Showing posts with label Fred Chapell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fred Chapell. Show all posts

Monday, July 21, 2014

Naming of new poet laureate stirred up controversy this week

The literary world of North Carolina has been buzzing the past week with the appointment of a poet laureate by Governor McCrory who did not go through the normal process of working with the NC Arts Council to selectthe best person for this important post.
Our own Netwest member and first woman poet laureate of North Carolina, Kathryn Stripling Byer spoke out online in numerous Facebook posts about the selection of Valerie Macon, poet from Fuquay-Varina whose literary credits seem to be two self-published books of poetry. 

Byer along with three other past poets laureate issued a statement criticizing the process used by the governor.
"Instituted and administered expertly and transparently by the North Carolina Arts Council - which has our unqualified support and loyalty - the process insured that the poet laureate, ultimately appointed by the governor, was indeed a poet and educator of singular accomplishment, someone not only with a literary reputation in North Carolina, but beyond," their statement said. "The fact that that process was not recognized in the most recent appointment has resulted in disaster."

Although Macon is an advocate for the homeless and writes about their plight, she is not considered by most poets yet worthy to hold this honor. Those who struggle to perfect verse that is accepted and published by highly respected presses, who win awards for their work and who are recognized as leaders in their arts community were shocked to see that someone who was relatively an unknown, had been chosen over more qualified people.

A great example of what a poet laureate should be is Kathryn Byer who is recognized nationally and internationally for her work. FredChapell, former Poet Laureate has been published far and wide and is known throughout the literary world. Cathy SmithBowers and Joseph Bathanti, two recent poets laureate, also have outstanding resumes.

Some wonder, was the selection of Ms. Macon, who has now resigned, a deliberate poke at the literary community at large or was it complete ignorance as the governor has claimed. He indicated he did not know about the protocol whereby poets are recommended through the Arts Council and their works carefully examined before any of their names reach the governor’s desk. He said it was not written on the walls, so how was he to know? 

I was told that the Arts Council sent the governor a packet of information informing him of the credentials of past laureates and the manner in which they were chosen. I assume he will be forced to follow protocol now that Valerie Macon has resigned. 

It has certainly stirred up the poetry community and made North Carolina look inept to those in the country who follow such things. I received calls from Netwest members and from the local newspapers with questions about the botched appointment. The larger newspapers in this state have carried articles on the subject.

 Below are some links you might want to read for more information.

What do you think? Leave your comments at the bottom of this post.

Thursday, April 1, 2010



Gary Carden's review of the Pulitzer Prize winning classic by Caroline Miller, Lamb in His Bosom, is, indeed, a classic piece of fine writing. I'm always so grateful and proud that we have such an icon to teach us by example, to entertain and to keep alive the authenic voice of the mountains. Gary, may you live forever!

I am reading Fred Chappell's Ancestors and Others, published by St. Martin's Press in 2009. Most of the short stories in this book were previously published in earlier collections, but they are still fresh and captivating. Fred has that native son "ear" and the ability to lay out stories of mountain humor and deeds in pitch perfect dialect. The mountain based stories are not necessarily all humorous such as in Tradition, a tale of 6 deer hunters and one of them is slightly unhinged. Spine-tingling is how you feel as you follow one hunter who may be stalked by another.

No dialect was needed for Ladies from Lapland, about the adventures of de Marpertuis as he set out with a group of explorers to measure the earth at the north pole. He became infatuated with Inuit maidens encountered in what was then called Lapland. Much distracted from his mission, and to the disgust of his fellow scientitsts, Marpertuis dallies with the ladies and then insists they return to France with him. The closer they come to Europe, the less attractive he finds these sweet and naive women. But what is he to do with them? Ladies from Lapland shows Fred's mastery of linguistics. It remains a charming story, told with a flair for the language of an era when wealthy French aristocrats could be as eccentric and arrogant as they wanted.

