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.




Thursday, November 6, 2008

An Appalachian Songbook



I sit here with my laptop looking out through the fog at the the closest trees, their leaves burning through the mist. The last few days have been busy ones, with a long drive back from Davidson Tuesday night, radio on to NPR stations along the way, excitement building with each state's projections being called. I arrived home just before midnight and Obama's victory statement before the throngs at Grant Park. My husband and I shared a glass of wine, and I celebrated being back home safely, after four days of rejuvenation in Davidson and Charlotte. ( Creative rejuvenation---don't ask me about physical! I spent most of yesterday catching up on my sleep!)

Collaborations with kindred artistic spirits are always rejuvenating, awakening the dormant parts of ourselves that the daily grind has sent underground. This collaboration gathered together an old friend and WCU alumna, soprano Jacquelyn Culpepper (www.jacquelineculpepper.com), pianist Phillip Bush (www.phillipbush.com, me, and composer Kenneth Frazelle (www.kennethfrazelle.com, whose "Appalachian Songbook" we performed, along with piano selections from his "Wildflowers." Well, I didn't perform the music, I read poems in between the sets. We rehearsed all Saturday afternoon, and I came out of the recital hall marveling at how hard musicians work!



The performance itself was spine-tingling, if I do say so myself, but the real engagement with the poetry and music came in the preparations leading up to the program. Weaving poetry, song, and piano into a more or less seamless fabric, and just a day before the performance itself, was challenging and, yes, instructive for me as a poet who is used to walking up to the lectern and doing pretty much what I please with my poetry.

This time I had to weave it into a musical structure, and I had to re-read the poems numerous times, so often that I came to realize that these old poems from "Wildwood Flower" and "Black Shawl" still live for me, and I hope for the audiences who came to hear us perform. Collaborations do that! It's good for writers to take part in them, to join creative forces with musicians, dancers, visual artists and create something new and exciting. Speaking of exciting, having the composer, Kenneth Frazelle on hand for the Davidson performance, was icing on the cake. The Q & A afterward brought out some fascinating information about the composition of these songs. WDAV radio interviewed Jacque, Ken, and Phillip the day before the performance. You can find that interview at this link: http://www.wdav.org/2_134_0.cfm.


(Jacque and me after the Davidson performance)

The Davidson campus was beautiful, the leaves brilliant, many of them spiraling down to the walkways. My room at the guest house had a beautiful quilt framed on the wall. (Vicki, what's the name of this pattern?) The staff at the guest house was gracious beyond words--thank you Kelly and Cissi. I met Jason Koo, the young poet teaching the poetry workshop at the college, and I re-connected with longtime friends Bob Cumming, Lou Green, and Tony Abbot. My friend and former English Dept. colleague Elizabeth Evans, recently moved from Cullowhee to The Pines, prepared an elegant supper for me, after which we had a good visit, something I've missed since her departure.



On Election Day we gathered in Charlotte to give two performances as part of Saint Peter's Episcopal Church's Chamber Music Series. If you go to http://cmsp.wordpress.com/ you will learn about this series set in the beautiful sanctuary of St. Peter's. Ken Frazelle was again present at our evening performance, introducing his compositions before we performed. Talk about goose-bumps! This performance captivated me completely. I think all three of us were in top form that evening. I was swept away by the music. A recording of the event is being prepared for WDAV and as soon as it's available, I will provide the link to it.


(Pianist Phillip Bush)



(Composer Kenneth Frazelle)

An additional treat was meeting Elaine Spallone, the Executive Director of the Chamber Music Series. Jacque and I serendipitously met her at the Italian restaurant where we decided to have lunch between performances. She is also a potter, with a fabulous blog, elainespallonepottery.blogspot.com. I'll be adding her blog to my bloglist.



(Elaine Spallone, after lunch)




(Jacque Culpepper)

I'm slowly coming down from the high of my Davidson/Charlotte experience. I look out my window and see that by now the fog is lifting from the valley. Looks like another beautiful day shaping up here in Cullowhee.

4 comments:

Nancy Simpson said...

Kay, Thanks for sharing your celebration of the connection between poetry and music at Davidson College and at Saint Peter's Episcopal Church. The pictures are beautiful. I wish I could hear the music in the background as I look each picture and not mearly imagine the sounds.

Nancy Simpson

Vicki Lane said...

What a time you've been having! It sounds amazing!

I think the quilt is a pattern called Pineapple Cactus from the Thirties.

Yes, we can! Yes, we did!

James Hogan said...

Kay, forgot to mention this, but the poem you read Sunday night... the one that ends "the wind / only the wind" ... there's a funny story behind that.

Back before we got to know you, Brittany Harrison and I were classmates in Jim's 252 class. Needless to say, we'd both fallen in love with Jim, who was this brilliant, somewhat mysterious, but definitely incredible professor. So, when we found out that our beloved Dr. Byer was married to Quite the Poet Byer, the soon to be Laureate herself, we took a trip late one evening to the downstairs stacks at Hunter Library looking for your books of poetry. We found them, and that poem, the one ending with "the wind" was the first one we read.

The poem took our breath away for many reasons, and we quickly ran upstairs, dug around for a couple of dimes, and made photocopies to keep for our own. Mine stayed tacked up on a bulletin board throughout college, and then made an appearance in my classroom later. It's tucked inside an envelope in a milk box in my attic right now, next to pictures and other knickknacks from those years, and suddenly I have a longing to dig it out and tack it back up again.

--JH

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

James, what a story! I miss you and Brittany, both of you such good poets. Thank you for the letter you left under my windshield wiper. I'm so glad you found Obama electrifying and had the great good luck to hear him. And that I had the good luck to be able to spend some time with you Sun. nite after the performance. The Charlotte gigs went well. Maybe we can bring this to Cullowhee. WDAV is making a cd of the performance, so I'll get one to you when it's ready. K.