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.




Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MY LAST DAY AS NC'S POET LAUREATE



(Dancing to the Music!)


My term as North Carolina's Poet Laureate officially ends at midnight tonight. The four years I've spent trying to represent our state's writers and readers have been full to overflowing. And no wonder. North Carolina is brimful with writers, as we all know, but even better, it is full of people who want to be a part of this literary community, people who work hard to keep it alive. I've tried to do my job as best as I could, but I leave frustrated by what remains to be done and how difficult these tasks become in the wake of our financial crisis. How long before we have another Laureate? Who knows. I hope it's not more than a year. In the meantime, I will continue to keep this blog going, and as always, I welcome your comments, suggestions, and your own poems and prose.

One of my good friends, Newt Smith, of the WCU English Department, spends his last day as a WCU employee today, too. I was asked to write a retirement poem for him, so I'm posting it today, one of my last "assignments," one that I enjoyed to the max! Newt and I worked together for a number of years in the English Department. The "cubicle" I mention in the poem does not refer to the laureateship! It refers to the tiny, tiny office I occupied for years as Poet-in-Residence at WCU. "Retard" is a play on how folks in the mountains pronounce certain words like stairs and retired. I have always thought "climbing the stars" sounded so much more poetic than climbing the stairs!

The doris in the poem is my friend doris davenport, whose work has been featured on both my blogs. Look her up.

As for Ghost Dogs, I didn't make that up. There are books about these manifestations, several of which have been published by Blair Publishers in Winston-Salem. Here is a brief description of Ghost Dogs of the South. (Blair)

Dog ghosts (dogs that have become ghosts), ghost dogs (humans who return as ghosts in the shape of dogs), dogs that see ghosts, dogs that are afraid of ghosts--all make an appearance in these twenty stories that illuminate the shadow side of man's best friend.

So, you can see this last occasional poem pulled in a lot of material. Why shouldn't a poem cast as wide a net as it wants? Spread its roots as deeply as it needs to spread them?



(Yellow Retro Roots, by Cindy Davis)




(Newt)


Retard

For Newt

Once I heard a woman,
when asked in downtown Sylva
how her husband was doing,
say, “Why, honey, he’s
retard.” I knew what she meant
and your neighbor Mildred when she said,
“I’m going to climb up the stars.”
That’s called climbing the Retard Track,

not the Tenure Track. Just imagine,
Newt, now you too can
climb up the stars. Or
spend all day doing
The Dawg, as our friend doris
calls it. I saw her do it
at Wordfest, at the Smoky Mountains
Bookfair, after Obama
won. (She sent me a jpg.) If you had
to think every day about tenure,
you wouldn’t be caught dead
Doin’ the Dawg. But now, dearest
Newt, you can do it
till the proverbial cows come
home, if your back doesn’t
give up the Ghost Dog and bring
you down. Just do The Dawg long
enough to feel like you’re really
and truly Retard, and then sit yourself

down, have a beer, look at the sky.
Listen to birds. Did we ever believe
they were out there when we had to work
in our cubicles? Don’t get get me
started on clouds. How they keep moving
on to another place, sort of like being
Retard. The sky’s a big dance floor.
The clouds like it like that!
They said to tell you,
my friend, that you’ll like it too.



(doris)

17 comments:

Vicki Lane said...

Love the poem -- love the image of climbing the stars!

You have been a magnificent, pro-active poet laureate.

Brava! Have some champagne, out under your tree. Listen to the birds.

Poet laureates may be retard but poets?

Never.

Glenda said...

Yes, vicki, Kay has been the most mgnificent poet laureate.
I am proud she is a member of Netwest, that she will take on the leadership of Netwest in September, and all of us who know and love her can feel satisfied that, as the first woman poet laureate of NC, she rates at the top. We are appreciative of all the work she has done to raise awareness of poetry and that she brought poetry to many in schools who would not have known the joy of writing, reciting, and reading their verses with pride.
Thank you , Kathryn, for making us proud.

Julie said...

You will never retar! I love the poem. Us folks raised on the NC coast say that, too. The last name Styron is also pronounced Starn. Hee hee.

I'm glad you're keeping your blog going. I really enjoy it. Yes, do celebrate all of your many accomplishments! I've been telling my British friends about you. They have their first woman poet laureate now. You are an awesome poet. Thank you for your work!

Kaye Barley said...

LOVE the poem!!!

and I love the thought of climbing the stars when I'm finally able to be a retard my own dernself (if ever!).

