sunday, July 12, 2009
(Susan, with coffee, in Florence, Italy)
I found a promising, what we older writers like to call "emerging," young poet last week. One who will without a doubt become one of the writers we North Carolinians can point to with pride. Turns out I knew her already as the daughter of my friend Tom Kirby-Smith, who taught for years at UNC-Greensboro and is himself a fine poet. I knew that he and his wife Noel Callow, also a poet and UNC-G MFA alumna, had a daughter the same age as ours named Susan, that she had attended Oberlin College, where our daughter spent her first year, but beyond that, I hadn't a clue as to what Susan had been doing over the past decade or so.
Well, I found her, or rather she found me, through a comment she left on Rhett Iseman Trull's "Poet of the Week" post. I tracked her down through her online e-zine, Unmoveable Feast, and emailed her, asking to see some of her work. She responded with a poem I liked a lot, and when I asked if she'd let me use it here, she agreed. After you read Susan's poem, go to www.unmoveablefeast.com and look around. There's plenty to enjoy, so take your time.
Susans says, "Right now I am living in Baton Rouge and completing an MFA at LSU. I met Rhett at a conference and then helped her with Cave Wall for a few issues.
My husband and I are thinking of moving back to North Carolina in a year and I know I'll want to continue to get to know literary communities here. Although I am to try out teaching again this year I have been doing editorial work (The Southern Review) and often daydream about being able to have another editorial job at one of the many fine presses around NC.
Here is a poem-like composition that's more or less about writing poetry."
A girl, a woman really, sits inside staring--
for hours in front of a blank, blank screen
and, eventually, these poems appear.
But she’s not exactly sure they’re poems
Aren’t poems supposed to have images?
Like the girl sitting, on the dirty gray couch,
her face tense as the screen fills with words,
but how mundane they are
and how ordinary the image is—
Can’t she put in something exciting?
Something like a red caterpillar?
The thing now crawls with its hundreds of legs,
shuffles over and sits down next to her,
pokes her with his long spiny tendrils,
willing her engagement now.
She tries to groom him, he’s full of poison,
speak with him, but he only lies.
At long last, she closes the screen--
with a shriek and a puff, he’s vanished away.
The red caterpillar, of course, echoes WC Williams's red wheelbarrow, but what a transformation! Those hundreds of legs, the audacity of that image, poking her, lying to her---how could I resist this poem-like poem? That caterpillar is definitely "emerging"!
I look forward to reading more of Susan's work---soon!
Saturday, July 11, 2009
(Photo by Tom Randolph)
As the state's Poet Laureate, I've been asked to judge quite a few contests, which I enjoy doing, despite the difficulty of settling on winners and rankings. My favorite contest this year has been the one for K-8th Graders in Jefferson County, celebrating Mount Jefferson, the centerpiece of Mount Jefferson State Park. Ranger Tom Randolph invited me to be a part of this project last fall, and I gladly accepted. Expressing our connection to the places we love is one of the most important things we can do, and if we are poets, being able to sing our love is doubly important. Poetry opens the gate into these places, and in doing so, makes us aware of how important they are in our lives. We will be more likely to preserve and protect these places because of what these words have said to us.
These young poets give us the words with which to celebrate Mount Jefferson and the landscape in which it stands. Tom Randolph, the staff at Mt. Jefferson State Park, and the teachers and parents who encouraged the many young students to write poems about their love of Mount Jefferson deserve our thanks. I'd like to suggest that such a project become inspiration for other groups around the state. And a special thanks to Tom Randolph for the spectacular photographs of Mount Jefferson!
Here is Ranger Tom's description of the day when prizes were awarded.
It was a wonderful afternoon for the poets and their families. All three poets read their poems under a clear blue sky up on Mt. Jefferson State Park 4600 above sea level. The poets received their certificates and prizes beneath a green canopy and the bright warm sun. The friends of state parks had sponsored the prizes: a tent, sleeping bag, and a back pack, and we have a commitment of 4 more years of sponsorship. We look forward to expanding the contest in the coming years.
The poetry contest has been ongoing now for 3 years. It was started in 2006 as part of the celebration of Mt. Jefferson's 50th anniversary. Local people years ago were so inspired by this mountain that donated land and money in order to establish a this State Park back in 1956. Today our young poets are still inspired by this mountain and its stories. To date we have received over 1000 poems from students since 2006. Now we are looking forward to our fall poetry contest for students k-6th grade. I personally would like to thank our NC
poet laureate Kathryn Byer for judging our top ten poems from the middle school poets.
