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.




Friday, April 30, 2010


SIX POETS FROM THE MOUNTAIN SOUTH was recently published by LSU Press. As my last Poet of the Day feature, I'm including three poets from that volume--Jim Wayne Miller, Jeff Daniel Marion, and Fred Chappell. The LSU catalog copy appears below.

In the most extensive work to date on major poets from the mountain South, John Lang takes as his point of departure an oft-quoted remark by Jim Wayne Miller: “Appalachian literature is—and has always been—as decidedly worldly, secular, and profane in its outlook as the [region’s] traditional religion appears to be spiritual and otherworldly.” Although this statement may be accurate for Miller’s own poetry and fiction, Lang maintains that it does not do justice to the pervasive religious and spiritual concerns of many of the mountain South’s finest writers, including the five other leading poets whose work he analyzes along with Miller’s.

Fred Chappell, Robert Morgan, Jeff Daniel Marion, Kathryn Stripling Byer, and Charles Wright, Lang demonstrates, all write poetry that explores, sometimes with widely varying results, what they see as the undeniable presence of the divine within the temporal world. Like Blake and Emerson before them, these poets find the supernatural within nature rather than beyond it. They all exhibit a love of place in their poems, a strong sense of connection to nature and the land, especially the mountains. Yet while their affirmation of the world before them suggests a resistance to the otherworldliness that Miller points to, their poetry is nonetheless permeated with spiritual questing.

Dante strongly influences both Chappell and Wright, though the latter eventually resigns himself to being simply “a God-fearing agnostic,” whereas Chappell follows Dante in celebrating “the love that moves the sun and other stars.” Byer, probably the least orthodox of these poets, chooses to lay up treasures on earth, rejecting the transcendent in favor of a Native American spirituality of immanence, while Morgan and Marion find in nature what Marion calls a “vocabulary of wonders” akin to Emerson’s conviction that nature is the language of the spiritual.

Employing close readings of the poets’ work and relating it to British and American Romanticism as well as contemporary eco-theology and eco-criticism, Lang’s book is the most ambitious and searching foray yet into the worlds of these renowned post–World War II Appalachian poets.

John Lang, professor of English at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Virginia, is the author of Understanding Fred Chappell and editor of Appalachia and Beyond: Conversations with Writers from the Mountain South.

(Jim Wayne Miller)



At 9:42 on this May morning
the children's rooms are concentrating too.
Like a tendril growing toward the sun, Ruth
moves her book into a wedge of light
that settles on the floor like a butterfly.
She turns a page.
Fred is immersed in magic, cool
as a Black Angus belly-deep in a farm pond.

The only sounds: pages turning softly.
This is the quietness
of bottomland where you can hear only the young corn
growing, where a little breeze stirs the blades
and then breathes in again.

I mark my place.
I listen like a farmer in the rows.

from The Mountains Have Come Closer, 1980 ©



Last night in a dream
you came to me. We were young
again and you were smiling,
happy in the way a sparrow in spring
hops from branch to branch.
I took you in my arms
and swung you about, so carefree
was my youth.

What can I say?
That time wears away, draws its lines
on every feature? That we wake
to dark skies whose only answer
is rain, cold as the years
that stretch behind us, blurring
this window far from you.

from Ebbing and Flowing Springs



The hamlet sleeps under November stars.
Only the page of numerate thought toils through
The darkness, shines on the table where, askew
And calm, the scholar's lamp burns bright and scars
The silence, sending through the slot, the bars
And angles of his window square, a true
Clean ray, a shaft of patient light, its purview
Lonely and remote as the glow of Mars.

from Shadow Box, LSU Press


My friend Mary Adams is such a good poet that words fail me. But they never seem to fail her.
So, it's not surprising that Spring Street Editions, in collaboration with Ash Creek Press in Portland Oregon, has launched its chapbook series with WCU professor Mary Adams’s Commandment. Mary’s first book, Epistles From the Planet Photosynthesis, was published in the University of Florida Press’s poetry series. Her work has earned her a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, among other honors. These new poems show her to be one of the finest formalists writing today. Former NC Poet Laureate Fred Chappell says, “I have read with great admiration and genuine enjoyment the poems in this chapbook. “ He praisesThe intricate overlaying of separate landscapes and timeframes in the poems, their often “Dantean” focus, and concludes by saying that he will be re-reading this collection with pleasure, “going back and forth amongst the poems because I think I hear echoes.They seem linked to me and Commandment a whole. Congratulations on a fine performance!” Ron Rash praises the book, saying” Frew contemporary poets can match her combination of craft and feeling, which makes this new collection all the more welcome. She is a poet of the first rank.”


