Saturday, July 28, 2007


Posteriors in Perspective

festoons of
fabulous fannies
down the sidewalk
march proudly behind
women who know
what a caboose is

bicycle buns
perch precariously
on tiny padded pedestals
and watch from above
while the legs
get all the credit

skinny dipping
bare white buns
shining in the sun
laughing, swimming
not so secretly
among sweet shrubs
and the summer shade
of rhododendrons

wide loads
dimple-cheeked thighs
wearing elastic pants
wandering the aisles
at Wal-Mart
and whispering
against one another
as they brush past
with their shopping carts

Daisy Dukes
double take
low riding and
dropping out the back
should be a sin
mere inches of ragged
Levi demons
daringly dressed or
denim deficient?
it depends on the degree
of degradation

Friday, July 27, 2007

More Poetry for the Masses

I'll be the first one to admit that the people who tend to admire poetry the most are also poets themselves. Sometimes a clever metaphor or allusion is lost on those who are not used to reading poetry. Poetry tends to be more concise, to say more with fewer words. Like eating Campbell's condensed soup straight from the can, poetry can be a little strong for many palates. From my high school students, to my parents, to even my wife, poetry is not something that is usually read. It wasn't always that way, though. At one time, poetry was included in newspapers and popular magazines. Many poets became household names, such as the Fireside Poets of the 19th century, or such poets as Robert Frost or Maya Angelou. I wonder, though, if the fault lies entirely with the modern, technology-savy-yet-unliterate average Joe or possibly with poets themselves.

In an essay written by John Barr, president of the Poetry Foundation, entitled "American Poetry in the New Century," Barr declared, "American poetry is ready for something new because our poets have been writing in the same way for a long time now. There is fatigue, something stagnant about poetry being written today." Poetry has been largely absent from public life, whether the classroom, bookstore, newspaper, or mainstream media, they all have "a morale problem," that poems are written only with other poets in mind. For that reason, according to Barr, they do not sell. He thinks poets need to write poetry that is more robust, resonant, and above all, entertaining. In one section of the essay entitled, "Live Broadly, Write Boldly," he urged poets to be like Hemingway and seek experience outside of the poetry circles or academia establishments. Take a safari, run with the bulls, go marlin fishing, just get out and experience life. That is what he believes the public will connect with -- real life.

I think Billy Collins is such a successful poet (having sold over 500,000 books of poetry) because of this, besides the fact that he is good at what he does. He comes to the reader unpretentious with poems about everyday occurences that end up being slightly more than that, and leaves us with something understandable to think about. I am no Billy Collins (watch him to become a household name someday), but I strive in my own writing to appeal not just to the poet but to anybody willing to take the time to read a poem. Am I successful in this? I think the jury is still deliberating on that.

Source: Goodyear, Dana. "The Moneyed Muse." The New Yorker. February 19 & 26, 2007. 122-135.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A Magnificent Time at Malaprops

This past weekend’s reading of SAWC members at Malaprops was a success! Granted, only 20 people were in the audience, seven of them being those of us who were reading our work, but we had fun and I think the rest of the audience enjoyed it too. It was also a good opportunity to promote our new issue of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, our yearly literary journal.

Several of us stayed at Jim Hinsdale’s house the night before, and drove up from Tryon to Asheville Sunday morning. We did a little walking around beforehand. Jim Webb (of “Get In, Jesus” fame) bought a pair of sandals at Mast General Store. Dana Wildsmith made a comment on the friendliness and energy that seemed to exude from the passersby on the street. Asheville is an eclectic city, you have to admit. As we were walking back up the street toward the obelisk, we were stopped by a girl who honestly admitted she was having a bad day and hoped one of us would buy her a beer. So floored by her frankness, Jim gave her a few dollars and told her he hoped her day got better.

We decided a beer was a good idea, so we popped in to the bar across the street from Malaprops, where Frankie Finley and Jim Minick were also meeting us. I’m not a big drinker (anymore), but I was a tad anxious, so a tall ale was just what my nerves needed. Hilda Downer and Jane Hicks were waiting in Malaprops when we arrived. Jim Hinsdale was also there with his wife Kay, and he opened the reading for us. I read three poems, the first one being “A Picture’s Worth,” which is included in the new issue. I think I did well. I might have tripped over a word or two, but I didn’t care (thank you, C2H5OH). The events coordinator at Malaprops said we were welcome to schedule another reading like this next year, so I guess we passed the audition, so to speak. For anyone who would like to pick up a copy of volume 12 of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel for only $5 (or back issues for only $4), please contact me at: or our editor, Frankie Finley at: By the way, check out the cover art. Frankie’s partner Beth is a landscape architect and artist., and did an excellent job.

Monday, July 9, 2007


Hi-Fi Stereotype

“And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds,
and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our
God hast punished us less than our
iniquities deserve and hast given us
such deliverance as this;”
Ezra 9:13

When John Boorman directed
Ned Beatty to drop his pants
and squeal like a pig for
local actors pretending to be
some crazed mountain men,
dirty, bent with bestiality
(“If there were ever any
degenerate red-necks,
they are these two”),
did they think that
somewhere in those
twisted hills,
those hollows
of American darkness
crawled the real thing,
toothless crackers,
hillbilly inbreds
whose sole desire
was to gleefully molest
unsuspecting city folk,
young men who just wanted
to canoe a little white water?

No Shucking The Corn,
no Old Joe Clark,
just wicked crackling,
sharp cutting chords,
banjo strings plucking
in the background,
over the rapid’s roar.
As the water carried them,
they paddled urgently,
with fearful and tense bodies,
peering into the forest’s edge,
surrounded on both sides
with the unfamiliar, therefore evil.
You know he’s coming for you,
Lucifer of the mountain laurels,
Beelzebub of the brambles,
while Eric Weissberg
picks his way through
brand-new Pioneer
surround-sound speakers.
I never knew a banjo could make
such a harrowing sound.
Paddle faster.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Poem Accepted -- Yeehaw!!

Not Yay, or Yipee, which can denote sarcasm, but a full-fledged Yeeeeehaw (or maybe Yahooooo would be better, which comes from deeper in the throat and belly when yelled). I got an e-mail from the journal Appalachian Heritage that they liked one of the poems I sent them. "The Night I Met Franklin Graham," will be published this fall. For those who have never heard of the publication, it is an Appalachian regional literary magazine (some people say the Appalachian literary magazine) out of Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. The college was founded on the belief that anyone from the Appalachian region deserves a college education regardless of socioeconomic status, so every one of its 1,500 students admitted gets a 4-year-tuition scholarship. Its programs also focus on preserving and promoting regional culture through literature, history, the arts, and so on. So it's even more of an honor for me to be a part of that, however small that may be.

I'm also excited about next Sunday. Our literary band of varlets, the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative (SAWC), will be having a reading (including little ol' me) at 3 pm at Malaprops Bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina. Many writers will have books to promote and I believe our latest issue of Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel will be available as well, showcasing samples of everyone's work. As I've mentioned before, I'm a little nervous. I'm used to audiences of high school teenagers who usually only pay attention to half the stuff I say. It's a little different reading poetry to a group of adults, when people are trying to catch every word and nuance I utter. I haven't decided what I'm reading yet, either. Maybe I should just break the ice like Carl Sandburg used to -- arrive wearing overalls and a checkered work shirt and play some folk songs on my guitar first (to hell with what Robert Frost said about playing tennis without a net). Now, if only I knew how to play guitar.