Sunday, February 28, 2010

Today on Wordplay

... Wayne Caldwell will read from his new novel Requiem by Fire, which carries the saga of the mountain community of Cataloochee and its citizens into the era which witnessed the community's dwindling. It's got lots of good stories, told with a pitch-perfect ear for the language of the time and place, and a scrupulous attention to the details of daily life.

Hope you'll join us at 6:00 at ... and, as always, thanks for listening!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Emily Dickinson: An initiation in infinitude

Epilepsy? An adultery that caused deep and persistent fissures within her family? Lyndall Gordon offers a new account of "the War Between the Houses,"as well as other delicate matters, in an article based on her recent book, Lives Like Loaded Guns, Emily Dickinson and Her Family's Feuds.

While I've read lots of Emily's poetry, of course, through the years, I've never dug very deeply into her biography - perhaps because the work I encountered, wonderful as it was, seemed to display little acquaintance on her part with the facet of the human mystery which we know as "love", and that was the facet I have been for most of my life most curious to explore. But Gordon says:
On the face of it, the life of this New England poet seems uneventful and largely invisible, but there's a forceful, even overwhelming character belied by her still surface. She called it a "still – Volcano – Life", and that volcano rumbles beneath the domestic surface of her poetry and a thousand letters. Stillness was not a retreat from life (as legend would have it) but her form of control. Far from the helplessness she played up at times, she was uncompromising; until the explosion in her family, she lived on her own terms.
And she makes a good case that Emily's was indeed a life of considerable emotional depth and complexity in her piece for The Guardian UK. It incites my curiosity and makes me think it might be worthwhile revisit Miss Emily, so she's done her job well.

Photo credit: Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.

Labels: ,

Bill Knott's offer

Not many things in life are free, but Bill Knott, one of the essential poets of the second half of the last century, is determined that his poems will be numbered among them. At his new art blog, he makes a simple offer:
The bookcovers posted below are from a series of one-of-a-kind books, which I'm printing/stapling/et cet—

if you have a poetry venue (a reading series/MFA program/etc) where you can hand out these books free to those who might want them,

please email me with your particulars,

and I'll send you a box of books to give away—

p.s. if you are one of my facebook "friends" and would like to receive free one or some of these books, message me with your request/postal address—
If you qualify, I'd take him up on it. It's a good excuse to join FaceBook, right? Not that you needed one; you're probably already there.

Back when Bill had a poetry blog, he posted links to downloadable versions of his current collections, which usually combined both new and old work in arrangements that bore little relationship to those in his more formally published actual, you know, books. They offered fascinating glimpses into the correspondences he saw within the body of his work. I'm sure these will, too.

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cathy's crowning

I promise to make this my last Cathy Smith Bowers post for a day or two, at least, but the North Carolina Arts Council now has uploaded to YouTube video of the ceremony that marked the transition from Kay Byer's tenure as Poet Laureate to Cathy's - and a video, recorded earlier, of her reading her poem "Snow", as well.

Labels: ,

Friday, February 12, 2010

Another link (or two) for the Laureate ...

A little more delving, and I came across another interview with Cathy Smith Bowers, this one focused largely on her then-new Book of Minutes. In it Cathy responds to a question about the presence of spirituality in her work with this:
[W]e are in a culture deprived of spirituality. We hunger for it and are always looking for ways of having the spirit fed. In the best poetry, the spirit will be fed, and it’s the spirit that should be—not the brain. The mind is also a part of it—but [the mind] is the machine that gets the reader to the spirit of the poem. I like to think of a poem as a river of spirit, and every once in a while there comes a current of intellect. I like smart poems, but I don’t want the smartness of the poem to be the main thing. I want to not even notice the smartness of a poem until many readings later.
When her interviewer, Julie Funderburk, asked for a model of such a poetic practice, Cathy cited Gerard Manley Hopkins, whom I've heard her cite in other contexts as well. He's clearly one of her favorite poets. Check it out.

Update, 13 February 2010: storySouth, which hosts the interview, also hosts some poems from Traveling in Time of Danger and A Book of Minutes.


Photos: Top: Kathryn Stripling Byer crowns Cathy Smith Bowers as North Carolina's new Poet Laureate in the old legislative chamber of the state capitol building in Raleigh, Feb. 10, 2010. NC Secretary of Cultural Resources Linda Carlisle looks on.
Bottom: Cathy Smith Bowers, North Carolina's new Poet Laureate, delivers her address accepting the appointment, and explaining her goals for the position.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Juniper Bends this Friday, Downtown Books and News

Both Julian Vorus and Lucy Tobin have now written me about Juniper Bends, a new reading series hosted at Downtown Books and News. As Julian writes:
Luckily, we have such a vibrant music scene here in Asheville, but we would like to see a parallel development of a solid underground writing scene as well. Diversity, as well as opportunity helps strengthen such objectives.
The series this week features six poets:
Jaye Bartell, Jennifer Callahan, Ingrid Carson, Chall Gray, Lucy Tobin, and Julian himself. They're sharp, intelligent writers, so I'll certainly be headed over to check them out.

Downtown Books and News is at 67 North Lexington Avenue in downtown Asheville. The reading gets under way at 7:00 PM, and is free. Hope to cross paths there.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Cathy Smith Bowers joins Wordplay!

Would be one way of putting it. And she will, in fact, be joining me in the studios of AshevilleFM once a month, beginning February 21st, to host a "Poet Laureate's Radio Hour" - though that may or may not be what we call it. Tune in and find out, dear reader.

That she'll be doing a radio show was one thing that the Raleigh News & Observer actually got right in its article announcing her appointment as laureate; but, of course, they had interviewed her, and had it from the horse's mouth. Not so right: the laureateship isn't actually a volunteer job that honored poets accept from the goodness of their hearts. The job's way more demanding than that, and it's actually a paid position.

And Cathy has four, not three, books out, all published by Iris Press: The Love That Ended Yesterday in Texas, Traveling in Time of Danger, A Book of Minutes, and The Candle I Hold Up to See You - though the Iris bio page itself mentions just the first three. That's probably where the News & Observer reporter got her information, so I suppose we'll have to forgive her. All Cathy's books, needless to say, are well worth delving into.

It'll be a pleasure to welcome Cathy into the studio again, this time as host.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, February 05, 2010

Another language dies ...

This time Bo, one of the world's oldest.