By Mary Adams

When we were lonely

Love doubly

blessed us. Earth

filled us. Birth

welled like morning,

clean yearning

poured over the void

and we said

nothing could quiet this

urge, this riot, this


And then the doe

so wild going so

still, saw the brink

of wilderness sink

in our plenty, our

pity. Oceans for

which we longed dried

and our best laid

the world waste:

it wasn’t just

never enough love

that Jesus suffocated of.

-- after Mr. Lloyd Alexander, 1924-2007

To console you for growing old, I got you a gift
to take you out of time. Not poems, which are always
ending after they start. And not knitting,
which if worn you might wear out. The best
gifts are light, but not too light, and flow
everywhere, like the ache of debt. This year
your gift should signify the infinite.
So I got you kittens, tricked by your own fingers
from the wild. Because they compound eternally,
but warmer. Because a single box contains
all kittens till it’s opened. Because a kitten
mewing makes a butterfly make a tornado.
Because a knotting of kittens extends in a plane
forever. Because a dying kitten is
impossibly light, and a lost kitten’s cry
is bottomless. And since each kitten wells
with the cat of danger, we know every cat
wears kittens like an urge. None is ever
really lost. Then cats point both ways always.
Now you are grown, here are all your kittens,
new again, like money you found in the laundry.
Heft them gently. Feel in their small hearts
your trembling. Calm them in the morning
of your fears. When you are sad, speak
them like cadences, kitten of cross-fire,
kitten of backflip, kitten of glory, kitten of
clutching, kitten of pestering and plummet, spindly
kitten, hungry kitten, kitten of solace.


Glenda Council Beall's new chapbook, Now Might As Well Be Then, from Finishing Line Press (http://www.finishinglinepress.com/) deserves many readers. I was honored to write a blurb for it. Glenda has worked wonders for NETWEST as Program Director and deserves our thanks for supporting the literary arts in Western North Carolina.
Often those "supporters" are so busy making sure other writers find what they need to become better at the writer's craft that they don't have time for their own work. That's why I'm so pleased to honor Glenda as Poet of the Day. Here are a couple of my favorite poems from her new chapbook.


What happened to seventeen,

when I rode my mare

free as the river flows,

jumped over downed trees

splashed through narrow streams?

What happened to twenty

when I danced in the moonlight,

my slender form dressed in a gown

white and shimmery as pearl?

What happened to thirty

when I rode my Yamaha

down fire roads, mountain trails,

long black hair flying free?

What happened to those days

I ask the woman in the mirror.

Gone, she says, all gone, unless

you remember it.

In The Dark

Lying in bed, my cheek against your shoulder,

I remember a night, long ago, on your boat.

I was afraid. I felt too much, too fast.

But love crept over us that summer

like silver fog, silent on the lake.

We were never again the same.

We stepped like children through that door that led

to long passages unknown, holding hands, wide-eyed, but brave.

Here I am years later, listening to your soft breath

and feeling your warm smooth skin.

In the dark, now might as well be then.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


(Lee signs her new book for me.)

Lee Smith probably wrote poetry back in her student--or childhood--days, and she may secretly write it now, but I think she also writes poetry in her novels and shorts stories, and I have shamelessly used those to rev up my own poems when I felt my poet's engine running down.
Lee came to Asheville on Sunday to read from her new book of stories, Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger: New and Selected Stories. There was standing room only at Malaprop's Bookstore. Afterward I had time to visit with Lee and the woman who has brought her work to life on the stage, Barbara Bates Smith. Barbara's wonderful husband and my brother joined us for a glass of wine at a downtown restaurant.

Go to Barbara's website to learn more about her one-woman shows.