An article from the Jefferson County newspaper follows the poems. Let me say that judging these 60 poems was not at all "tedious." It was a pleasure!
Dip below the mountain
Just the sound of near-silent breathing
Reminding you that you're still hearing
Alas! The town's lights begin to flicker on:
Wal-Mart, then McDonald's,
Until the little city is aglow,
Like a star in a faraway universe.
You close your eyes,
Take one last breath of the summer air,
And climb in your car,
Wishing you could take this with you.
Remind yourself that you will visit tomorrow
Explore another path.
Let your mind escape you,
Let it escape the Devil's wrath.
As you drive down the road,
Smiling to yourself,
You turn around for one final look.
The sun now rests on the mountain.
The car reminds you to move on,
Its engine roaring in the warmth.
And you promise yourself that through life,
Though you're gone
You will never forget Mount Jefferson.
the trees and echoes through
the hollow cliff
where I stay
I I could sleep, I would
but I never sleep very much
I am unable
to escape, escape the night
the night they came
the night they came for me
the night the wind howled
but all I could hear was footsteps
all I could see was the light
the light from their lanterns
what I could feel
was my heart pounding,
pounding inside my chest
they pass by me
I will stay here as long
as I have to,
I will stay on this mountain
which will later be called Mount Jefferson.
Its peak floating above the cloud,
its creatures hiding on the trail,
its autumn leaves shown proud,
its every tree has a tale.
Whether it is in a summer fog or a winter shroud,
through its path I love to soar and sail.
It will always draw a crowd.
Mt. Jefferson is loved down to its smallest snail.
From The Jefferson Post, by Jesse Campbell:
Sydney Powell took home third place for her composition which focused on the mountain’s natural environment during seasonal changes. Calli Phipps was the contest’s runner up with her selection which put the reader in the shoes of a runaway slave and Carter Kurtz captured first place for her poem on experiencing a Mt. Jefferson sunset.
In the moments leading up to the presentation, Park Ranger Tom Randolph explained that the goal of the contest was to encourage students to compose poems that reflect on how Mt. Jefferson can serve as a means of inspiration to not only them as writers but to townspeople who donated both land and money to obtain a state park designation for the mountain.
“The park was built on the inspiration of people in Ashe County and you guys are the next generation to carry on that,” Randolph said.
The contest encourages students to think and express ideas about their local community and the natural resources they are stewards of, a press release stated. Each finalist noted that they were inspired to write the poems from the natural scenery and wildlife they observed while visiting the park. “There was just one time when I came up here with my friends that I was sitting on one of the edges of the mountain when I saw the sunlight lighting up everything around me and it was just so nice to see,” Kurtz said.
Other students, Randolph explained, used the park’s connection to the Underground Railroad and the point of view of a runaway slave as inspiration for their creativity.
Phipps stated that she has “always been a constant visitor of Mt. Jefferson” and frequented the mountainous peak with her brother. She also explained that she attempted to gain “insight” on the life of the runaway slave who are believed to have used the mountain’s remote caves as a safe harbor from malevolent bounty hunters. Randolph went on to explain that the poetry contest was created in honor of the park’s 50th anniversary in 2006. The contest is now in its third year and is sponsored by the Friends of North Carolina State Parks. Randolph presented the trio of wordsmiths with certificates of accomplishment along with words of encouragement from North Carolina State Poet Laureate Kathryn Byer.
A poet laureate is a poet who is officially appointed by a government and is often expected to compose poems for state occasions and other government events, Randolph explained. Byer was appointed the top literary position by Gov. Michael Easley in 2005.
Although Byer was unable to attend Monday’s special recognition, she attached words of inspiration to the three finalists’ entries to encourage the rhymesters to continue in their writing endeavors. The three finalists’ literary creations were chosen out of 60 poems that were entered into the contest. Their poems were also three of 10 finalists, Randolph said. Byer was ultimately responsible for the tedious task of choosing the ten finalists for the prestigious recognition.
Since the poem’s conception, over a thousand students have participated in the contest that includes students from kindergarten on up to the eighth grade from all county elementary schools and ACMS.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Charlotte poet Casey Quinn tracked me down a few weeks back to tell me about his websites and his first book of poems. I found the poems in Snapshots of Life to be accessible, often witty, with a deft playfulness, and often poignant, with a lack of pretense in a day when so many poets try to show how clever they are. Three of the poems from his new book follow the biographical and publishing information, and after them, you will find some other testimonials to his work. Casy lives in Charlotte. Take a look at his links.
