Showing posts with label Appalachian Literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Appalachian Literature. Show all posts

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Gary Carden, long time member of Netwest will receive award

Gary Carden, playwright, storyteller and writer of wonderful tales, sent his news a few days ago.

I have just been awarded the North Carolina Award in Literature. It is the highest award given by the state. The awards ceremony will be held in Raleigh on October 30th. 

Congratulations, Gary. You deserve this special award. Your friends and fellow writers in NCWN West are proud of you.

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.
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.

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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

CONGRATULATIONS TO THOSE WHO RESPONDED... our invitation to blog about your favorite Appalachian book. All of you will be receiving prizes, so if I don't have your mailing address readily available, I may be contacting you for it. We were especially glad to be introduced to Lamb In His Bosom, and thank Gary Garden for sending us this piece. The essays on Fred Chappell's Ancestors and Others (Penny Morse),and Lewis Green's The Silence of Snakes (Bill Everett) were stand-outs as well. And although Melissa is not a Netwest member, her piece on Fair and Tender Ladies was a lovely personal testimonial. She deserves to be rewarded! Carole Thompson's piece on Glenda Barrett honors one of our own best mountain poets. So, thank you to Gary, Bill, Carole, Melissa, and Penny.
We may try another blog prompt in early summer. In the meantime, keep reading and loving what you read.

Friday, April 2, 2010



Wednesday, March 31, 2010


The following arrived this morning from Bill Everett. Thanks a lot, Bill. It's good to be reminded of Lewis Green's work.

--William Everett

I was awakened to the peculiar depth of Appalachian writing by Lewis Green’s The Silence of Snakes (1984). We were building our home on the slopes of Wolf Pen Mountain, near Waynesville, when an old friend recommended that I read a tale set where we had decided to live. The Silence of Snakes is the tragic story of a traumatized World War I hero, Earl Skiller, whose sufferings lead him to a series of gruesome murders in which the line between military heroism and depraved criminality disappears, exposing the two-edged sword of civilized “order.”

Through Green’s story I could see the life deep within these rocks and trees. I met the rattlesnakes that symbolize for Earl Skiller the secret depth of his life. As he told his fellow soldiers, “…I could turn into a rattlesnake in my mind, and then I could come and go and do my damage and nobody watched. I learned a big lesson once from rattlesnakes. … They’re silent in spite of the rattles. They’re silent at the right time. They can do a lot of damage. If they’re silent and it’s dark, then who can see ‘em?”

And I felt the ragged edge of mountain humor. Hear these lines between the discoverer of one of Skiller’s victims and the local physician. “We need fer ye to come and announce somebody dead. Some son-of-a bitch killed Mitchell Sanger. They cut his head off.” “Is that a fact? he finally asked. “Cut his head off?” “Yes sir.” “Well, I don’t have to go up there. I can tell you from here that he’s dead.”

Because of this book, the power to speak of place and of the crushing conflicts out of which humanity is hewed have remained the hallmarks of the writing in these hills.


William Everett retired from 35 years of teaching ethics in order to write and make furniture in Waynesville, NC. He is the author of Red Clay, Blood River (2008) and numerous poems, the most recent appearing in Fresh. He blogs at

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


( Photograph by Louanne Watley)
William Everett retired from 35 years of teaching ethics in order to write and make furniture in Waynesville, NC. He is the author of Red Clay, Blood River (2008) and numerous poems, the most recent appearing in Fresh. He blogs at
Remembering Rightly
I have been salvaging our old photographs by digitizing them for future generations. In my efforts I have been brought back to the ways we try to organize our lives between our past and possible futures. In our imaginations we enter a world of story untouched by ordinary history. I tried to catch this slip between the folds of objectivity in this little poem:

There is a space between chapters,
a crack in the spine,
an empty space
where two pages meet
and disappear
into a hidden abyss
where things are sewn invisibly together.

Some memory is driven by pain, fear, and anger. We have memories that we seek to flee, avenge, or obliterate. Other memories are driven by love – memories of joyous events, Edens of new beginnings, of children, spouse, and friend. In my own case, the old slides produced this poem driven by a memory of love.

Like a Russian doll
she wears each passage of her life in polymorphous coats.
She is the wise companion, etched by years of circling suns,
the woman burnished silver with accomplishment,
the mate with auburn hair and radiant eyes,
the holder of the household lamp,
the mother of the squirming baby nestling at her breast,
the college ingénue with voice of lark and witty tongue,
the pigtail girl in the taffeta dress,
the urchin hanging from her knees and laughing at her dad.

They hide,
a manifold of nesting forms
around the holy light within
each one the doll,
each one the woman that I love.

For some, the “crack in the spine” is full of fear and pain, for others, joys and Russian dolls forgotten in the daily grind. Most of us will find a mixture where we seek an alchemy to compound futures out of right remembrance.
William Johnson Everett
465 Harriett's Trail
Waynesville, NC 28786
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Explore Red Clay, Blood River at