(Mugging it up with Lee at Malaprop's)

Here is the last paragraph from "The Southern Cross." Chanel, the narrator, (not her real name, of course!) has jumped off the yacht on which she's been cruising with Larry, the man she calls her fiance but who has never had any intention of leaving his wife, as she learns near story's end. She lands in the dinghy and heads for the tropical island nearby and a new life. "Going Native," she yells back to the astonished men on deck.

A part of me can't believe I'm acting this crazy, while another part of me is saying, "Go, Girl." A little breeze comes up and ruffles my hair. I practice deep breathing from aerobics and look all around. The water is smooth as glass. The whole damn sky is full of stars. It is just beautiful. All the stars are reflected in the water. Right overhead I see Orion and then I see his belt, as clear as can be. I'm headed for the island, sliding through the stars.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Julia Nunnally Duncan has been a friend for many years. Her work came to my attention when I was on the reading committee for the Appalachian Consortium Press and found her story collection Blue Ridge Shadows in my hands. I liked it so much that I contacted her after the selection process. We've been in touch ever since. Julia was born and raised in WNC. Her credits include five books: two short story collections (The Stone Carver; Blue Ridge Shadows); two novels: (When Day Is Done; Drops of the Night) and a poetry collection (An Endless Tapestry).

She has completed a second poetry collection At Dusk and continues to write and publish poems, stories, and personal essays. Her works often explore the lives of the unemployed, the socially outcast, the lonely. She lives in Marion, NC, with her husband Steve, a woodcarver, and their eleven-year-old daughter Annie. She studied creative writing at Warren Wilson College's MFA Program for Writers and teaches English at McDowell Technical Community College in Marion, NC.

English Leather Lime

The rectangular box was stored

in my parents’ dresser drawer,

kept perhaps to hold loose change

or sales receipts,

too small to be very useful

but well enough made

of light soft wood

to make my mother think

it too important to throw away.

I pulled it from the drawer

while looking for some high school memento

from my cheerleading days,

and opening the box and holding it

to my nose,

I thought I caught the smell:

a citrus scent evoked

by the illustration of a lime

on the green label:

English Leather Lime.

The cologne the box once housed

had belonged to my brother

forty years ago.

I recognized that scent

in 1969

when the handsome

seventeen-year-old boy—

star of a rival basketball team—

passed through my parents’ front door

on a November evening.

It was my first date,

and I was afraid

to sit alone in the living room with him,

so my mother stayed close by

in the kitchen

while he courted me.

On our second date, though,

I savored our closeness

as we sat in his car

at our town’s drive-in theater

and awaited the film Thunder Road.

The speakers crackled B.J. Thomas’s

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,

and when rain suddenly began to fall outside,

we looked at each other and smiled.

When the movie started,

he scooted closer and

coyly rested his dark head

on my shoulder,

his lime cologne mingling with the remnants of my

Love’s Fresh Lemon Cleanser.

He might have kissed me in a moment,

but when he reached to turn the ignition key

for heat and windshield wipers,

the engine would not start.

After that, he rushed around,

some tool in hand,

tinkering for a minute under the hood

and then trying the ignition again.

His efforts were useless, though,

and as if to admit defeat

he finally called his father

and then mine—

a courageous move indeed

since he was supposed to have taken me

to our warm downtown theater

to see Kurt Russell starring in

The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes.

When my father did drive up

in our red Mustang

to rescue me,

I never heard goodbye

from the boy

who huddled beside his father,

their heads bowed under the car hood,

both of them soaked and shivering

in the December rain.

Lady in the Truck

Lady in the Chevrolet truck,

parked beside me at Wal-Mart,

I can tell by the way

your blonde head leans against your window pane

and your side presses into the passenger door

that you cannot get far enough away

from the driver.

I know by the angle of his head,

the way his dark tangle of hair

shakes when he shouts at you,

that his anger couldn’t wait

until he took you home.

What are you thinking

when you peer out of the grimy window?

Do you take to heart

this man’s hard words?

Do you hurt when his fingers squeeze your arm

to make you listen?

I can see by the way he looks straight ahead now,

tight lipped,

leaning to start the ignition,

that though his rage is not over,

he has spoken his mind.