Casey Quinn is an avid reader of prose and poetry and created Short Story Library in May of 2008 to provide an outlet for many writers to have their work published. When not reading submissions, posting in the writers forum or marketing the magazine, Casey writes his own prose and poetry in addition to non fiction articles and has had over 1,000 pieces of writing in one form or another published in print or online formats.
Casey Quinn’s first poetry collection “Snapshots of Life” was published in April by Salvatore Publishing. The 88 page collection titled, “Snapshots of Life” is the first collection by Casey who has had over one hundred poems published in various print and online journals. Casey is also the editor of the online magazine Short Story Library and ReadMe Publishing.
Salvatore Publishing managing editor Guy Cousins, describes the collection: “American author, Casey Quinn observes the irony of everyday life with a keen eye and razor sharp wit.”
The collection is available from the printer
In addition, “Snapshots of Life” is distributed by Bowkers and can be found in online outlets including Barnes and Nobles, Amazon and Borders in addition to many more.
Publisher: Salvatore Publishing
Short Story Library
to my niece
i had not
i told her
how tall she got,
how grown up she looked,
how smart she seemed.
she told me
how fat i got,
how old i look,
how dumb i am.
it’s really great
to catch up
with the family.
when asked to paint the world
through the eyes
school buildings and
the vision was
and when the last
stroke was done
the canvas on fire
family of strangers
and video games
all of that
that just liked
to hang out
to each other
Review by Marc Schuster, Small Press Reviews
27 May 2009
by Casey Quinn
Perhaps best known as the editor of the free online literary journal, Short Story Library, Casey Quinn has come out with his first full volume of poetry, Snapshots of Life. Throughout this volume, Quinn joyfully charts the borderlands that lie between the mundane and the transcendent while training a sharp eye on the ironies of life. In “my enlightenment,” for example, Quinn communes with the divine while washing his car, and in “i picked at a scab today,” he meditates on the circle of life while, as the title implies, picking at a scab. The verse that appears throughout this collection is neither dense nor especially verbose. Wielding images like blunt objects — the car, the bird, the niece, the scab — Quinn creates poetry that reads like the verbal equivalent of an expressionist painting or a punch to the gut. You read it and get it immediately. Though I wouldn’t quite call this a book of inspirational verse, it does, in fact, tend to inspire even as it draws attention to the less inspirational elements of life. To borrow a metaphor the poet uses in “reality hold ‘em,” we can only play the cards we’re dealt, and Quinn never shies away from this fact. A fine collection of poetry from an insightful poet. - Marc Schuster, Small Press Reviews
Review by Robin Stratton, Boston Literary Magazine
by Casey Quinn
From the moment Casey Quinn humbly introduces Snapshots of Life - “you might just hate it, but here it is” - you can't help but be struck by his exquisite insight into everything from God and bird-poop-induced Enlightenment to the sentimental dynamics between men and women. Every human quirk is here, laid out for your inspection, and it doesn't matter if you like it or not because it's the Truth he's living right now... although that could change at any moment. This compelling browsefest through Quinn's brain will make you laugh and think and wish you could capture the simple and elegant photos of each day with such ease. - Robin Stratton, Boston Literary Magazine
Review by William Haskin, Poet and Editor of AuthorScoop 8 Jun 2009
All too often, book titles are appropos of nothing or are, at best, in only tangential relation to the subject matter they represent. Such is certainly not the case with poet Casey Quinn’s debut collection, Snapshots of Life.
This slim volume of minimalist pieces, like a photo album, offers the reader brief, sometimes fleeting, images of the poet’s experiences—subtle (sometimes deceptively so) as individual poems, but culminating over the course of the collection into a vivid portrait of the artist.
Unlike the camera eye, however, Quinn’s mind’s eye shifts deftly from external observation to expression of the internal. From the baffling complexity of human relationships to core existentialist quandaries, the poet takes us on a journey, while always keeping the path well-lit with accessible images that flow neatly one into another.
There’s a seriousness that pervades the poems without weighing them down, and a wry sense of humor emerges ocassionally to inform some of pieces, such as “i want to be just like John Wayne”, in which the speaker expresses his desire to harness the rugged masculinity of a by-gone era, but not until he’s conformed to the social expectations of a metrosexual gentleman and self-consciously dressed for the part:
i want to be
my mocha latte
i’m going to the salon
and get my hair styled
get some new denim clothes,
a big hat,
and cowboy boots.
i’m going to be
The irony, of course, is that John Wayne, too, was simply playing a part; thus the poet is merely one step further removed from the hyper-masculine ideal he seeks.
