Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Poem by Charles Wright

Christmas East of the Blue Ridge

So autumn comes to an end with these few wet sad stains
Stuck to the landscape,
-----------------------December dark
Running its hands through the lank hair of late afternoon,
Little tongues of the rain holding forth
--------------------------------------under the eaves,
Such wash, such watery words...

So autumn comes to this end,
And winter's vocabulary, downsized and distanced,
Drop by drop
Captures the conversation with its monosyllabic gutturals
And tin music,
---------------gravelly consonants, scratched vowels.

Soon the came drivers will light up their fires, soon the stars
Will start on their brief dip down from the back of heaven,
Down to the desert's dispensation
And night reaches, the gall and first birth,
The second only one word from now,
--------------------------------one word and its death from right now.

Meanwhile, in Charlottesville, the half-moon
Hums like a Hottentot
----------------------high over Monticello,
Clouds dishevel and rag out,
The alphabet of our discontent
Keeps on with its lettering,
-------------------------------gold on the black walls of our hearts...

from Locales: Poems from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, edited by Fred Chappell

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"Daddy, He's on My Side Again!"

“Daddy, he’s on my side again!” my sister would say as I inched my finger closer to the back seat stitching that designated the line that we were not to cross.

“No I’m not,” I would say teasingly, wiggling my finger to within a millimeter of the line.

My dad would groan and grip the steering wheel a little tighter. “If you two don’t stop fighting, I’m turning this car around and going home, and we’ll never go to Disney World again!”
"I'm not fighting, she started it!" I would say. It's a wonder my dad didn't turn the car around. We didn't deserve those Mickey Mouse ears. Later, I think Dad pacified us with buying us each one of those Yes & No Invisible Ink Game books he probably picked up at a gas station.

This morning I read the headlines that fighting broke out between North and South Korea on an island near their disputed border. Though I am by no means making light of this situation, as casualties on both sides were suffered, I can’t help but be reminded of how two siblings taunt and fight with each other when they aren’t getting along.

Pyongyang, a high military commander of the North, warned the South to stop their military drills on the island of Yeonpyeong. This island sits on the edge of disputed waters. “Don’t taunt us!” he seemed to be saying.

What does South Korea do? “You can’t tell us what to do!” Not only did they disregard the North’s commandment, but they fired artillery into disputed waters. Though far from the shores of North Korea, the South basically stuck their thumbs in their ears, wiggled their hands, and gave the North a raspberry. “Nyeh, nyeh, nyeh-nyeh-nyeh!”

Well, that infuriated the North, so they decided to wipe the smart-alecky smirk off South Korea’s face by throwing a sucker punch. The South got back on their feet and the fight ensued – for an hour! There hasn’t been fighting like this since the end of the Korean War.

When it was all over, the news reported casualties on both sides, though it sounds like the North got roughed up a little more. They’re still running their mouth, though, saying they’ll do it again if the South comes even within 0.001 millimeter of their border. “Yeah, try it again, I dare you!”

The problem is, if the North and South are squabbling siblings, who’s going to turn the car around and not take them to Disney World? “Daddy, he’s touching me again!” I sure hope they don’t come running to Uncle Sam for help. We’ve been Daddy to enough countries who haven’t been playing fair lately (Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran) that I don’t think there are enough corners in the world to set some of these red-headed step children in “Time Out.” And there are only so many times you can “warm” a child’s rear end before they get used to the spanking.

from “North, South Korea exchange fire; 2 marines killed” by HYUNG-JIN KIM and KWANG-TAE KIM, Associated Press, November 23, 2010

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Bone To Pick With Blake Shelton

It's not an uncommon topic in Country music. Heck, you could say Country music helped perpetuate the image. Marty Stuart sang "Hillbilly Rock." Dwight Yokum sang about "guitars, cadillacs, hillbilly music." Go back to the early days of American music in the 1920s and 1930s and you will see that Country music was originally called Hillbilly music. Carrying on the tradition, Blake Shelton's "Hillbilly Bone," brings the old tropes back to life.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Blake Shelton. This song, however, has more to do in my opinion with just being an all-aroung good ol' redneck than being a hillbilly. Perhaps the term "redneck" has been overused in country music lately. Trucks and mud, hollerin' Yeehaw!, grits, and firearms -- check. But is this an original song? Hardly. It starts out with a contrast of "I got a friend in New York City/ He's never heard of Conway Twitty." Hank Williams, Jr. used that already in "A Country Boy Can Survive" -- "I got a friend in New York City/ He never calls me by my name, just Hillbilly."

