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, December 1, 2010

THE GIFT OF POETRY FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Nancy Simpson's "Living Above the Frost Line"


December first and time to begin to think seriously about holiday gift-giving! Over the next two weeks I will be making recommendations for poetry lovers--and for those who think they don't like poetry but will change their minds once they read these books.

I will begin with my longtime friend and sister in the art, Nancy Simpson, whose Living Above the Frost Line: New and Selected Poems was published this fall by Carolina Wren Press. It's a beautiful, elegant book, with French flaps (a shawl-like dust jacket/cover) and cover image that is gorgeous. Just click on the image above to enlarge and see what I mean.



What's inside is even more beautiful, the better part of a poet's lifetime of work, illuminating in its passion for place and, yes, peace in the midst of so much ongoing war. I have known Nancy's work for over 3 decades, and my regard for her work shows, I hope, in the introduction I wrote for this book, a portion of which follows.

Nancy Simpson has enriched the literary community of North Carolina for over thirty years. Her work was first heralded by the late Richard Hugo when he read and celebrated her poems at the Callanwolde Literary Festival in Atlanta, shortly after she began to show her poetry around to friends and readers in the far reaches of western North Carolina. He praised her rich inner life and her ability to give expression to it as it manifested itself in her everyday life. Whether driving over the Nantahala Gorge in “Night Student,” expressing the complexity of self in “Driven into the interior,” or documenting the carnage of the first Gulf War in “Voices from the Fringe,” she brings the inner and outer worlds of her experience into a harmony that resonates like the current giving voice and shape to the mountain creeks she loves. Living Above the Frost Line: Selected and New Poems traces the growth of a poet determined to survive despite the obstacles raised by age, mortality, and the inevitable losses that come from being alive in this world. Through her poetry she greets that half-drowned woman, harking from her Florida girlhood, who appears as her muse in “Bridge On the River Kwai, “ bearing gifts of memory and sustaining images. In return the poet gives her “a mountain, the safest place to be.” Rarely has the relationship between poet and muse been so beautifully expressed.






Nancy, on the porch of her Cherry Mountain home.


I'm delighted to be able to offer several of my favorite poems.


Tanfastic


At 12:17 this Sunday

he is uninhibited

in front of God and

everybody traveling

I-75 South, a man

lounging in the bed

of his red pickup truck.

He is getting his tan

the fast way, 80 mph

stretched out

on his chaise lounge,

his black bikini

drawing the sun down.

He is holding a blue

tumbler in his hand.

I can only guess

what he is drinking.

I want to make a pass,

I mean, get past him

in this god-awful traffic.

I want to see

the face of the woman

at the steering wheel

who is taking him for a ride.







The Gleaners


In the last days of the age

word went out that women

therefore must be allowed

to participate in creation.

And there came forth an artist

calling to us, Come hither!


In the center of a cornfield

in Brasstown Valley,

she sculpted an assembly

of corn women. She fashioned

husk bodies, worked six days

making in her image. She dressed


the corn women in gauze gowns

and entwined eglantine in their

cornsilk hair. Come hither!

We entered the cornfield,

our capes waving

in the evening breeze. We


circled the corn women,

lit a circle of small fires

and danced in firelight.

In the morning we came forth

to sculpt, to paint, and to write

the story that is left to tell.




Looking For the Sons of My House


I am looking for the sons of my house,

grown from babies into boys,

three of them with dark brown eyes.

Where are they now? The one

who brought a snake down the hall

into my room. The one who

had to fall off the porch, to test every rule?

The young one who flew half-way

around the world to be my son?

Their bikes are wrecked, tossed

in the landfill with their outgrown shoes.

One day I saw they were no longer boys but men,

the one who drove me to night class in Asheville

when he was a teen, the same one

I stood with as mother of the groom.

Where are they now?

One whistles on a hillside, feeds his dogs.

One is stuck in rush-hour traffic, stuck

in a marriage I blessed. The young one

climbs today on a mountain in Switzerland.

All of them far from the mother house.


Skin Underwater


1.


From the top of the mountain we see

Town Valley submerged in clouds.

You say the word ‘ocean’ and a gull

flies from the branch of an oak,

squawks his squawk.


I know a lie when I see one.

Seagulls do not live in the mountains.

It is the woodpecker men call extinct,

alive, soaring above oaktops.


Now driving through fog in the valley

you show me things not seen before.

Men are swimming on the courthouse lawn.

Women stare fish-eyed from their gardens,

their mouths turned up.


2.


Barnacles collect on the pier.

Count one for every life you were young:

the schoolgirl, mute,

who spoke only underwater


hoping no one could decipher.

In water memories converge.

Shell is sharp to touch.

Seaweed is soft as hair, and skin


is the large sensor. Skin

keeps its own record of the day

you slit your forearm, diving

into green ocean at South Beach.


Look how barnacles bashed by waves

hold on. Some are encased in stone.

They could cut you bloody, Girl.



3.


Looking back I see my mother

was misinformed, promised an abortion

though it was illegal, five doctors


dead sure I was damaged, and certain

she would die if she gave birth.

She did sort of die, seeing me hideous


in her dream, seeing a ball of hair

bouncing in the room, in the afternoon

when she tried to rest.


I heard from her lips

how she fell down praying.

My mother was devout. I knew

she could not kill. Don’t you see?

I was in the best possible position.



A voice from a dream


Sleep again.


Dream yourself

on the north bank of the river

inconspicuous as deadwood.


Drift ashore

where grass glows at sunrise,

where light is found all day.


Dream a new body.

a blue robe, and you

walking home.


We stand over the carcass of a jellyfish.

It has given up the ghost, grown opaque.

Moon Jelly, I say, we knew you when

you lit the sky of the underworld.

And we count out loud the lines on its body

as if in counting we might learn

how long it lived in the ocean.


Gulls show interest in our arithmetic.

They circle. They fly down

to the sound of our voices.


Are we going to reach the end

of the island? Are we moving in a circle?

Light-headed we walk.


6.


It interests me seeing

the hermit scuttle away

with a moon shell for a new house.


Look how furrows of silt create

a frontal lobe. We are walking,

don’t you think, on gray matter?

I will always say yes


to almost everything you ask. Yes,

it is possible to imagine

intelligence beneath our feet.


7.


Evening turns out just as imagined.

We walk the length of the beach

and lie on the sand. We enter


the surf, our bodies submerging.

In hearing distance of a wave’s yes,

earth is a woman with plans.





What She Saw and What She Heard


On the mountain a woman saw

the road bank caved in

from winter’s freeze-thaw

and April rain erosion.


Trees leaned over the road the way

strands of hair hung on her forehead.

She gaped, her face as tortured

as the face she saw engraved in dirt.


Roots growing sideways shaped brows,

two eyes. Humus washed

down the bank like a nose.

Lower down, where a rock


was shoved out by weathering,

a hole formed the shape of a mouth.

The woman groaned, Agh!

Her spirit toppled


to the ground, slithered

under the roots of an oak.

She stood there asking

What? Who?


Back to reason, back home

she finished her questions:

What can one make of the vision, that face

on the north side of the mountain?


Reckoning comes, a thought:

It is not the image of a witch nor a god,

but Earth’s face, mouth open saying,

Save me.






4 comments:

Tess Kincaid said...

Thanks for the introduction to Nancy Simpson, Kay. I'm still giggling over "I want to make a pass, I mean, get past him"! I love her style.

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, you have the best suggestions, Kay!

Pamela said...

Great poetry, great idea. What could be a better present?

Julia Nunnally Duncan said...

So good to come to the blog and find Nancy's poems, which I have admired for many years.