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."

Saturday, November 28, 2009


( ) catches the eye right away. Sean Ross's Mask Dancers peer out from the page, as if ready to leap. Ross's paintings invigorate the interior pages where poems, stories, and essays, some translated from the Cherokee language, await the reader, reminding us that the Cherokee people still live in these mountains, painting, writing, telling stories, and passing down their culture as they have always done.

Novelist and poet Robert Conley, now at nearby Western Carolina University as the Sequoyah Distinguished Professor of Cherokee Studies, is the issue's featured author. Years ago I invited Mr. Conley, living at that time in Oklahoma, to be a part of the Visiting Writers Series that I then directed. Everyone liked him so much that we invited him back several times. Now he lives here!

The issue contains a poem by a former student of mine, Debora Kinsland Foerst, the amusing "Settin' Up."

Debora has had her poetry and prose published in The Raleigh News-Observer, Writers and Books on, Kakalak, and numerous other publications and anthologies.

And there's Mary Brown's recipe for apple stack cake! Preceded by her poem in both Cherokee and English.

MariJo Moore's poem closes out the issue.

MariJo ( presents Spirit Speaking Gatherings & Intuitive Consultations and resides in the mountains of western NC, where she is currently working on The Boy With A Tree Growing From His Ear & Other Stories.

Traditional Mysteries Remain Still
(Inspired by the painting “The Booger Dance Interrupted” by Sean J. Ross)

MariJo Moore © 2009

Rattle of old gourd seeds
keeping mysteries intact.
Red bandannas atop white sheets
floating in musical silence, impending beats of drum.

Masked dancers moving
among the senses of imitation,
feigning attacks,
pressing desires, causing women’s laughter.

Old ones draining shadows, gaining
strength from the young.
Young ones gathering wisdom, taking
experience from the old.

Interruption! Masked as righteousness
nevertheless, interruption
cracks in the gourd rattles.

Seeds dispersing
falling onto dismembered grounds.
Going not to water,
germinating into silenced, soiled pauses.

Imitation no longer masked:
Cherokee see, Cherokee do, Cherokee “saved.”
Becoming simply stirrups
loosely attached to the saddles of plenty-costing religion.

But here, painted somewhere
in the darkest dawn of remembrance,
traditions continue and gourds mend.

Rattling of hidden seeds keep mysteries intact.
Colors imitating dance imitating
olden life.
Dance, Boogers, dance!

Note: The Booger Dance of the Eastern Cherokee is interpretive of the reactions to the greed of various invaders. By wearing masks that resemble the invaders, the dancers imitate their actions to lessen the seriousness of the intrusions. Once thought gone due to the Christian religion, the Booger Dance is now being reinstated.

A fine Christmas surprise for family and friends would be a gift subscription to Appalachian Heritage.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Discovering a new poet whose work I really enjoy is like finding the perfect Christmas gift under the tree, something I've been thinking about lately, as the holiday season approaches. Terri Kirby Erickson is such a poet, and her new book of poems would make the perfect for gift for readers on your Christmas gift list. That Terri is a native North Carolinian and published by a Winston-Salem publisher, Press 53, only makes discovering her "more perfect." (Poetic license, there!)

Terri is an award winning poet. Her first poetry collection, Thread Count, was published in 2006. Telling Tales of Dusk was published in 2009 by Press 53. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, literary journals and anthologies, including A Prairie Journal, Blue Fifth Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Dead Mule, JAMA, Muse India, Oak Bend Review, Nibble, Paris Voice, Pisgah Review, Relief, Thieves Jargon, Toasted Cheese, Smoking Poet, Wild Goose Poetry Review and many others. In 2009, she was nominated for a Best of the Net Award and a Pushcart Prize. She has lectured at both the high school and university level, and has conducted numerous poetry workshops. Terri lives in Lewisville, NC . She has a beautiful website and welcomes her readers to visit:

Terri's first book, Thread Count, was published AuthorHouse in 2006

Excerpts from Telling Tales of Dusk( 8.5 x 5.5 paperback, $12.00,

Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s lace dandies up
a ditch, like embroidered hankies
in a farmer’s pocket.

Such tiny seed-pearl petals
seem hand-sewn by
seraphim to their purple

centers—yet they thrive
in common places, fine as tatted
borders, blanket-stitched to burlap.

Papa Never Learned to Read

Granny sat under a shade tree,
fanning herself with corn shucks,

while Papa stood waist-deep in

the river, baptizing. Folks rose up,
sputtering, and waded back to shore—

their sodden dresses and pant legs

heavy against their skin, their souls
light as Easter lilies. “I see no need

for such as that,” Granny said, to

anyone who asked. Still, she read
Papa scripture—the words warmed

by her breath and scattered into his

brain like dandelion seeds—where
once a week, they grew into a sermon.