You might think I'm not a fan of country music, but Blake Shelton's song is an example of everything that's wrong with country music these days. Trace Adkins, who brought us such "gems" as "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk," joins Shelton in the chorus of his song, "Hillbilly bone -da-bone-da-bone -bone." Now, Trace Adkins could kick my ass for sure and not raise his boot very high, but I don't think Trace Adkins has put out anything worthy to be called country music since his debut album "Dreamin' Out Loud."

Maybe I'm thinking too much about the poetics of a country song, when most folks want something to raise hell to or crank up on their radio on the way to work. But if I could play the guitar, I think I could write me some Country songs, and maybe do Hillbilly right for a change. But that's just me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

More Emily Dickinson Parodies

It's that time of year again, as my American Lit. students study Emily Dickinson. Here is another round of imitation and parodies of the great poet recluse. There are the usual, but great, standbys of fart humor, but also some newly-delved topics of gaming "noobs" and the Youtube sensation Ray William Johnson. Enjoy (or not)!

My life sucks, and here's why
I sit in my room
and make myself cry.

My poems are sad and full of despair
It's too bad
No one cares.

I live by myself
with my 40 cats
and we all indulge
in their tuna packs.

I live alone
I have no friends
and this is how
my story ends.

--Caitlin, Logan, and Jhamil

Heart! We will destroy him!
You and I -- tonight!
You will bring the shovel for the grave --
We will be free by morning light!

When we are done, we need to flee --
Or else on a noose we will be.
Haste! Time is running short.
We will soon forget him.

-- Kasey, Angel, and Caleb

I heard a guy Fart When I Died
The smell in the room
was like the smell in the air
between the passes of gasses.

The noses around -- had pinched them closed
And breaths, were being held
for that last rip -- when the big one
was smelled -- in the room --

I willed my nostrils -- closed them up --
How powerful that smell be
Fresh air -- how I longed for --
and I loathed that darn guy.

And shoo -- loud and rumbling fast --
between the stench and me
And then I breathed my last breath --
--as I cried sweet liberty!

-- Garrett, Brandon, and Mary

This is my letter to the Noobs
Who don't play MLG --
Those worthless noobs and scrubs--
Those not as good as me.

My skills, they are the greatest
You will ever see--
For my skills in Halo--
They come from MLG!

--Matt W.

Tribute to Ray William Johnson

The creepy guy-- stares back at us --
with a look that wants too much --
And a deer that's never felt the run
of a nice -- failure -- Drunk

He speaks with lips that make us laugh
But never have ended squaids
And talks with careful seriousness
that has never been dissed

The Youtube man is straight and forward
Great enough to feel
But who is to say, on the other side,
He's not the one who's trollin'?

Ray William is a wonderful thing
That sometimes shows Fatty Spins
But while we try not to crack
The two camels is what breaks us

-- Andrea and Aimee

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Poem by David T. Manning


That fresh white linen hankie
your wife pressed & folded
with such love fits nice
in your clean shirt pocket.

Then you hachoo!!
You blow & fold it neat.
You blow & fold, blow & fold,
blow & fold again -- then

you wad the damn thing up
into something useful, so
it's ready for that
water-cannon sneeze, for those

green giant ropes of snot
that rattle out of your skull
like log-chains over a F-150 tailgate.
Yes sir! That's a good big whitish

rag now you can roll a man-size
cold up in and stuff it
in the ass pocket of your Levis
until it's too wet to sit on.

from Detained by the Authorities (Pudding House Publications 2007)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

WV Governor Sues the EPA -- It Must Be Election Time

"West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) on Wednesday announced the state is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its crackdown on mountaintop-removal practices by the coal mining industry.

"Manchin, at a morning news conference at the state capitol, said the lawsuit had been in the works long before the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) — a staunch defender of the state's mining industry — in June, according to The Associated Press. Manchin spoke of Byrd’s legacy and pulled out a copy of the U.S. Constitution, as Byrd often did on the Senate floor, and quoted the 10th Amendment, which deals with states' powers, the AP reported."

