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Nancy Simpson's LIVING ABOVE THE FROST LINE, New and Selected Poems was published by Carolina Wren Press (N.C. Laureate Series, 2010.) She is the author of ACROSS WATER and NIGHT STUDENT, State Street Press, still available on WWW at Alibris and Books Again. Her poems have been published in Southern Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review and other literary magazines. "Carolina Bluebirds" was published in THE POETS GUIDE TO THE BIRDS, Anhinga Press). "Grass" was reprinted in the 50th Anniversary Issue of Southern Poetry Review: DON'T LEAVE HUNGRY ( U.of Arkansas Press.) Seven poems were reprinted in the textbook, SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN POETRY,(McFarland.) Two poems were published in SOLO CAFE, Two more poems were published in SOLO NOVO."In the Nantahala Gorge" was published in Pisgah Review. "Studying Winter" was reprinted in Pirene's Fountain Anthology and "The Collection" in Collecting Life Anthology. Most recently, Southern Poetry Review Edited by James Smith, published "Our Great Depression," and The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol. VII: NORTH CAROLINA,Edited by William Wright, reprinted "Leaving in the Dead of Winter."

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Farewell to Three Poets Named John

Year 2008 ends with southern readers and writers forced to say farewell to three of our finest poets, all three named John. They are: (1) Jonathan Williams born March 8, 1929 in Asheville, North Carolina who died March 16, 2008 in Highlands, N.C. (2) John Foster West born December 10, 1918 in Wilkes County N.C. who died May 2, 2008. (3) physician poet, John Stone born February 7, 1936 in Jackson, Mississippi who died at his home near Atlanta on November 6, 2008.

Jonathan Williams, John Foster West, and John Stone were sons of the south, yet each became internationally known, making his mark as a poet. Poetry was greatly loved by these men, but being a poet was only a part of each of their profound lives.

Besides being an accomplished poet, Jonathan Williams was a world famous publisher and owner of The Jargon Society Press, the most renowned small presses in America. Many writers began their careers under his patronage, including Robert Creeley. Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Mina Loy and Jeffery Beam. Williams’s published work includes: An Ear in Bartram’s Tree (1969 U.N.C. Press), Blues& Roots/Rue & Bluets (1971 Grossman; 1985 Duke University) Quote, Unquote (1989 Ten Speed Press) A Palpable Elysium: Portraits of Genius and Solitude (2002 David ) The Magpie’s Bagpipe (1982 North Point) Blackbird Dust (2000 Turtle Point) Jubilant Thicket: New and Selected Poems with over 1000 of his poems (2005 Copper Canyon Press.) The Jargon Society archives are housed in Poetry and Rare Books at State University of New York, Buffalo, New York.

John Foster West is one of the most well known poets of the Southern Appalachian Region. Although I did not know him well, he invited me to read at Appalachian State as poet of the creative writing program in 1985. I have never forgotten his friendly southern manner. West was “the beloved teacher” to his students. He taught English for forty-two years before retiring from Appalachian State University in 1991 as professor emeritus. John Foster West’s poetry collections are: This Proud Land, Wry Wine and High Noon at Pompeii. He was well known for his novels: Time Was (Random House 1965) Appalachian Dawn (Random House 1973 ) The Summer People (1989 Appalachian Consortium Press) The Ballad of Tom Dula (1990 Moore Publishing). His novel, Time Was was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. John Foster West’s papers are housed at Appalachian State University.