Quinn never dwells for too long on any one image or idea. The poems are almost uniformly short, and his lines rarely exceed five words. But there is an energy in the compression of both syntax and image that serves the collection well.
Casey Quinn is a fresh new voice in poetry and, for now, Snapshots of Life will likely earn him a willing audience for his sparse and airy style.
It will be up to him to eventually lead these new fans into deeper waters, where his brevity and drive-by glimpses into 21st-century life can give way to a wider opening of the curtains. Because as nice as snapshots are, the human eye eventually craves a broader vista.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
David Hopes, for whom poetry opens every day to what a writer on NPR radio once called "the light beyond language," sent me this poem yesterday. Who needs fireworks when you have a poem like this? David generously gave me permission to share his poem: enjoy!
INDEPENDENCE DAY, 2009
A day more perfect could hardly–
a day more purely summer-
more moving marble in the heavens,
more green, more cuddled to the
bosom of some more radiant god,
more blue crystal Carolina
could ever– well, you understand.
I will dedicate this day to Allison’s wedding,
where I will wear white,
which is less hilarious than some may think.
A week ago it was Jeff’s funeral,
where I refused to wear black
in my place at the pole
which bore the casket, refused to wear black,
but green instead,
to honor the great wheels turning
even at that moment all around us.
I will go to Allison’s wedding in a white, white shirt
and those white shoes one has for summer,
and the rest of the time
shall cook the two immense zucchinis,
forearm long, forearm thick
(an image a little disturbing
now that I think of it), most recently produced
by the energy of vine and dirt and rain
to make my dinner
on a summer afternoon, before an evening wedding.
when you know the summer Constellations–
oh! wheeling there, and wheeling–
will be as
Fireworks, so slow,
the “Ah!” drawn out into the days of God.
(David Hopes, UNC-A)
Friday, July 3, 2009
Amazing news! This week's NEWSWEEK has a long article on our current Poet Laureate Kay Ryan. (www.newsweek.com/id/204212) It's well-done and introduces readers to a poet with whom I now feel quite a few connections. Although our poetic styles are different, I found myself drawn to her story of teaching for 30 years in an out-of-the way community college and her struggles to get her work published and noticed. We are the same age, too. She published her first works herself, as did I (Search Party and Alma).
I can count on the fingers of one hand the poetry reviews in NEWSWEEK over the many years I've subscribed. Why not drop the magazine an email telling them to give poetry more of attention? The Ryan article has a link to a piece about how poetry has lost readership in the past few years. Maybe one reason is the lack of notice given it by our magazines and newspapers? Listen up, NEWSWEEK.
Here are some quotes from the article by Louisa Thomas.
Ryan has long had an ambivalent relationship with exposure, and she has always resisted change. "I'm eager for stasis," she says, "because I can count on its being disrupted." While some poets thrive on the drama of their own experience and others want to capture the cacophonous world, Ryan probes the cracks and edges in her mind. Out of those crevices, the disruptions in a quiet life, come her poems.
There are high places
that don't invite us,
sharp shapes, glacier-
scraped faces, whole
ranges whose given names
slip off. Any such relation
as we try to make
refuses to take. Some
high lakes are not for us,
some slick escarpments.
I'm giddy with thinking
where thinking can't stick.
At one point Ryan described the words in a poem as a loose net around a swimming fish, invisible except in the flash of its turn. The fish—the secret life—is at once caught and free. "You have to feel that you haven't solved" a poem, she explains. "It refreshes you to return to it. That's a very strange thing about a poem." It can be frustrating, of course, to finish reading and realize you've just begun. Poetry is resistant. In a culture in which the "take-away" is paramount, poetry gives nothing away. You have to look past whatever the poem seems "about" to see what it is. "It's what we can't/know that interests/us," Ryan writes in "Absences and Breaks."
"To read a poem is to be, I don't know, relieved of oneself to some degree," Ryan says. "One of the main things that poetry does is make you feel looser and larger … It does offer us a kind of mental freedom." No sooner has she said this, though, than she catches herself expounding on capital-P Poetry and begins to laugh. Mentioning an article in which the poet Philip Larkin discussed the "importance" of poetry, she cites his response: "My answer is no more valuable than if you asked a beaver about dams." As a friend noted on the back of her self-published volume: writing poetry is just what she does.