Washing My Baby’s Hair over the Kitchen Sink

There is the weight of her small, solid head in my hand
and the feel of warm water, sluicing through her hair.
Eyes the soft blue-gray of herons’ wings,
follow my new-mother face, glowing.
Enthralled with each other, we
coo like doves in the milk-
scented air that my baby
breathes out and I

County Fair

Pulled like rotten teeth from the open mouths
of mineshafts, massive pyramids of gleaming
coal dot the landscape of Kanawha County.
Coal dust fine and black as pulverized midnight,
covers everything for miles. Rows of ramshackle
houses kneel by the river like washer women
with their knees in river muck, and jagged
mountains cut the slate-gray sky

to ribbons. But the Kanawha River is long
and winding, and leads to a lone Ferris wheel
rising up from the bottomland, jaunty
as an Easter bonnet. Its rainbow-colored gondolas
call to mind a different tune than the dismal dirges
of Black Lung and White Damp. They carry the sound
of children’s laughter through the ground
and into the mines, like light.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Great Smoky Mountains Book Fair

(High School winners in the Great Smoky Mountains Bookfair Poetry contest: Mandi Dean, Edward Madill, and Nicole Bowers. Photo by Jackie Methven, Smoky Mountain High School, Sylva)

(The teacher on the left is Jennifer Nation, 6th grade teacher from Macon Middle School. The teacher on the right is Angela Pickens, 2nd grade teacher from Cartoogechaye Elementary School. In between are Allan Wolf, Newt Smith, and K. Byer in the rear, and up front are Caitlin, Celeste, and Brooke.)
As part of this year's Biannual Great Smoky Mountains Bookfair, we invited students from Haywood, Macon, Swain, and Jackson to send us poems for our first Bookfair Poetry Contest. Our categories were grades 1-5, 6-8, and high school. We didn't know what to expect. Would we get any poems? What would they be like? What would they be about?

We needn't have worried about the poems. Or the poets. They sent us their poems, our judges Newt Smith and Mary Adams agonized over the rankings, and behold, here are the winners! I know there are other poems in the submissions worthy of attention and enjoyment, though, and I hope to be able to post them in the coming days. We want to thank all the teachers who encouraged their classes to write poems for us, and we send a special thanks to the parents who are raising their children to love language and poetry. I'd also like to thank Newt Smith for his hard work in administering and publicizing the contest.

We announced the winners at our Poetry Alive session with Allan Wolf on Saturday afternoon. It was a blast, a rip, a jazzed-up experience with Allan's high energy presentation. The student poets were not intimidated, though. They all stepped right up and read their poems, not a quaver to be detected in their voices. As Laureate, I introduced each one, beginning with the 1-5 grade group.

Here' is Celeste McCall's winning poem, a praise song for her friend, who loves rice and Chicken (so do I!). Even better, she makes the birds sing when she's around. We all need a friend like this.

Aaliya My Friend

Your eyes are sparkly brown.
Your favorite food is rice and chicken.
Your favorite sport is gymnastics.
Your favorite vegetable is carrots.
Your favorite fruit is apples.

Aaliya, you make birds sing when you are around.
You make everything right.
You make me laugh.

Aaliya, I love you.

By Celeste McCall
Grade 2, Cartoogechaye Elementary School
Parents: J.J. and Leah McCall

(Celeste reads her poem.)

Monika Palestino took as her subject the rose, that much loved subject. I especially admire how she says, "I/want you to/grow until you/get ready to go." Such a lovely poem. And by a 3rd grader. Was I writing poems like this when I was that age? No indeed.


You bloom. You’re
red. You’re pretty
and beautiful
and sometimes
big and wide.

People pick you,
but I don’t. I
want you to
grow until you
get ready to go.

I take the
petals off
the stem. I
put you in
my Bible to
remember you

Monika Palestino
Grade 3, Blue Ridge School
Parents: Vickie and Zeirele Palestino

Second Prize, Grades 1-5

(Monika and Ashley pose for photographs.)

Ashley Foster's Sunshine makes me wake up and see sunshine as if for the first time. That light follows her everywhere, yes, it does, and I love her celebration of this everyday miracle.

Sunshine Everywhere

I love the sun.
You’re with me.

I go,
I just love
morning light.

Ashley Foster
Grade 3, Blue Ridge School
Parents: Stuart Foster and Cindy Stiwinter

Honorable Mention, Grades 1-5

Caitlin Parris is a young poet bound to grow into the real thing. Her poem "Kathy" gives us the memorable details of this memorable woman's life. The ending is one I wish I'd written. Those water droplets dancing over the flowers---wonderful!


