Saturday, April 4, 2009
Editors of anthologies as definitive as DON'T LEAVE HUNGRY: Fifty Years of Southern Poetry Review work long and hard to give readers a book that will be just as important 50 years from now as it is today. Often such editors go unrecognized as the poets they are, while the more widely recognized poets in the collection draw the attention of reviewers and readers. In DON'T LEAVE HUNGRY, James Smith, the editor, has no poem included, so it's time to recognize him for his poetry. In my previous post, I called him a native western North Carolinian, and I still think of him that way, but as you'll see in the following short biography, he was born in the N. Georgia mountains. Blairsville is where my family stayed when we headed north into the mountains to visit relatives in Dahlonega. It's my paternal grandmother's native ground, and I consider it part of my native ground as well, a place that extends into the mountains of southwestern North Carolina. Forget about state boundaries.
Today is" James Smith Day" on my blog. Good poets make the best editors of poetry journals and anthologies. Let's celebrate them while we are celebrating National Poetry Month.
James Malone Smith has published oems in AGNI (online), Connecticut Review, Nebraska Review, Quarterly West, Tar River Poetry, and others. He has new work forthcoming in Asheville Poetry Review, Poet Lore, and Prairie Schooner. His fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction.
Associate professor of English at Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah, Georgia, he teaches creative writing and American literature.
He grew up in the north Georgia mountains of Blairsville but spent much of that time in his mother's home community of Vengeance Creek, North Carolina.
Here is Jim's poem that first appeared in AGNI.
Day took fire at her bidding,
the stove down to coals, almost cold,
bacon drippings in the coffee can
white as ice. She would prod embers
until flames bit at her fingers,
glut the open mouth with fat wood
and slam down the iron lid
as if she were rousing some monster.
Then she scrambled an egg for me.
But all this had happened forever
when one morning I dawdled in
as she dredged ashes, crisscrossed kindling.
The stove is out. She lights a match.
I sit at the table and wait.
Morning light flutters and stills
on the chipped enamel of the white sink.
In it, spraddled headlong (but headless!),
a large plucked chicken
in all its galled gooseflesh,
a single bloody feather stuck to the faucet.
I startle as the stove lid clangs into place.
With a flourish she reveals an immaculate
brown egg in her powerful hand
and pauses. Long enough to make sure
the break will be clean and even,
the yolk full, and heavy,
the rest as clear as water—
then cracks the world apart.
James Malone Smith
AGNI online, 2004