I see by the way your head is lowered,

your hand covering your face,

that you do not want him

to spy your pain.

You are a young woman still,

and though I can’t discern your face,

I know it is a face

that another person could love.

Your mouth could smile at a lover’s whisper;

your eyes close at a caress.

Yet more so I know that

tonight when this man

pushes his body

close to yours

in your sweltering bed,

his voice calm,

cajoling you back,

you will look at him

and hope that his words

won’t be so cruel again,

that his love might be

worth your faith.


In the early 70's I attended a literary convention in Atlanta where this incident took place. The man at the center of the poem was a more or less respected conservative critic and scholar. The black cane for Mag 11 looks just like the one I remember he carried.

Literary Conventions

He stood in the hotel room doorway,
Atlanta, post-civil rights,
a contingent of scholars
and editors schmoozing in one smoky
room on the 25th floor,
I the lone female sitting apart in the corner,
my plastic cup half-full of bourbon,
my cigarette burning its way down to filter,

and jabbed his black silver-tipped cane
toward the window where lights swarmed.
Out there, he said, cane swung at threats
cresting round us, I know they'll be waiting.
But I'm ready. Lifted his waistcoat
to show us the gun nestled under
his armpit. Laughed. Tipped his cowboy hat
to me, leaned down to wipe dirt from
his boots, and drawled, Have a good night.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I met Penelope Scambly Schott over 30 years ago at the same conference where I met Isabel Zuber. She was a Jersey girl, and I was a rural mountain girl by way of S. Georgia. Despite our regional differences, (or maybe because of them?) we became good friends and have stayed in touch ever since. Last summer I spent a glorious week with her in Portland, Oregon, where we collaborated on our chapbook Aretha's Hat. More about that later. The poem below is from her new book.

(Penelope and Lilly)

Incidental Music for the 6:00 pm News

by Penelope Scambly Schott

Cowbells collect the evening. We are pulled

to the bare kitchen bulb like large moths,

while milking-shed cats curl into straw.

At a rosewood table in a paneled room

middle-aged men in wide leather chairs

sip twenty-year-old single-malt scotch.

Under the white kitchen light

clover honey melts into biscuits;

nobody is starving; nobody weeps.PO

The men in their nail-studded armchairs

caress their knuckles and nod their chins,

quite certain they have never been wrong.

The chorus of cowbells ka-bong rattle-rattle,

the chorus of crystal shot glasses set down,

chorus of moths beating powdered wings,

while out by the bins behind the Club

a woman who stole one sharpened pencil

is carving this song into her skin.

Penelope Scambly Schott is the author of a novel, six previous poetry books, and five chapbooks. Her poetry books include three historical verse narratives, Penelope: The Story of the Half-Scalped Woman, The Pest Maiden: A Story of Lobotomy, and A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth (Oregon Book Award for Poetry, 2008), as well as three lyric collections, The Perfect Mother (Violet Reed Hass Prize, 1994), Baiting the Void (Orphic Prize, 2005), and May the Generations Die in the Right Order. She has received four fellowships from the New Jersey Council on the Arts and residencies at The Fine Arts Work Center, The Vermont Studio Center, and the Wurlitzer Foundation. Penelope lives in Portland, Oregon where she hikes, grades papers, paints, and spoils her family, especially her dog, Lily Schott Sweetdog.

Congratulations to Penelope, winner of the 2009 Sarah Lantz Memorial Poetry Book Prize from CALYX.


Tony Abbot has devoted much of his life to North Carolina's literary community, as well as to his own writing. A poet and a novelist, he is a master teacher, one who energizes his students, no matter their age. His New and Selected Poems appeared last year from Lorimer Press.

Anthony S. Abbott was born in San Francisco and educated at Fay School in Massachusetts and the Kent School in Connecticut. He received his A.B. from Princeton University and his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is Professor Emeritus of English at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, where he served as Department Chair from 1989 to 1996. His first novel, Leaving Maggie Hope was published in 2003 and received the Novello Literary Award and ForeWord Magazine’s Gold Award for literary fiction. It’s sequel, The Three Great Secret Things, was published in 2007. He is the author of five books of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize nominated The Girl in the Yellow Raincoat. His most recent book New & Selected; Poems 1989 – 2009 was published in 2009 by Lorimer Press.