Dr. John Stone was Professor Emeritus of Cardiology at Emory University in Atlanta. He also taught English Literature at Emory and at Oxford University in England. His death this past fall stunned many. Only family and close friends knew he was ill. I first met John Stone at Callanwolde Fine Art Center in Atlanta when he served on the Poetry Committee. I heard him read his poems and speak at writing conferences many times around the south. Most recently, I heard him as the Byron Herbert Reese Speaker at Harris College. Those who knew John Stone say he loved and studied poetry all of his life. Dr. Stone had been heard to quote William Carlos Williams in saying that "he was married to medicine but that poetry was his mistress." As a poet, John Stone’s work was widely published. Louisiana State University Press counted him as their own. L.S. U. Press is where you will want to go if searching for his poetry collections: The Smell of Matches, (1972, and 1989), In All this Rain (1980) Renaming the Streets (1985) Where Water Begins: New Poems and Prose (1998) Music from Apartment 8: New and Selected Poems (2004) . In 1990 Dell published In the Country of Hearts: Journeys in the Art of Medicine, a collection of
essays . The book was reprinted by LSU Press in 1996. Dr. Stone co edited On Doctoring: Stories, Poems and Essays (Simon & Schuster 1991). More than 200,000 copies have been distributed to American medical students.

Jonathan Williams, John Foster West, Dr. John Stone: They are gone, these three phenomenal poets. They will be remembered. Their words shall endure.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Auld Lang Syne - What do these words mean?

Auld Lang Syne, sang throughout the world on New Year’s eve, was first published by Robert Burns, the Scottish poet in the 1700s. This was not his original thought. He said he “took it down from “an old man.” In fact, the first verse did exist in tradition, but Burns added other verses. The poem/song as we know it is attributed to Robert Burns. It was published after his death in 1796.

Scots spread the song though out the world. In 1929, Guy Lambardo, a Canadian band leader made Auld Lang Syne popular when he played it at the the New York New Year’s celebration.

In my life, I’ve sang Auld Lang Syne on New Year’s eve. I interpret Auld Lang Syne to mean: “Because we never want to forget old friends and that special time long ago, where ever I am and where ever you are, we’ll drink a 'cup of kindness' as a toast to the memories of that time gone by.”

Remembering old acquaintances and special times is necessary to some of us, to me for certain. Some of us cannot under any circumstance wish anyone a happy new year, until we have first gone through the process of “Auld Lang Syne.

For all of you who share history of any kind with me and I with you, “for 
Auld Lang Syne,” I wish you a Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

APPALACHIAN CHRISTMAS BOOKS for Children and Young Adults will be  listed below  in detail for the next ten days only. This list was prepared by Judy A. Teaford, Mountain State University. 
For more info, see www.AppLit.com, Tina L. Hanlon, Ferrum College


All those times, all those bridges, 
Georgia to Florida, sand
in his shoes, red clay in his pocket,
I wonder what passed through my father's mind.

He never said much about hurricanes
or corn, except that you pull it not pick it
One summer in Georgia I promised to pull
all the corn in ten acres he planted.

Indolent girl, red clay in my pocket,
I remember a movie in east Atlanta.
Prisoners built a bridge across water,
building, building the whole movie.

I was too young to know why
they blew it all to pieces in the end.
This morning a half drowned woman wakes me.
I open the window.  She has come many miles

across water.  Her memories are mine.
She gives me one starfish, one mango
and reminds me how I climbed the tree
when the flood came, after the hurricane.

I give her anemone for starfish.
I give her a mountain, the safest place to be.


H E R I T A G E by Nancy Simpson

Sun and moon at the same time,
my boy looks up saying Carolina sky
is different from sky in Vietnam.
Nguyen Quoc Phong, Nguyen Quoc Phong,
he writes his name on the fogged windshield.
The anniversary of adoption, he asks

too many questions.  I try to explain
day and night. We are somewhere between
home and his dad's new house,
coconut cake on the back seat
and presents tied with white ribbon.
That is not enough.

He wants to know how separate worlds revolve.
the crossing of paths at certain days of the year.
I apologize, driving us south,
remembering the day I reached half-way
around the world, $1600.00 in my fist,
believing I could give him the sun and the moon.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

CHRISTMAS PRESENCE, The Newest Book on My Shelf

The Phillips and Lloyd Book Store in Hayesville offered only a little wiggle room Saturday with many people lined up at the counter to buy books.  I found my way to the back meeting room
where Brenda Kay Ledford, Carole Thompson and Nancy Sales Cash were signing copies of the new anthology which holds their short stories and essays,  CHRISTMAS PRESENCE. I bought a copy for myself and had them sign it.  Christmas Presence is edited by Celia H. Miles and Nancy Dillingham, published at Catawba Press. It presents stories, essays and poems by 45 western North Carolina women writers.  

