Welcome to where I am, where my kitchen's always messy, a pot's (or a poet) always about to boil over, a dog is always begging to be fed. Drafts of poems on the counter. Windows filled with leaves. Wind. Clouds moving over the mountains. If you like poetry, books, and music--especially dog howls when a siren unwinds down the hill-- you'll like it here.


MY NEW AUTHOR'S SITE, KATHRYNSTRIPLINGBYER.COM, THAT I MYSELF SET UP THROUGH WEEBLY.COM, IS NOW UP. I HAD FUN CREATING THIS SITE AND WOULD RECOMMEND WEEBLY.COM TO ANYONE INTERESTED IN SETTING UP A WEBSITE. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT MY NEW SITE TO KEEP UP WITH EVENTS RELATED TO MY NEW BOOK.


MY NC POET LAUREATE BLOG, MY LAUREATE'S LASSO, WILL REMAIN UP AS AN ARCHIVE OF NC POETS, GRADES K-INFINITY! I INVITE YOU TO VISIT WHEN YOU FEEL THE NEED TO READ SOME GOOD POEMS.

VISIT MY NEW BLOG, MOUNTAIN WOMAN, WHERE YOU WILL FIND UPDATES ON WHAT'S HAPPENING IN MY KITCHEN, IN THE ENVIRONMENT, IN MY IMAGINATION, IN MY GARDEN, AND AMONG MY MOUNTAIN WOMEN FRIENDS.




Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Another 9/ll Anniversary

Burned out village in MyLai, Vietnam
  • I am writing this on the anniversary of September 11 because I am still trying to answer the question raised by a young Pakistani girl in an article years ago, "Why is an Afghan’s life worth any less than an American’s?"  The easy answer is, of course, that the life any member of the more powerful group is always perceived as worth more than that of a less powerful group.  Growing up in the deep South taught  me that.   Still, I can’t stop asking why, as Americans , we cannot seem to come to terms with the suffering of other groups besides Americans and Israelis. Why, as this anniversary has come and gone for a decade, are we not also recognizing the horrible toll in suffering and death both the Taliban and our own bombs have taken on a poor and oppressed people?  These people too are victims of 9/11.  Many have had their villages destroyed, parents and children killed or maimed by our response to Al Quaeda’s terrorism.  Our government’s acknowledgement of their suffering has been minimal.  "War is hell," W.T. Sherman said or was it Donald Rumsfield, John McCain, and any number of others who are all too ready to engage in that hell?      
    As an answer to the young Pakistani woman’s question, I would like to ask another, Is an Afghan’s life really worth less than an American’s?  Are the members of the Afghan wedding party killed by American bombs worth less than the innocent people killed in the Word Trade Center Attacks?  We all know the answer, don’t we?    

    Well, don’t we?  And if we do, what better way to answer that accusatory question than by memorializing the innocent Afghan civilians killed in the War on Terror, civilians who had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden, mothers, fathers, children, trying to live as best they could, going about their daily routines and celebrations, much like the janitors, and the secretaries, and the stock brokers, the passengers on that clear, sunny morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A CELEBRATION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR AND THE MUSIC OF THE DEEP SOUTH




Growing up in the deep South, I heard a lot of story-telling, on front porches, on the party-line, in kitchens, in beauty shops.   But the singing I heard (outside of church, I mean) was sung by our black neighbors and farm workers.  Background music, I grew up thinking of it, but when my friend, poet doris davenport, scolded me, saying, "We are tired of being background music for white people," I realized she was right, and more important, that I was wrong in thinking of that singing as "background music."  It was, as Evie Shockley sings in her poem, "a background in music. " 
On this day when we celebrate the life and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I remember those voices, how their songs wove their way into my deepest self without my knowing it, and how I am still trying to learn how to harmonize with them.  


   Legato

.”..we sang everything there was to say.”
doris
                                             ---Evie Shockley

---a background in music  (from the new black, Wesleyan U.P.)


Evie












When the bell 
rang out noontime,
they lounged under oak trees
and drank from a mason jar
sweet tea    the taste
of a lemon slice lingering
at stovetops
and wash basins
cradles
and deathbeds
their voices kept
rising and falling 
like wind riffling 
cotton fields  
folding sheets
scrubbing floors,
spinning mayhaw juice
into a red thread
they were all the time
 singing
but we didn't listen
because it was backdrop
to what we sang
back ground
and ground back into
darkest leaf mold
that covered 
the root of our other
life     theirs
with which we never learned
how to harmonize.