Tony is past President of the Charlotte Writers’ Club and the North Carolina Writers Network, and a past Chairman of the North Carolina Writers Conference. He currently serves as President of the North Carolina Poetry Society. He has been honored by St. Andrews College with the Sam Ragan Award for his writing and service to the literary community of North Carolina. In 2008, he was the North Carolina Writers Conference honoree, and received the Irene Blair Honeycutt Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Literary Arts.


Blood red of late October in the South,

and from the cemetery to the college campus

on the hill, the leaves bathe my eyes.

I turn each corner into dazzling surprise.

In my mind’s eye, she walks toward me.

I show her my favorite tree. I pluck three

leaves and watch as she carries

them away. This is new found grace,

and in the space where sadness once lay

the small white flower of hope grows.

In the South, October lingers, the gold

sun glances off the trees. November will

come with its cold rain soon enough,

I know. I turn the dazzle inward

and down. It courses through the veins

and lofts me toward the breathless light.


Rod Smith has been a good friend and fellow traveler for over thirty years. Rod's work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Best American Short Stories, thePushcart Prize Anthology and New Stories from the South. His most recent collection of poetry, Outlaw Style (Arkansas, 2007), received the Library of Virginia Poetry Prize. His third collection of stories, The Calaboose Epistles, was published by Iris Press in 2009, and he is working on a book-length series of poems about Flannery O’Connor entitled The Red Wolf. He edits Shenandoah and teaches writing and literature at Washington and Lee University.

The Blue Yodel was originally in Gettysburg Review, Storm Warning in Virginia Quarterly Review. They’re both from THE RED WOLF: A DREAM OF FLANNERY O’CONNOR.

To read an interview with Rod Smith, go to http://www.cortlandreview.com/issuethree/rodandjohn3.htm

Beyond the Crepe Myrtles, Blue Yodel

The snake in his new outfit coiled and shivered.

The mockingbird from high in the live oak mocked.

Mama on the porch rocker cleaned her two barrel

and sang how looping a skin over the rail top

might make a stubborn sky shake down a spurt of rain.

No bonbons or violins, but a busy evening

just the same: cornbread, birdsong, sweet potato pie

and the greedy star-glint of a diamondback’s eye.

Roses on the hedge shook like the passing of a ghost.

I scribbled every moment in my Blue Horse book,

a stay-at-home girl dead-set no life’s lesson be lost.

Old Shot ran his knife blade along the guitar neck

till the sweaty steel of six strings quaked and whined.

No prophet happened by to spit out a wisecrack.

Lightning in the key of C, a weapon on the frets.

A yodel quavered in my tongue. Pearls before swine.

Under the bird perch the serpent commenced to climb.

Between the thumb and trigger finger, the silk of time.

Storm Warning

The peacock’s shriek blistering the midnight air,

the roar they always claim mimics a freight train

rounding the bend. Hurricanes south and west,

though too distant to raise concern, but I wake

to the emperor bird crying murder again,

and mother at the door all frazzle and panic

is saying, “The funnel is coming. His vengeance,

girl. We’ve got to barn the livestock and reach

the cellar,” but this time I answer, Animals

be damned, and head for the stairs, my nightgown

shiny with sleep’s friction and now flowing.

In the flecking mirror: my motion’s ghost.

Across the field, an apparition spits its voice.

I give one thought to the files of twined letters

and unfinished fictions, the Royal typewriter

with its twenty-six demons. There are moments

when soul matters less than breath, and I imagine

the frayed pages of savage comedy all swirled

like a magician’s trick, the lame and the halt,

prophets and blessed dimwits all gone to chaos,

every plot giving way to blather and howl.

In the final count, story is just another affliction,

the illusion a grand scheme is within our ken.

