Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Poetry Reading

There is one venue of sharing my work that I haven't much experience with -- reading my poetry to a public audience. When I first began writing in college at Appalachian State, we would workshop poetry in small circles. That was ten years ago, though. Since then, the only group I have shared my poetry with, other than submitting poems to journals, has been with the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative (SAWC) at their yearly gatherings. I have read poems to my wife, but that doesn't count. I love her, bless her heart, but she admits that she doesn't "get" poetry. So I didn't marry her for her talent in literature critique.
Recently, I got word from a co-coordinator of SAWC that she has gotten an evening at Malaprops in Asheville, NC, for our group to read their work. How exciting is that!? Now, for those who aren't familiar with the bookstore Malaprops, it is a pretty prestigious center for writers of the region. It's going to be one evening in June sometime between the 22-24th. I'm excited, but also a little intimidated. I mean, who am I to go reading my work in front of audiences who are used to hearing poets like Robert Morgan, Fred Chappell, Lee Smith, and Ron Rash? I wish I had some credentials, like a chapbook or something to promote with my reading. Still, maybe people will just appreciate a writer sharing their work with other people.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Martha White

The first time you saw me
without my dungarees
was down by the creek.
You were wildcrafting
and I was skinny-dipping,
washing bales of hay dust
from behind my ears.
In your arms you held
a basket of Yellowroot,
which you dropped
in teary-eyed laughter
at the sight of my backside.
When you told me I was
as white as two buttermilk biscuits,
I drew close my arms,
bronzed from the elbow down,
concealing what pale skin I could
that almost glowed in the clear water.

I couldn't count the times when
my grandmother said the same thing
during childhood baths.
I sat in the wash tub, embarrassed,
with a sponge and a bar of lye soap,
watching the water turn cloudy
while she always made sure
I cleaned behind my ears,
standing above me in her gingham dress.

But you hung yours
on a rhododendron limb
along with your bloomers
and, with a cannonball splash,
jumped into the swimming hole beside me,
making sure to soak my clothes
on the opposite bank.
I smiled astonishingly,
what rock
you had been sunning yourself on
for your back to be so tan,
so unbroken by modesty,
and remembered how Grandma
never cared much
for buttermilk biscuits.

in Appalachian Broadsides 15:3, 27 April 1998,
and The Broad River Review 36 (Spring 2004) 19.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Life and Writing in Good Measure

Since my son was born a little over two weeks ago, I haven't had time to sit down to work on any new writing. It's not that I have a daily routine for writing like the more serious or dutiful writers, the ones that make a career out of writing. Right now my career job is being a father and husband when I'm at home. But I've learned that it's okay. I've gotten over the fact that the more my family grows the less time I have to write the way I was accustomed to in college, sitting down for hours on end. When my daughter was born almost four years ago, it took me some time to adjust that I couldn't seriously sit down in quiet and concentrate on writing. I began carrying around pad and paper to jot down ideas that would pop into my head while doing the laundry or right after tucking my daughter into bed, or I would grab the nearest scrap of paper and writing utensil to jot down a few lines to a kernel of a poem, saving the scraps in an envelope to work on or revise when I had more time. Being left handed makes it hard to bottle feed my son while writing, so I have been having to learn all over again how to channel the creative energy without feeling it's being stifled.

One thing I have been learning to appreciate more is living life. Though writing is a big part of me, I have to remind myself when I get frustrated at how little time I have to write that life is what inspires us all to create, to write. Playing Barbies with my daughter or taking my newborn son out in the warm sun of the front porch doesn't rob me of creative time or energy, but fortifies me. If I had to choose today between being a successful and famous writer and being a successful and loved father and husband, I would drop the pen and pick up a Ken doll. Thankfully I feel I can do both and feel satisfied. I guess it's a balance, all in good measure.