Pembroke Magazine, 2012



With Doll, Patsy, and Lois, at a wedding celebration for Lois's son. 





Monday, December 31, 2012

NEW YEAR'S EVE, 2011

Roaming around the yard with my camera, I couldn't let 2011 go and had to photograph the sunset on New Year's Eve last year. The trees stood fast, casting their sarabande of naked limbs against the sky.



 I love how the sun hangs on, throwing all its passionate self into its leavetaking, especially on a day like this, pulling dust, clouds, all shades of the spectrum into its farewell.  The brush and limbs weave a tapestry, an embroidery needing no human handiwork.



The dogs at the door way wonder what the heck I'm doing wandering around in the near dark.  Have I found a cache of bones, a buried secret, an intruder to chase?   Why won't I come back in and scratch their bellies?

I think, too, of the friends we've lost over the past year, caught up now in whatever lies within this glorious light of leavetaking.  Patrick Morris, J.P. Holmes, my dear friend Elizabeth's son, too young to be taken away, Harriette's husband Don, Jean Pittillo,  Richard's Peggy, so many....
        
"Walk in the world for us, " they ask.  And so in this New Year, we set forth.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG

(Trees through the blue glass on my kitchen window sill}
To blog or not to blog, that is the question several of my facebook friends' posts.  Blogging uses up a lot of time, and in the midst of a busy life, not to mention in the midst of late middle age, I feel the urge to blog less than before.
  



Still, here it is, a clear sunny morning at the end of 2012, and I'm sitting in my easy chair looking out at the mountains.  And the trees.  The trees I watch every morning, noon, and evening as they settle into darkness, which now that the solstice has passed, will be shorter and shorter until in July I can look out my bedroom window at trees I dream of climbing, winding my soul around, as I drift off to an early bedtime.
    

 I've tried to write poems about this, the mountains and the trees framed by my windows.  "The magic of windows and doors," as my novelist friend Vicki Lane calls it.  The magic is in the calling. Come here, come here, our windows and doors beckon. Here is darkness falling, here is light rising up, here is your own face in the glass after dark has taken hold.  Your own face through which what is left of outside flows through just enough to haunt, to beckon to you.  Come inside yourself.
       

At the year's turn, we do that, whether we want or not.  Resolutions, what are they but an inner journey into what we believe we desire.  Fewer pounds, more friends, less moralizing and judging each other, including ourselves.  "Help me not to be so mean," a Flannery O'Connor character prays.  I pray the same, that the meanness that so easily seeps into everyday can be kept at bay.
       
Meanwhile the sun journeys across the clear sky, the bare trees shine like silver, and I sit here blogging my way through the short while before noon.
    
       Another lunch to prepare.  Butternut soup,
        turkey sandwiches.
       A glass of wine.
(Winter dawn through my bedroom window)
       Another year's window about to open.
  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Sheaf of Christmas Poems




Going through old computer files yesterday, I found these Christmas poems, originally part of the manuscript that became BLACK SHAWL. I saw Mary in these pieces as being here in the NC mountains rather than being a young girl in Nazareth over 2000 years ago. The reader at LSU Press suggested they be dropped, that they functioned better as a small chapbook of poems to be published later. They've waited ever since. As well as I can remember, they were first printed years ago in a journal whose poetry editor was my friend Janice Townley Moore. The Georgia Journal, I believe was its name. Anyway, here they are again, two days before another Christmas. The photos come from sunsets in S. Georgia and holly bushes, as well as waxing and full moons, here in the mountains.


BLUE

is her color
because it was always the last
thing she saw through

her window before losing
count of the heddle’s
beat. Blue hem

beyond reach, she
dreamed herself
wearing it, skirt flaring

out of the narrow glass
where she saw turning
and turning her own image

till in a swoon
she might gather up into the blue
lap of heaven

the stars and the moon
as if they were no more than
the first fruits of May,

the wild strawberries
she loved to eat as she carried
them home to her table.







AVE



This wind!
She cannot hold her bonnet
against it and lets go
the sashes. A kite of blue
calico sails away over
the fields while a child laughs
and points at the spectacle,
blustery March making light
of her modesty till not a hairpin’s
left clinging, her heavy braids
tumbling like bell-ropes
around her. So here she stands,
skirt swelling forth in its manifold
emptiness, as if she’s come
to the edge of a sea
and hears far out a voice
calling, gull maybe,
though she lives nowhere near
water and she knows her name
is not BEATA.