With the weather almost sideways, peach trees

losing their blooms, our modest garden shaking

like the Second Coming and the sentry bird gone

who-knows-where, I can hear the Ecclesiast whisper

Vanity, vanity! I have to laugh, till my Parent

pulls me underground and bolts the door. Scent

of clay and mold, decaying spores. Are we

both Persephone now? No lamp or candle,

her feeble prayers our only light in the hour

of our need. “Save us, Our Lady, whose very name

we adore.” Mother says the whirlwind is ever

trumped by the Word, so we listen for a clement

whisper and implore the First Mover to calm

our hearts. Genuflecting for all we’re worth,

we weep like river willows and vow to adore

meek Jesus, while the dark god outside swaggers,

hisses his gospel of annihilation and roars.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


My good friend Isabel Zuber is both poet and novelist. We met 30 years ago at a writers conference led by A.R. Ammons in Critz, Va. A native of Boone, NC, she has lived her adult life in Winston-Salem. Her first novel Salt was published by Picador, and her chapbooks of poems have been published by the NC Writers Network (Annual chapbook award) and Persephone Press. More of her work may be found in the archives of ncarts.org, as well as in several anthologies, the most recent being Southern Appalachian Poets (http://www.mcfarlandpub.com/) and Clothes Lines. The following poems are from her forthcoming full-length collection Red Lily (Press 53)


A last enormous freedom
is to run into the dark,
barely enough day left
to see vague hydrangeas
massed along the drive
and junipers up like spears
against the sky. Bound then

in the dusk with all that
can be there light says is not.
Rush the yard on grass-lashed,
bug-bit legs, turn round
and round till stars collide
with spires, breaking the
huge dinning noise
of all those tiny voices.

Such venture is less, or more,
than brave, for dew’s sweet
or bitter, and there’s always
the lighted doorway and
the sense that if one runs
far and hard enough
there are arms in the darkness also.

Whale Walk

These days they move with flippers, fins and flukes,
not feet, yet in time more than ancient
they walked. And they got around,
left pieces of themselves, a femur, pelvic nub,
bits of toes, to fossilize in Pakistan, Egypt,
Georgia and other places. Imagine
how those feet must have hurt.

Seated somewhere by a temperate shore,
tempted to dabble in the surf, they discovered
it felt good. So why not?
Earth takes several million turns
and there they are back in the water.
swimming and singing to each other
unbothered by bunions or blisters,

nothing to fear after millennia except
giant squid and small people.

Monday, April 19, 2010


A native of Venezuela, Banu Valladares graduated with a masters degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where she taught composition. She has taught poetry, play writing, creative writing, and Latino culture in public schools. A poet, writer, painter, and storyteller, she has spoken at local and national conferences on the importance of people discovering their native voice in order to find a unique place in society. She has been the director of Community Arts Education and Partnerships at the Durham Arts Council, where she oversaw the CAPS (Creative Arts in Public/Private School) program, which provides creative and interactive programs that teach core subjects through the arts and DAC's Art School. She now serves as Literature Director for the North Carolina Arts Council.


I hear voices more and more

Often these days



I make them out in my head

In languages

I fully


Like cascading water in

The wilderness


Through the body

Songs of love and adventure

Hearts full of bright



Reaching from distant spaces

Across oceans

And time

To be

Heard once more


The following appeared on the NC Arts Council website in 2006.


In the midst of your day
When you stop to
thank the universe for the blessings you have received,

At that moment
when you
look out the window and marvel at creation

When you stop to
gather your breath and
fall right back into your body,
into the present moment

At that point

Feel my arms around you
And hear me whisper in your ear:
"I love you."

For all is perfect in the world
when we freeze in time and listen
to the beat of our hearts.


En el medio de tu día
Cuando pares para
Darle las gracias al universo por los dones que has recibido,

En ese momento
mires por la ventana maravillado en la creación

Cuando pares para
Recuperar tu aliento y
Dejarte caer de nuevo en tu cuerpo
Al presente

En ese momento

Siente mis brazos alrededor de ti
Y escúchame suspirar en tu oído:
"Te amo."

Porque todo está perfecto en el mundo
Cuando congelamos el tiempo y escuchamos
El latido de nuestros corazones.


Nancy Simpson has been a good friend for many, many years. She lives in Hayesville, North Carolina, a far western location bordering Georgia, and has worked hard to build a literary community there. She received her MFA from the Warren Wilson program, studying with Heather McHugh. Her poetry has appeared widely across the country in some of the best literary magazines. Carolina Wren Press will be publishing her New and Selected Poems, titled Living Above the Frost Line.