This anthology has something for everyone. I enjoyed the poems. I read them first.   There are many good memoir essays:   "I'll Be Home For Christmas" by Nancy Purcell, "The Christmas Catalog" by Nancy Sales Cash, and "Memories of Wartime Christmases" by Mary D. Marsh which is set in the blitz of 1940.   I enjoyed the humor in Brenda Kay Ledford's  "Miss Bessie Mae and the Christmas Biker." 

What I like best about the book is that most of the writing is set here in the Appalachian Mountains.  My favorite short stories are,  " A Bag of Sugar for Paula" by Carole Thompson,  "Grand Pa and the Snow Snakes" by Penny Morse and "A Logging Camp Christmas" by Exie Wilde Henson.   The strongest and best essays are:  "And the Animals Knelt" by Celia Miles, "The French Harp" by Glenda Barrett and "Jewish Christmas" by Jessica Harriot.  

The more I read, the more I find to like.  The more read, the more I mark pages and plan what I will read to my family on Christmas Day.

Copies of the book can be ordered at Catawba Publishing Company (704) 717-8452
and are for sale at Phillips and Lloyd Book Store in Hayesville, NC.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

AGAIN by Kathryn Stripling Byer

I lie down in her sea bed
that bears me back home to the nothing left
after her house burned around it.

Her lavender handkerchief knotted
round nickels and dimes. On her dresser
a brooch in the shape of a peacock's tail.

Organdy curtains that breathed in
and out when she opened the windows
for March to blow through like a lioness

stalking the boxwoods or a lamb bleating
out by the pump house. Her hairpins
sown over the rugs. Her voluminous apron.

Her false teeth that grinned
every night from a tall iced-tea glass,
as she pulled off her house dress,

her shimmy, her bloomers
that even now swell like a mainsail
with nothingness. Lorna Doone shortbread

she nibbled till she fell asleep, leaving crumbs
in the bed sheets like sand from the white beach
at Panama City whenever I crawled into bed

with her body that smelled of ocean
at low tide and tasted of salt
when she pulled me too close to her.

Previously published in The Courtland Review. From COMING TO REST, Louisiana State University Press

Note: "Hallows" tried to slip away before its time, faded like a ghost
and went into the archive. Likewise, this happened to "Scuppernong,"
but all is not lost. Click below labels on Older Post to read "Hallows"
and "Scuppernong" by the Poet of the Month of December,
NC Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer.

SCUPPERNONGS by Kathryn Stripling Byer

They ripened to myth on her tongue, sweetness
always beyond reach, out there at the edge
of abandoned farms, back in the thickets
where no decent woman dared go.  Not that she
scorned mayhaws her black neighbors left
at her door.  Toiling hours in tropical swelter,
she boiled them down into a red syrup

salvaged in jelly jars.  How much of her sweat
she stirred into that crimson stock I still
contemplate when it comes time to make jelly
again and I find myself roaming the fruit stalls
till  I smell them, lifting both hands full,
as she would have done, to my nose,
understanding why she bent to every plum,

melon, and peach, every strip of fresh sugar cane.
Thus have these scuppernongs ripened
for too long inside my refrigerator.
Past time to ward off the coming rot,
time to remember how she'd set to work
with no recourse to Sure-Gel, just lemon and
sugar.  A spoon.  Cheesecloth.  Most of a morning

or afternoon, watching the syrup drip slowly
then more slowly still down the spoon's sticky
edge.  Leaving everything it touched, as always,
a mess, and for what?  On my windowsill,
seven jars through which the light of this late
summer afternoon takes its time, quickening
each pot of pale amber juices to sweet everlasting.

Previously Published in Iron Mountain Review.
From COMING TO REST, Louisiana State University Press

"Hallows" tried to slip away before its time, faded like a ghost
and went into the archive. But all is not lost.  Click below labels 
on Older Post to read "Hallows."