"Manchin’s announcement comes as he finds himself in a dead heat with Republican John Raese for Byrd’s seat. Manchin’s troubles for that seat — despite his high approval rating as governor — have been used to illustrate the problem some Democrats are having in being linked to President Obama and national Democratic leaders. Raese has steadily improved in the head-to-head race, and edged ahead in a recent Rasmussen poll."

It must be election time. Is it just me, or does anybody else see the connection between West Virginia Governor Manchin's announcement to sue the EPA with his race against Raese for Sen. Byrd's seat in Congress? What was he thinking? -- "Here's a sure way to get those fence-sitting voters and fat cats to vote for me instead of voting Republican, attack the very organization that's looking out for the interests of the little man, the EPA." It's a shame that politicians use their power to promote themselves at the expense of everyone else. And so many folks (Republicans) are making the EPA out to be some organization that throws its weight around, sticking its nose where it doesn't belong. What about Big Coal? Hasn't he been doing that for over 70 years to the residents of West Virginia, Kentucky, and Virginia? How have they fared as a result?

"EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a statement when they were released that the “people of Appalachia shouldn't have to choose between a clean, 
healthy environment in which to raise their families and the jobs they need to support them.”

It must be election time. The lines are being drawn -- and polarized. Republicans are swarming like buzzards around Obama and the Democrats, ready to swoop in for the kill. And it's not going to be a pretty sight. There won't be any winners in this election, I'm afraid. We're all going to lose.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his essay "Nature" that someone may own the land, but no one will ever own the landscape. It belongs to everyone who gazes upon it. That's not really true anymore, as coal companies are removing the landscape, the very horizon that Emerson said we needed. "The health of the eye demands a horizon," he said. So what's going to happen to us when that landscape is gone, and is replaced by valley fill, flat land not good for anything but scrub grass. We've got cheap energy, but we are living along a Martian landscape.

from "W.Va. Gov. Manchin sues EPA over mountaintop removal" By Darren Goode, in The Hill

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dueling Frequencies

I took my family to Beech Mountain this weekend for Autumn at Oz, the one time of the year they re-open the 1970s theme park Land of Oz (see my previous blog entry on this). They had a great time, of course. My daughter dressed as Glinda the Good Witch and my son the Tin Man.

The weather was great. It was a clear, blue-sky day with not a cloud in site. We were about to leave when I decided to take a scenic drive around the north side of Beech Mountain (my wife would claim I took a wrong turn). I was listening to my usual radio station, WNCW 88.7, which always has a great program called "Going Across the Mountain" on Saturday afternoons, the best and longest bluegrass program you can find on the radio. I wasn't paying close attention to the music, though, as I was driving around looking for the way down, er... I mean looking around. The DJ came on the radio and announced "You are listening to 88.7 WMMT in Whitesburg, Kentucky...." I had one of those "What the?!" moments like I had heard it wrong, but I hadn't.

Here I was on top of Beech Mountain, North Carolina, listening to a radio station broadcasting from Whitesburg, Kentucky, where my good friend Wiley Quixote (Jim Webb) DJs. I was just there this past July on the radio myself (see previous post). By the time I stopped saying, "Cool!" over and over the frequency started switching between WNCW and WMMT to the point that my daughter started laughing. It was Alison Krauss and Union Station vs. Gary Stewart singing "She's Acting Single, and I'm Drinking Doubles."

I was told by my friend Jim Web that at one time many folks could listen to WMMT in NC, but when WNCW started broadcasting in 1989 their frequency overpowered all of the listening range for WMMT in NC. I guess at this altitude, and being on the north side of the mountain, there are still pockets that are shadowed and still within range.

"Hey, Honey! It's 'Dueling Frequencies!'" I laughed. My wife wasn't as impressed. It would've been really funny if Eric Weissburg had started picking against Arlo Guthrie or something like that.

She wryly responded, "Let's just hope Jeb and Zeke don't jump out of the woods and see your 'purty' teeth."