Here are two poems from her forthcoming collection from Carolina Wren Press.


Old trees like old money
smell of richness.
It's not their crowns
that make them regal.
Whether they bow or stand tall,
they do so with a dignity
that can't be bought.
These woods belong to me,
every maple and oak.
How many women do you know
who own a forest?
From my deck, I smell trees
and I am filled with wealth.
Old trees bend. Like women
and like men, they die and fall,
or else they fall and die.
Young ones rise. I love watching
them grow and make their stand.


In memory of my father
who loved to sit on a covered porch
and watch rain, I sit sheltered
and sip coffee on my covered deck
high on Cherry Mountain. Near treetops
in memory of my father, I sing louder
than the downpour that falls inches from me.
"You like my new house?" I trill
above the spill of raindrops.

Mr. Whiskers asleep on my feet
under the wicker seat, wakes.
He thinks my song is for him.
I look deep into gray mist, eye to eye
with thin green leaves of a thousand trees
and sing welcome to white blossoms
on dogwood trees no one planted.
I am singing. I am singing to my father
who loved to sit close to rain.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Mike Smith lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his young daughter and son. A graduate of UNC-Greensboro, Hollins College, and the University of Notre Dame, he has published poetry in magazines such as Free Verse, Hotel Amerika, The Iowa Review, The Notre Dame Review, and Salt. His first full-length collection, How to Make a Mummy, was published in 2008.

Two Poems from Multiverse, BlazeVOX Books.

(The following two poems are anagrams of one another. The letters of one poem have been rearranged to write the other. No letters have been added and no letters have been left out. )

Anecdote of Defeat and Defeat

Those afternoon visits to the West Virginia

countryside…Exhausting courses

of flies, flowers, and the feeble grasp

of weeds under a cow-belly sky

the wisest once deemed worthy of worship.

Blue mountains. Black earth.

Only this day, I ran to follow

(Was I eleven?) my mother, trespassing

her way over a patchwork pattern

of forest and yellow pastures, the ever-present

tipples and tracks, toward two stray dots,

unmoving, on the distant mountain

that became, in time, something laughably

incongruous: Free-standing porch swings

in a field, a chair and ottoman, no,

more sensibly, deer blind or outhouse,

the remnants of a rusty still,

some altar. (This should be the painting

of a photograph on the game-room wall)

But the mother and young calf swung

their heads to stare my way. I paused to mark

the mother’s warrior’s helmet of a nose,

the bones easy under loose hides,

the lousy insects everywhere, swarming

over sores and soft parts—Trojans destined

to extend behind the ramparts, yet shiny

with surf. The wide-eyed calf stayed

beside his mother. Something like the taste

of hate rose in my throat. I guessed then

there would never be real fight in me,

but, also, that there would never be a need.


Slide the blue river on a tube, cheat

with a shout the heads of stones, tunnel

the narrows, breathe in every pore

the constant spray

and stay

or branch off with a splash

to walk my fingers above the surface

of the water. God, it is good

to get drunk in the woods.

I used to jam together every word

that rose in my thought so long

as it retained a ripple of sense.

Here, I let senses go. And words.

Catch and release, since what we have

we are sure to lose anyway.

Let me loose my pants

for a dance

on this very stump, for the drunk mind

seems to get nearer these passages, these lit reds

and yellows, soft browns, and hard purples

and greens, so I let myself drop

to my fern bed. I sleep, calm, beneath trees

some early god made whose eye

now only envies as it kills.

From a distance.

With furious aforethought.

Which is why I refuse to return,

but turn,

instead, my bottle up

to this salamander supreme

I see swim so largely the stream,

whose only commandment

is to enter further the forest, mix up

on the way another batch

of the stream’s bubbly, and imbibe

what you can.

............ ......... I down it all

for the devil dog that exudes

this new truth, my patron saint

of having nothing to lose. I drink

to having nothing to lose. I rise. I drink.

Multiverse, BlazeVOX Books (Buffalo, NY)