And I'm especially glad you're keeping this blog going. It's part of my day I look forward to.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Vicki, Glenda, Julie, and Kaye, thanks so much for the great send-off comments! Go to Julie's blog, by the way. You'll enjoy it. I plan to post some of her work on mine, as soon as I get all the cabbage put away!
How interesting that coastal folks pronounce this the same way. Regional linguistic connections and differences have always fascinated me.

OBrienJA said...

Ms. Byer,
It made me sad to hear the news from James Hogan that you would be leaving your post as poet Laureate. You were and continue to be a great inspiration to me in my own attempts at poetry. Without your encouragement I don't think I would have continued writing very much poetry. As it is I write more now than I ever have(granted still not any monumental ammount). I thank you sincerely for that encouragement and wish you a happy retirement.
-Jeremy O'Brien

doris diosa said...

(((( Kay! ))))

ohhh -

*you*! i got here a little late, but still, yes. You have been/are a Magnificent Poet Laureate: generous, inclusive, inspiring, encouraging, endlessly creative. Also, second to James Brown only, in being the "hardest working [woman] in show [ the writing]bizness."

So i am triply proud of you, glad for you, yet somehow sad that the post is ending. *Yet* i know you deserve a break

Thank you for including me in this incredible poem and, Newt - Congratulations on being retard. Start a new dance craze: the retard dawg!!! (Ha!)
And one last thing: wish we could have a celebration at Spring St Cafe this evening.: ) With Joyce More too. Hugs, y'all.

Nancy Simpson said...

Thank you Kay for being the perfect NC Poet Laureate, for giving yourself to poetry itself. You have inspired me as a practicing poet for as long as I have known you. For your service to the state, you've earned a real crown.

Hi Newt. C o n g r a t u l a t i o n s. You're earned your retirement from WCU for sure. You have a magical place there on your side of the mountain. Now you're going to wake up every day and do exactly what you choose to do. I hope you'll pull out your old poetry folder and begin to write poems again.

karenh said...

How lucky Newt is to have this poem from you honoring his retarment.

Even though I'm from Georgia, I know what a good laureate you've been. I hope you took Vicki's advice about the champagne.

Looking forward to working with you on the Netwest happenings.

Happy Fourth of July.

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

Kay,
Thank you very much for all the hard work you've done as our NC Poet Laureate. You've done an excellent job and we at NCWN-W appreciate very much your dedication and promotion of the arts and writing in North Carolina. Best wishes for the future and Happy Writing!

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Jeremy, thank you for your comment. For those of you who are my "blog friends," I met Jeremy in a high school class taught by James Hogan, pride of the WCU English Department, and right away knew he was a special person--a reader, poet, and lover of the art of poetry. Jeremy, I hope you keep writing poetry. It's not how much you write but the continuity of the journey.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

dorissima, I will still have this blog to be laureate on. So, it ain't over till it's over! And thank you for putting me in the same comment as James Brown! What a way to go out!

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

P.S., what about the Famous Flames? Are they still around?

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Nancy, Karen, and Brenda Kay, you are part of my poet's community. Thanks so much for your support and good wishes. Kay

Carol @ TheWritersPorch said...

Kaye, you may be retard from being
Poet Laureate of NC, but you will continue to be her wonderful ambassador of poetry and a lifeline to old and new NC writers.
You are so right when you speak of how much incredible talent NC has.
As you are well aware, I am a devout follower of NC authors who truly are right there with those great Mississippi authors! Thank you for doing such a great job in your tenure as Poet Laureate!

Oh and them stars, are tuff for me after breaking a hip, and I work harder now that I'm retard ,than ever before! HA!

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Carole, you don't know how right on your comment is about working harder now that you're "retard." Someone asked me, "Well, what now?" Do you want a list, I replied.
Thanks so much for your good words. I hope your garden is doing ok despite the lack of rain. We are supposed to get some tomorrow. I'm still trying to nurse what's left of my tomatoes back to health.
Just keep on climbling those stars, no matter how hard we have to work at it.

Newt said...

Kay, I have finally sat down long enough to check out my email and found your posting on your Laureate blog site. It was wonderful to have you my dear friend write a tribute to my being retard, but to have all your followers to add their best wishes was more than I expected. Right now I have a house full of my son's family, and soon my daughter and her family will be here. Then we will have a big 4th celebration with Fireworks since Sylva isn't doing it this year.
Next week we have all 4 grandchildren for Cousin Camp followed by a beach trip. Not much time to write YET. But I promise I will send you some. I only have one I wrote to June on June 30 for our 47th anniversary. I will send that separately. Thanks for being such a great Laureate for our state and for being a dear friend.