OH MARIA, MARIS STELLA


what have we made of you,
when you were happy enough to be nursing
your baby, ignoring the tumult of heaven,
the scuffle of shepherd’s feet.
Wise men on camels meant little to you,
their frankincense, myrrh.
You could take it or leave it.

What good would it do you
whose only concern was the milk you felt
slowly beginning to thicken your breasts?
Or the worry that Joseph had not eaten,
you should have brought along more
of your grandmother’s journey-cake,
more of her dried figs and almonds.

No seafarer's daughter, you grew up
to quail at the stories of drowning men
merchants brought back from the sea ports,
for you were no braver than most women.
You liked to think of yourself as a drop
in the Lord’s deep and, save for a scribe’s
error, you might have stayed "stilla maris"
forever. You had no desire to be star

to whom mariners cried out
for centuries, struggling to grab
hold your sleeve as they’re sinking.


YOU SIT


looking out at the straggle
of sheepherders leading their flock
to the hovel where you are still groggy
from childbirth. You wish they would go away,
seek out some other to worship,
for you are too tired to look blessed.
But it is expected of you.
Now and for two thousand years you must
lift up your eyes from your infant
and hear us out, bearing
such words as could almost make you
believe you are beautiful.





JOSEPH



And what of you, Joseph? Still lost in the barn
shadows, stroking your beard
while the curious goats crowd about her,
as if they have already guessed who she is,
not just any poor country girl born

to the tending of livestock. When she calls,
you do not go near.
Is the sight of such bringing forth
more than you fear you can bear?
Not to mention her blood
and the odor of animal everywhere.

All night you stand in the dark stall knowing
your name never crosses
her lips. How much longer before you will go
to her, man enough at last to look
upon God in His baffling dependency?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

LARA TUCKER COTTRELL: BRING JOY



(FOCUS ON) HEALING

When your life
Becomes a butterfly
Resting on a palm--
And all its color
Becomes the moment of your truth--
Then your heartbeat will call your hand to your chest
And you will feel that you have always been loved--

Hear me--
You come into this world
Knowing all the answers--
Here is the time to take them all
And fling them up, up into the sky
Where they fly together--and call themselves home.

What you think about, you bring about.  Bring joy.


from Indicia, by Lara Tucker Cottrell


This is the last poem in Lara's posthumous collection of poems.  The butterfly reminds me of Mahmoud Darwish's image of butterfly, the flinging of all the answers into the sky, of Rainer Maria Rilke, but Lara has made the images her own.  The answers flying, calling themselves home....one of her last visions of joy.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DIAGNOSIS: LARA TUCKER COTTRELL

Lara Tucker Cottrell succumbed to cancer at the age of 45.   One of her most powerful poems, Diagnosis, illuminates her emotional journey after learning of her prognosis.  I love the wildness and sheer determination to live, no matter how long, in this poem.  

DIAGNOSIS

First

The red face of the trees at dusk
Autumn puts it set to stage light
The early nighttime walking
Working like a balm, a cool pallor
I trace the veins of my life
As I pull through the air
Leading like a dancer

Second

Secretly walking in the dark morning
I travel the road as a loner arising suspicions at five thirty am. m. with my wild dogs
The empty fields like barren women
The dress like powerful anvils
Keeping me between the ground and the sky
The cars slow down to peer at us
For I am wired to me, the dogs breathe hard, we
     are all one muscle


Third

I have no time left
Or I have all the time I need
An incandescent, glowing,
Like the moon-washed water of the ocean,
Burning like the tips of the trees in the fall sun.

Fourth

I am balancing in the cold sparkle of the turning season
My life re-handed to me
And I am holding it in my hand
As the sun brings it to light


Fifth

they gave me so many months
I decided many, many years
I said you will die before me
To the doctor and laughed
And he did that itchy-eyed smile
That nervous doctors do

Sixth

And I looked out the window
And my husband held my hand
And the sun got caught in the trees
and it winked at me
And I was still crying, but I was starting again
       inside

Seventh

Because the earth holds me like its love
And there is nothing but air to breathe
And people to love
And my dogs and I went walking in the early
    night
And they smelled the air
And I rubbed up against them
With my glowing, glowing body

Lara Tucker Cottrell,
from Indicia


Because Lara was of Cherokee descent, Wayah the wolf 
must have been with her on these night walks.