"Jenny, we're on Beech Mountain. We're more likely to see Mr. Moneybags step out of his million-dollar chalet walking his Pomeranian on a Gucci dog leash. I'm more likely to be labelled 'deranged hillbilly' in this neighborhood!"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bob Dylan, the Hillbilly

In an interview with Rolling Stone, John Mellencamp comments on directing Bob Dylan's video for "Political World."

"Bob said one thing over and over: 'Don't make me look stupid.' I said, 'We're in videos, we all look stupid. Who has a video where they don't look stupid? .... We get along well. He's a hillbilly. I laugh so hard when I'm with Bob. I call him 'Bob-aloo.' Bob does things his way, and so do I, and sometimes we pay an awful high price."

The term "Hillbilly" must be evolving in its usage. Mellancamp, born in Indiana, might not have seen many hills growing up, but Dylan was born in Minnesota, the same heartland region I would say as Mellencamp. Having left the hills of Appalachia or the Ozarks, the term Hillbilly has found new life. Clearly used in an affectionate manner, perhaps Mellencamp's use of "Hillbilly" is a generational thing, like calling Dylan "old fashioned" or an "old fart," or someone who's backwards or set in his ways. I think if I called my dad a Hillbilly, however, he'd wallop me with a Chardonay bottle!

from Rolling Stone September 2, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

What Makes It Taste Better -- Now Available!

For years I've been wanting to publish my own book of poetry, hoping that I would someday win a contest and get my foot in the door. I mean, how else do you do it? Having poems published in poetry and writing journals, I knew that someone out there thought my work was good. Many times over the years my writer friends and fellow SAWC members have nurtured and supported my work. This summer I said to myself, "What am I waiting for?"

I discovered a website that brings print-on-demand to the desktop -- I have heard pros and cons about the website, but when I started looking around Lulu, I realized how simple it could be. As the chef in Ratatouille said "Anybody can cook," I'm here to say "Anybody can publish."

Maybe I'm destroying the mistique of publishing, that if anyone can do it, then there must be quite a bit of amateurish stuff out there. Maybe so, but it isn't easy either, let me say. There are many steps to the process, and a lot of trial and error, but it is feasable.
So, without further ado, I present my first poetry book collection What Makes It Taste Better. Some of my friends who have helped me in encouragements have been gracious enough to provide back-cover reviews:

"In David Wayne Hampton’s first collection of poems the world is always at summer, with somewhere nearby “the ploink, plunk, brunk of the water/ the high hat, pat-a-slap tap/ of silver.” He gives us the kind of food we want on a green summer day- from doughnuts to ham hocks to Cheerwine, to Moonpies- and good family stories to listen to while we munch. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing these poems as light, however: “it’s not the eureka moment/ but the long, slow continuing” through these poems of place that makes the reading of them as satisfying as an afternoon swim at summer camp. Hampton’s southern Appalachian world is light-filled, but within light dwells the possibility of all colors, including the darkest ones. “Don’t call us backward” one poem admonishes, “we walk in the same direction as you/ just not in such a hurry.” Don’t hurry through Hampton’s collection; you’ll be glad you lingered awhile.”
-Dana Wildsmith, Author of Back to Abnormal

"Clever parodying, curious and playful lines make WHAT MAKES IT TASTE BETTER verge on the educational and insightful, yet with humor, not pedanticism. Here I found out that the mullet haircut was once called the 'Carolina Waterfall' and that blackbirds and boogers have more than a little in common. The poems’ humor saves them, in that tongue-in-cheek way that disarms any resistance to their charms. David Hampton’s clever word-play with classical and modern themes reminds me of the work of the legendary Louise McNeill. This book made me laugh and cringe, sometimes in the same instant."
– Ron Houchin, author of Museum Crows

"In this wryly observant first collection, David Hampton gives us an insider's view of life in these post-millennium Appalachians. What makes it taste better? Humor which manages to be all at once ironic and compassionate. A sense of history, and of one's own place in it. Precision of language and the joy of its tang on your tongue."
-- Pauletta Hansel, author of Divining and First Person

Thank you to all who supported me in this endeavor! And thank you to all who take a chance in purchasing a copy! I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Trip to the Farmer's Market

I was trying to find the Thomas Wolfe House yesterday in Asheville on a family outing (my internal "man map" was off) when I turned off the exit for the WNC Farmer's Market. I decided to stop there instead, and I was glad I did.

