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.




Friday, June 27, 2008

The Spirits of Place


Two years ago when I was writer-in-residence during fall semester at Appalachian State University, I would stand on my cottage deck and watch the sun go down behind Grandfather Mountain. By then the constant noise of new homes being built on the ridges around me in Blowing Rock had stopped, and I could believe that I was not really standing on a mountainside quickly being turned into a neighborhood of mega-mansions and over the top (sorry about that pun!) development. All through that fall I waited for sundown, the way it lingered over the distant mountains, lingered like a good poem worth remembering for the rest of your life. One evening I took a photograph of it, and just last week, I discovered the roll of film, still undeveloped, in a box of poetry rough drafts.

Karl Jung wrote about synchronicity. Here's my own small bit of testimony to that theory: just a day after the photos came back from CVS, I found on the New York Times online site this ad--

Discover why now is the best timeto purchase property in Western North Carolina.Visit www.GreyRockInvite.com/GuideNYT for your FREE guide to North Carolina Mountain Living.

I was appalled and angry, immediately composing an email I would send to these people telling them that we did not want them sending people down here to do even more damage to our slopes, our water, our quality of life. They could jolly well stay in New York, in Atlanta, in L.A., stay in the places they had already made uninhabitable.

But I've never sent the email. How stop the juggernaut of development that by now has completely overtaken places like Blowing Rock and Boone with one pathetic email? But then, how to respond to it? With a poem? How could a poem or a story possibly matter? Not to mention a letter to the editor.

I've been reading Barry Lopez for several years; he writes that when our interior landscapes are not in harmony with our exterior ones, our lives lack imagination and joy, and consequently, we become dangers to ourselves and the places in which we live. He suggests that story and song, language itself, can help us re-stabilize our sense of balance by helping us name the things we love, assuming that we have not forgotten what those things are.

So, I have been mulling over the importance of names and the way they root us to the places in which we live. The following poem, written for Heartstone journal at Warren Wilson College, begins with a favorite quote from Adrienne Rich.


Last Light

The tests I need to pass are prescribed by the spirits
of place who understand travel but not amnesia.

from “This Is My Third and Last Address to You” --Adrienne Rich

1.

Almost the age when memory falters,
I fear being made to count backward
by seven’s, to answer to date, year, and
Presidents, as if those numbers and names
matter more in the end than this place
where I stand at the same kitchen window,
observing the same pines set swaying by wind,
reaching upward as I’ll reach, come morning,
my arms to the ceiling, breathing the dark out
of body and spirit, exhaling that old dream
of nothingness: laying my head down to sleep.

2.

Now Rocky Face Ridge catches fire
in the last light and, though I can’t hear it
from where I stand, Cullowhee Creek tumbles into
the Tuckaseegee, always unscrolling beneath me
the names I already know. Snowbird.
Buzzards Roost. Weyahutta. Oconaluftee.

. 3.

I don’t know how long names can last
if there’s no one to care where they live.
What I saw on the hairpin curve down from
the Chimney Tops, white as snow, I’ve not forgotten.
Phacelia. And how, on the trail leading
up to the summit of Suncota Ridge,
I saw sauntering toward me a young woman
I could have sworn was the reincarnation of
every spring wildflower ever named anywhere.


4.

Closer she comes to me each April,
as if she means more than I have a lifetime
to know. Roundabout her, her white Easter dress
whispers every thing I want to keep living
here in this valley that cups the last swallow of light,
every name I must reach to remember or else
lose them, hillside by hillside, to darkness.

5 comments:

Vicki Lane said...

Each time I read one of your poems it's as if someone has just handcrafted the perfect gift, knowing me better than I know myself and saying, 'Here . . . I made this for you.'

Thank you, Kay, for sharing your gift with all of us.

Tipper said...

They say you can't stop progress-but it feels like progress is stealing my home.

Really enjoyed the poem-it describes how I feel.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Vicki and Tipper,thank you for your comments on this and several of my other posts. I love hearing from you.
It's raining ---ooops, no it stopped. That's because my husband just went out to retrieve his socks for the second time. He knows better. If he'd left them out to get wet, it would still be raining.

sam of the ten thousand things said...

Enjoyed this poem. Thanks for posting it.

Also, I was very pleased that Felicia included your interview at Blue Fifth Review. It worked so well with that special issue.

GULAHIYI said...

I was very happy to discover your blog today. Ever since I heard you read "Last Light" at Pack Place this spring, I'd been meaning to ask you how I could get a copy. The poem really speaks to me.

You mentioned the Grey Rock development, and I've just learned that they've shut down their sales operations indefinitely for Gray Rock and four of their other "commmunities." That is encouraging news in my book.

If you haven't been to "ruminations", you might enjoy a visit to http://gulahiyi.blogspot.com/

I'm glad to see some good Jackson County blogs coming online.

Thank you so much for sharing your vision of the world, and this place in particular.