I found all of the tales in this collection to be of substance and fine examples of the art of short story writing. It's no wonder many of Fred Chappell's students have gone on to success, such as Robert Morgan. My favorite from this collection is Moments of Light about the soul-shattering experience the composer Haydn has as he first views the heavens through a telescope. Very lyrical language here, so beautifully written that the reader becomes breathless in those heart-stopping moments of Haydn's discovery. Don't miss the clever and funny Christmas story, Creche. If you could overhear the animals talking at Midnight on Christmas eve, what would they say? Fred knows these magical things and spins a wonderful tale complete with a drunken pig who has fed on leftover fermented mash. Ancesters and Others
is a well-balanced collection showcasing the work of a master writer over many years. Fred, I guess you'll just have to live forever also!

Penny Morse

Sunday, March 14, 2010



By John Lang

Southern Literary Studies
Fred Hobson, Series Editor

ISBN-13:978-0-8071-3560-0 PAPER
Page count:240
Trim:5 1/2 x 8 1/2
Published:April 2010


An LSU Press paperback original

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 ofUnderstanding Fred Chappell and editor of Appalachia and Beyond: Conversations with Writers from the Mountain South.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

SHADOW BOX: Fred Chappell

CITY LIGHTS BOOKSOTRE ( Four years ago Fred Chappell sent me a beautiful broadside of The Foreseeing, telling me that it was a new kind of poem he was now exploring, the "embedded poem," or a poem within a poem, and that it was devilishly difficult. In this poem, the voice of the woman is embedded in that of her partner, who is beginning to realize that she is in love again. The two voices work with and against each other, forming a whole. Call it poetic counterpoint. The "inlaid" poem. Better yet, call it stunning, an enviable achievement. Now these poems, at which Fred has been working since The Foreseeing, have been gathered into a new collection from LSU Press: its title appropriately enough is SHADOW BOX. Last night, August 7, at City Lights Books in Sylva, NC Fred read from SHADOW BOX, with his wife Susan presenting the woman's voice in the poems. The two of them gave a haunting, at times beguiling, performance. (Joyce Moore introduces Fred to the audience in the bookstore's Regional Room.) Spotlight 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. Brian's wife, the poet Catherine Carter, gets acquainted with Dana Wildsmith, who drove several hours from Georgia to be with Fred and Susan. Catherine's first book, The Memory of Gills, won the Roanoke-Chowan Award two years ago and was highly praised by none other than---Fred Chappell. Dana Wildsmith, a long-time friend of the Chappell's, has published several collections of poetry, as well as numerous essays, the most recent being in The Sun, published out of Chapel Hill. She lives in Bethlehem, Georgia. Fred will be on hand for the NC Literary Festival in Chapel Hill in September, as well as at the Smoky Mountain Bookfair in November, to name just a few opportunities for hearing him and Susan read from his new book. This new collection by the author Lee Smith calls our "resident genius," deserves all the readers it can get! City Lights contact information: phone: (828) 586-9499 web:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fred Chappell at City Lights, Sylva, NC

Fred Chappell To Read from New Poetry Collection

Friday, August 7th at 7:00 p.m.

Dear Friends:

Poet and novelist Fred Chappell will be at City Lights on Friday, August 7th at 7:00 p.m. to read from his new collection, entitled Shadow Box: Poems, published by Louisiana State University Press.

In this innovative collection, Chappell layers words and images to create a new poetic form -- the poem- within-a-poem. In his introduction to Part I of the book, Chappell says "poems-within-poems (enclosed, inlaid, embedded, double, nested) present two aspects of a situation or personality simultaneously. Each whole poem implies a narrative incomplete without these different perspectives. The points of view are distinguished by separate type faces."

Like the shadow box in the book's title, each piece consists of an inner world that is contained, framed, supported by an outer - the two of which are interdependent, sometimes supplementary, and often contrary. Chappell also introduces sonnets in which the sestet nests within the octet.

Chappell is the author of a dozen books of verse, two short story collections, and eight novels, including I Am One of You Forever, Farewell I'm Bound to Leave You, and Brighten the Corner Where You Are. A native of Canton, he is retired from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The event at City Lights will feature a reading by Chappell and a question-and-answer period. For more information, or to reserve an autographed copy of Shadow Box, please call us at 586-9499.

Spotlight, by Fred Chappell

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

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Contact Information
phone: (828) 586-9499

FCity Lights Bookstore | 3 E. Jackson Street | Sylva | NC | 28779