This is the time of year in the early fall that farmer's markets get one last resurgence of business before the winter lull. I like the concept of farmer's markets. Why buy produce that shipped from California or by boat from another country when you can get fresher seasonal fruits and vegetables while at the same time supporting your community of local farmers? For many people, and some restaurants, farmers markets are a vital outlet for buying and eating local produce and other wares year round. For me, it had been a while.

Being near Hendersonville, NC, I immediately remembered that the apples were in season. The kids were hungry for a snack, so my daughter and I grabbed a peck bag and started browsing the different varieties. There were several I remembered from years ago when I used to work at a summer camp in Hendersonville during the summer and fall seasons, like Honey Crisp and Winesaps, but there were several varieties that I had never come across before.

For example, if you like Golden Delicious apples, try finding Ginger Golds. Smaller, but much sweeter with a thinner skin. There was another odd-looking apple that I had to try -- Sheepnoses. They had the skin texture of an old-timey pear my grandmother used to grow near her house, with an elongated shape. The flesh was a little dry, but sweet and, I swear, almost tasted like a pear. My kids went crazy over the Ginger Golds, especially my son who normally can't chew the peelings.

There was also a small bakery there that had a really good fried apple pie. Of course, there were pumpkins and gourds galore as well, some so big I thought my kids could have used them for canoes. All in all, it was a fortunate mistake to stop there, and for folks who have never been or not been in a while it is well worth a visit. I bought a whole bag of summer squash, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and okra for $4. Can't beat that with a stick.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Poem by John F. Keener


I dream of mountains where I don't live
And scarce recall but for old connections
Circled round, made course corrections
And put down here, so here I live

I dream of roads where I don't walk
Ones that go slender on the senses
Sweetened along by rot-sweet fences
But my feet are here, so here I walk

I dream of jobs that I don't work
And never could, the good Lord knows
For money grows where money grows
And its roots run here, so here I work

I dream of places I don't belong
Not precisely, not anymore
And even if I did before
I belong here now, and that's what's wrong

from the Appalachian Journal 26:2 (Winter 1999)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Rose or the Cabbage

"The question of common sense is always 'What is it good for?' -- a question which would abolish the rose and be answered triumphantly by the cabbage." -- James Russell Lowell

I came across this quote in my class textbook today that I hadn't noticed before. In teaching Romanticism, I discuss how the Romantics reacted against the Age of Reason's philosophies -- that science was the answer to all life's questions. I will admit that Romanticism had its faults; real life is not ideal or beautiful or mysterious sometimes. Too often, though, I throw away the rose for the cabbage -- I focus only on the practicality or usefulness of things, but ignore the felicitous beauty of other things. Practical and useful things bring contentment, sure (TV remotes, can openers, for example), but it's the beautiful things that bring joy and renewal to our lives.

Case in point. Because the doctor told me my bad cholesterol is too high, he strongly suggested I start getting more exercise and eating better. I started walking in the evenings in my neighborhood because it was the most practical use of my limited time, and thus fulfilled the doctor's prescription for me. I didn't much care for it at first. I wanted to be hiking or mountain biking in the woods somewhere, not walking in a circle past rows of suburbia housing. When I started looking for the beauty in the seemingly mundane, though, things changed. I noticed how the woods smelled differently as I passed the undeveloped lots, how houses even had different odors as I walked past the open garage doors. Looked up and traced the zig-zag silhouettes of bats against the evening sky as they flew from one street light to the next. Heard at least four distinctly different insect sounds (crickets, cicadas, katydids, and one I can't identify). Totally useless and impractical pursuits, I know, but well worth my attention. The laps passed effortlessly.