I loved to watch her
in her big sunhat,
wiping the sweat
from her face,
kneeling on the ground
like she was praying.

The flowers she planted
were the most beautiful things
I have ever seen.

When she watered them,
the water would dance across them,
the sun shining over them.

Caitlin Parris
Grade 6, Macon Middle School
Parents: Angela and Kevin Jump

First Prize, Grades 6-8

Collaborative poems are fun to write; here's one that knocked our socks off (How do you knock socks off, I wonder? That's a phrase these poets ought to take as their next subject!) Brooke and Allan Wolf had a good time performing this one. Damon couldn't attend.

Under bite-----------------------Under bite
two years ----------------------- three years
Railroad tracks ------------------Metal Mouth
Brace Face---------------------- Tin Grin
Mouth Open--------------------- Stretched a mile
Ow! -----------------------------Ow!
Thread--------------------------- the floss
up, -------------------------------down.
Ow!------------------------------ Ow!
Food stuck------------------------ Tongue it out.
snthsn. ---------------------------snthsn.

Damon Johnson and Brooke Watson
Grade 6, Macon Middle School
Parents: Dennis and Diana Johnson
and Kevin and Dawn Watson

Second Prize, Grades 6-8

Edward Madill will soon give Allan Wolf a run for his poetic money when it comes to bringing a poem alive for an audience. This is a witty, perfectly paced poem that leaves us with a profound sense of what the poet calls "the mystery of life."

Your Mom

Your mom thinks she can talk,
To animals.
Which is cool….
But I still get freaked out,
Especially when she looks at my cat in the eye and
Sincerely asks him
“What’s wrong.”

To this my cat licks himself
(there were a couple of grungy spots).
He saunters over to the litter box and pees.
I smell a whiff of ammonia.
Your mom sulks to the living room couch,
Audubon prints hanging in the

Your mom thinks she can talk,
To animals.
Which is cool….
But every time I see her walk past your “pets”
(The man you keep in the hamster cage,
the woman that lives in that cute miniature house
Out in your front yard,
Or even you—
With your nice nose and your okay figure),
I want to say:

Not only did you confuse the
Piss out of my cat,
But none of us know
What’s going on in your head….
Which is not cool.”

And I still remember that day when you asked:
“Doesn’t everyone’s mommy talk to animals?”
And for show and tell you brought in a poem,
Dictated to your mom by your parakeet.

And all the while
In the background of your house,
People whisper unheard syllables
About the sun, the moon, and the stars
(And maybe
Something about the circle of life,
Our place in the world, and all those questions
That keep us up at night)
To the thinning air,

Near the only window in your house.

Edward Madill
Grade 12, Smoky Mountain High School
Parents: Debbi and Ted Madill

First Prize, Grades 9-12

(Edward Madill receives his check and certificate.)

I was so glad to see a sonnet, a real sonnet among the winners. I've seen too many fourteen liners whose poets call them sonnets when they really don't have any of the sonnet's earmarks. The ear is where the sonnet lives; just listen to the rhythm and rhyme of this poem.

The World’s Music

The noise that’s all around me fills my ears—
The bouncing, laughing, bubbly shrieks of glee.
A cry, a shout, and eyes welled up with tears;
Arpeggios formed in oddest harmony.
The school of bricks that looms two stories tall,
It swallows me into its rooms of chance,
With colors swirled on boards and down the hall,
And waves of voices twirling in their dance.
And when I seek my place of solitude
The trees whisper their stories to the wind.
The grasses sway and sunlight lifts my mood,
While birds sing under skies that have no end.
The music of the world is part of me,
And with it from the world I am now free.

Mandi Dean
Grade 10, Smoky Mountain High School
Parents: Jim and Lisa Dean

Second Prize, Grades 9-12

Nicole Bowers asks some of the most important questions a young woman can ask and she does this without sounding self-pitying. On the contrary she sounds mature and self-aware. Poetry enables her to say "out loud" what so many of us keep silent.

Is it Bad?

Is it bad
That I don’t believe in myself enough to say “that hurt”?

Is it bad
That I can’t say what my brain harbors and locks for days?

Is it bad
That even though on the outside
I am shining,
But so much more is wrong?

Is it bad
That I, a passable and pensive little girl,
Can’t decide what to do
On my own?

Is it bad
That I, even though I try, am still scared out of
My mind to tell how bad
That hurt?

Is it bad
That I, build walls, and block everyone off
To keep them from knowing
How I
Really feel?

Is it bad
That I get jealous,
And want so badly to be

Is it bad
That I could never, even if the world were ending
Could say this out loud?

Is it bad
That I am

Nicole Bowers
Grade 10, Smoky Mountain High School

Honorable Mention, Grades 9-12

Thank you, thank you to the students, teachers and parents who helped make this project a succes!