Eating better, that's a different story.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On the Radio in Whitesburg, Kentucky

I was up in Whitesburg, Kentucky, the last weekend in July to camp and do some writing. My friend and fellow poet, the infamous Wiley Quixote (Jim Webb), owns a private campground on top of Pine Mountain called Wiley's Last Resort. He also DJ's on Appalshop's WMMT 88.7 in downtown Whitesburg. After a fruitful day of writing and relaxing, he asked if I wanted to be a guest on his radio show "Appalachian Attitude." All of a sudden I went from being Thoreau, leading a simple life led close to nature (Wiley actually has a "Walled-In Pond" on his property), to having my voice broadcast all over Eastern Kentucky and the World Wide Web . I was excited, honored, and a little nervous. I called my wife to tell her to listen online at 5pm on August 2nd, but unfortunately she had to take the kids to a doctor's appointment. I didn't think to call anyone else in my family. I also didn't have much time to prepare. Wiley wanted me to read some of my poetry and talk about my life as a writer, so I found some poems and took a few notes for myself.

I had a blast! I didn't have to wear headphones, but I had one of those big microphones on the swing arm to speak into. Knowing a little bit about me, Jim prompted me with questions which I didn't have much trouble coming up with something to say. Unlike most guest writers, I didn't have a book of poetry or my novel to promote, but I did have a caller. During a public service announcement, the red light started flashing, silently signalling a call. It was Walter B. Lane, who lives in Letcher County, I believe. He remembered when I was an editorial assistant at the Appalachian Journal and corresponded with him on several occasions, particularly on a poem ("The Way North") of his the Journal published. He said he appreciated the encouragement I gave him in my rejection notices. That made the whole interview worthwhile, I think.

WMMT didn't post the interview in their online archive, or one earlier in the year by fellow poet and SAWCer Dana Wildsmith (which I would love to listen to), but if ever they do I will provide a link for anyone interested. I wasn't a brilliant orator, but I had fun. And, again I apologize to the feline-lovers out in radio land when I joked during the traffic report about not having a cat to throw in front of a steam roller on Madison Avenue!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What's In A Name

Why do poets use their middle names? I thought about this from time to time. Maybe its for the name recognition, to sound more important or distinguished or to distinguish themselves from the thousands of other names that sound similar. Then there are some writers that use initials for their first name, middle name, or both, like Frank X. Walker or R.T. Smith. As a fledgling writer, I once thought of penning my name as D. Wayne Hampton, but it reminded me too much of my Freshman dorm-floor nickname, so I chucked that idea. I don't know about other folks without asking them, but I do have a reason why I use my full name.

My father's name is David Wilson Hampton. He wanted so much to make me a Junior, but my mom would not hear of it. As a compromise, he named me David Wayne Hampton. However, as I grew up I became more aware that only my middle initial was requested when filling out forms, so people always asked, "Oh, so are you a Junior?" to which I would vehemently reply, "No. I am not!" It got on my nerves pretty quickly.

When I was 13 my family physician picked up my father's folder by mistake instead of mine. I was there for a routine physical, and when the doctor walked in with a chart in his hand, he said, "Whoops. I think I got the wrong one. You didn't recently have a vasectomy, did you?" Not something a pubescent boy really wants to know about his father. The images conjured up in my mind that day are still etched in the back of my skull.

As a teenager I was very self-conscious about being my own person and not wanting that association with my father. When I opened a checking account, I insisted using my full name as my official signature on my checks. When I got my driver's license, I signed my name in full. As I've gotten older, though, I regretted making such a fuss about it, especially in front of my father whose pride was probably hurt a little each time I wanted to distinguish my name from his. I'm still glad I'm not a junior, but I'm proud now that I share my first name and middle initial with my father. An added bonus -- in college he would sometimes let me cash a check originally written out to him, and my AAA account states I've been a loyal member with them since the sixth grade.

As a writer, I admit I wanted my name to be less common. David is such a common name, and everywhere I've lived since college there has been another David Hampton in the phone book. When I began working at the Appalachian Journal at ASU, where I attended college, I noticed how many other writers I met or came across in my work had the same middle name as me: Jim Wayne Miller, Richard Wayne Hague, and longtime editor of the AppalJ Jerry Wayne Williamson. As a joke to pass the long office hours of proofreading and transcribing, Jerry and I came to the conclusion that it was the perfect middle name. We even tossed around the idea of giving everyone on the editorial board the middle name of Wayne in an upcoming issue just to see if anyone would notice. We never did, but it became the running joke for a while.

I hope when people see my name in a journal or literary publication, they won't think I'm being pompous or self-important because I use my full name. It does take up more space on a line, but in one way I'm just carrying on a tradition of literary nomenclature, right?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Froggy went a Boarding, and He Did Ride

After picking up my 3-year-old son at daycare the other day , instead of going into his usual babble about what he did or who wouldn't share their toy with him, he started blurting out, "Froggy! Froggy, Daddy!" At first I thought he was just talking about a toy he had dropped the day before in the back floorboard. I had already pulled out onto the road by that point.

"Daddy will get it when we get home," was my rehearsed reply.

"No, Daddy. Look!" I looked in the rear-view mirror, and he was pointing at my driver's side window. A tree frog must have dropped from an overhanging limb while I was parked. He was wide-eyed and clutching frantically to the glass with his little webbed feet, looking back at me at eye level. A little startled at first, at a stop sign I quickly pulled an empty drink bottle out of the floorboard and cut the top off it with my pocket knife, hoping do a little wildlife rescue. A car pulled up behind me, however, so I drove off before I could get out and catch it. It began to crawl down the glass like it was about to jump from my car.

"No!" I cried.

"What wrong, Daddy?" my son said, very concerned. I was not going to let this thing take a plunge to its death on my watch, so I started to roll down the window in hopes of catching it before it committed froggy suicide. Here I am, driving down the road with my hand out the window trying to scoop up a hitchhiking amphibian.

That's when it hopped into my car. Thankfully it didn't go for my face, because I probably would have swatted out of reflex and killed it. Instead, it landed on my dash. I could see it now, the thing was going to climb down my defrost vent and get stuck, shriveling up and leaving a stench of baking frog meat in the afternoon sun. Instead it proceeded to climb down the crack between my car door and the dash. My son was going nuts now, "Get it Daddy, get it!"

I pulled into a church parking lot and opened my car door. It had safely clung to my door, like it would crawl under a layer of tree bark. I caught it in the plastic bottle, and allowed my son to take a minute to look at it. It was breathing feverishly, like it thought we were going to eat it. There weren't any trees around nearby, so I placed it under a bush next to a tombstone in the cemetery. I'm sure someone at the church saw me and wondered what I was doing at the grave site.

No flowers, just leaving a frog.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Emily Dickinson -- Imitation and Parodies

My students are once again studying American poetry, so I had them imitate one of Emily Dickinson's poems. Here is a selection of a few I thought really stood out. Some are sincere imitations, while others are just plain wacky. Enjoy!

I remember once
where once was us
yes -- we were once
but it twas the past

To dwindle in the past
is where you'll find me last
I can taste your bitter words
enveloped inside myself

the untangible ticking
that time's supposed to heal
But I shall ponder on
to the last of my appeal

-- Tina Vue and Tou Keng Yang

Fart! We will hear it!
You and I -- today!
You may feel the warmth it gave --
I will smell it!

When you are done, please tell me
That I may straight leave!
Haste! lest while you're gagging
I remember forever!

-- Amanda Matney and Brandi Harris

I'll tell the truth because you can't --
There is no need to cry
You're sad too much, let's see a smile
Happiness is good -- Surprise!
You're kind of crazy -- can't be pleased
Try and have a good time
Come on and smile now Emily
The world is really kind.

--Daniel Padula and Trever Miller

Oh -- my -- lord -- Emily
Honestly -- what -- is -- with --
these -- dashes
They -- are -- so -- annoying --
Like -- a -- cup

It's -- like -- those --
business -- names --
Save -- a -- Cent
Rent -- a -- Car
All -- making -- no -- sense
Whatsoever --

You -- would've -- been --
great -- at -- Morse -- Code--
Oh -- m-y -- st-op --
ta-k-ing -- ov-e-r
my -- poe-m yo-u stup--id d-ashes
Cu-r-s--e yo-u Emil ------------------

-- Josh Kincaid

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Why is my Blog Site a Target for Spam?

It's been worse over the past couple of weeks. Solicitations for female Viagra, shoes, something in Chinese I can't read, and someone who just says I have a "genial" post. I wonder if anyone else out there is getting the same. Perhaps it's because I have been inactive for a while on my site, and browsers think I wouldn't notice, except for the fact I have my comments moderation function turned on. Any advice on how to be less of a target, anyone?