Friday, November 13, 2009


Michael Chitwood is a free-lance writer and a lecturer at the University of North Carolina. His poetry and fiction have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, The New Republic, Threepenny Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Field, The Georgia Review and numerous other journals. Ohio Review Books has published two books of his poetry--Salt Works (1992) and Whet (1995). His third book, The Weave Room, was published by The University of Chicago Press in the Phoenix Poets series (1998). His collection of essays, Hitting Below the Bible Belt, was published by Down Home Press in 1998. Gospel Road Going, a collection of poems about his native Appalachia, was published in 2002 and was awarded the 2003 Roanoke-Chowan Prize for Poetry. In 2006, he published a collection of essays and short stories called Finishing Touches. His collection of poetry From Whence was released in March 2007 from Louisiana State University Press. Tupelo Press published his book Spill in October of 2007. Spill was named as a finalist for ForeWard magazine’s poetry book of the year and won the 2008 Roanoke-Chowan Prize.

The following poems are from Michael's collection published by LSU Press, From Whence.

At the Wilco with some Founding Fathers

Down the Havoline, Quaker State aisle
goes Jefferson, if his shirt can be believed.
The red stitching over the right pocket
proclaims this man to be a namesake
of the author of the Declaration of Independence
and if you can’t believe a man’s shirt
what are you going to believe?
Hamilton, what a strange coincidence,
doubts aloud that the cashier
cannot access the safe and Franklin,
spook me out, is eyeing the better wines
while recommending the Appalachian spring water.
It’s all here—White Rain hairstyling spray, tic tacs,
flashlights, corn chips and nation-makers.
And now Jefferson, who wanted to be remembered
for penning Virginia’s statute on religious freedom,
says a standing silent prayer over a chili dog
before taking a bite and heading out
through the calibrated doors, he’s nearly six feet I see,
into the republic of Friday morning

Basement Barber

Here were said the words men say.
The oil stove winked its slit black eye;
it knew they did not have their way.

A whitetail made for the edge of the page.
Vitalis came before the talc.
My father’s dark hair began to fade.

Barrelhead Thurman palmed my scalp,
knuckled my ear when he was done
just to hear a little boy yelp.

They rode, hats off, through years of lies
on bus seats the county junked,
out-fished, out-hunted the ones who’d died.

My father’s dark hair began to fade.
The oil stove winked its slit black eye.
It knew he did not have his way.

The dead grow long and beautiful hair.
They have said what they had to say
to stir that basement’s damp, sweet air.

Morning Walk, Holden Beach
for Tom Andrews

Ghost moon in the upper right-hand corner
where we used to write our names—

Is it quiet there, Tom,
adrift from your drift of ashes?

I strike out towards the rising sun,
your blank blue, your murmur in surf

to my right, dunes and salt-blasted beachfronts
to my left. I can still see

the scribblings sand crabs left
in their nightly scurry for the day’s discards.

This page, like all the others, will be erased
soon, but for now there’s a line or two.

The waves unscroll their best bond,
a finish like a mirror under the sandpipers.

You’d like that, I think, text as pure reflection,
no scuff of us to mar the brief recording.

There are no hills here to look to for help
though the ocean seems upgrade at the horizon.

I sing a little under my breath, as the saying goes—
old JT, Dylan, even that God-awful

song about West Virginia where your urn lies,
my honest friend, at Point Pleasant.

The sun’s up now, full, and gulls yuck
at their own stand-up. I smell coffee

and turn, my back to the sun’s hot yolk,
to head for home, following my shadow.

Men Throwing Bricks

The one on the ground lofts two at a time
with just the right lift for them to finish
their rise as the one on the scaffold turns
to accept them like a gift and place them
on the growing stack. They chime slightly
on the catch. You’d have to do this daily,
morning and afternoon, not to marvel.

The One Day

We were behind on the job
so waited out the rain in the pickup.
Because the backhoe would mire
he shouldered the four-foot pipe joints
and brought them to us in the ditch.
The red mud clutched and tugged at his boots
and Bill laughed at his “Swan Lake”
as he fought through, lurching and staggering
when the mud would suddenly let go.
But he kept them coming, lugging the red joints
to us and then slogging back for another
while we slid on the gasket and fit the pipes together.
You can see how, pushing like that, he wound up,
two years later, with the tiny plastic piping of IVs
feeding into both arms and the three drainage tubes
snaking from under the patch on his chest.
His skin was a shade away from being same as the sheet
when I saw him in the ICU,
and he couldn’t have lifted the drinking straw
on the bedside tray.
But that one day he brought two hundred yards of pipe
and even the red earth couldn’t stop him.