HALLOWS by Kathryn Stripling Byer

These leaves at my window,
death-speckled black oak and blood maple,

fall to the earth into which
she was sealed, leaving me

to imagine I see through the hollows
of what were her eyes how another day

breaks on the backs of the scrub pines
that stand up to welcome it.


She was no saint.
She never fasted,
and if she prayed,
I never heard her

aside from the Lawsy
she uttered as down
she sank onto the dark
of the chamber pot
while I tried to be sleeping.

She stirred up the fire
to roar every morning and beat
the dough smooth, shoved it into the oven
to bake and be eaten.  When I hear Pavarotti
sing Panis Angelicus, I see her hands 
deep in the dough bowl,

and I hear the fire in the stove rumble,
I hear her chuckling and sighing,
she who could never on this earth 
deliver unto any table a dry piece of cornbread,

whose old-fashion cakes 
that lay solid as flesh on the plates 
put to shame every paper-thin
slice of town ladies' angelfood cakes.
(Any honest-to-god-angel

would have preferred them,
a dollop of whipped cream atop
every thick slice and after that, oh,
just a touch of her Christmas divinity.)

Los Muertos.  The dead.
They are out there this morning,
in the woods with the busy squirrels
laying up treasures on earth,
this heaven of acorns and walnuts.
This granary.

These last dawns before the leaves go,
I wake early to watch from the widow
my dead ones out there in the wood
leaf by leaf come
to rest on the ground
where at last they have nothing
to say beyond what's meant
to lie on the earth and be claimed by it.

Previously Published in Southern Poetry Review.
From COMING TO REST, Louisiana State University Press

Monday, November 24, 2008


On the mountain a woman saw
the road bank caved in
from winter's freeze-thaw
and April rain erosion.

Trees leaned over the road the way
strands of hair hung on her forehead.
She gaped, her face as tortured
as the face she saw engraved in dirt.

Roots growing sideways shaped brows,
two eyes.  Humus washed
down the bank like a nose.
Lower down, where a rock

was shoved out by weathering,
a hole formed the shape of a mouth.
The woman groaned, Agh.
Her spirit toppled

to the ground, slithered
under the roots of an oak.
She stood there as if lost, asking
What?  Who?

Back to reason, back home
she finished her questions:
What can one make of the vision, that face
on the north side of the mountain?

Reckoning comes, a thought:
it is not the image of a witch nor a god,
but Earth's face, mouth open saying,
Save me.

Previously published in Pembroke Magazine
edited by Shelby Stephenson.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

WEATHER REPORT Above the Frost Line

With ten nights in the twenties or lower, the hard freeze finished off the flowers in my garden for the year. The rose bushes stand green, but the bright Knock-Out roses are brown.  All of the perennials have bent under the cold and have begun to hunker down.  The only thing of interest are some seed pods and variegated evergreens.   Even the Camellia's pink blooms, that thrive in November, always through Thanksgiving, have shriveled and turned transparent on the bush. 

In the past ten days, cold as it has been, we've had sunshine each day.  This fall, I've been more aware of the sun, how at times I can be surprised by light, by the way it beams down in shafts in specific places on the property.  I have been surprised several afternoons, when sunbeams bounce around my living room.  Yesterday,  I caught myself talking to no one,  saying  outloud, "It's okay. It's the sun.  Everything will be okay."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Hidden in the far southwestern corner of North Carolina is a thriving, 83 year old school of arts and crafts - The John C. Campbell Folk School. That is no secret, for thousands of students come for classes each year.  The news that is not reaching writers is that J.C.C.F.S. offers writing classes. Last year the school opened its new Writing Studio.  Students come for a week or a weekend.  The outside world seems to disappear as they focus on their writing.

J.C.C.F.S. is like a second home to me, and I go there as often as possible.  A number of my poems  were written there.  I am lucky to have a reason sometimes to be there, at least part time.  For fifteen years, I have served as Resident Writer.  It's a small job, but it is important to me, because I have an opportunity to plan and schedule the writing classes.  

The year 2008 is coming to the end.  Yes, the hard freeze is coming, maybe tonight.  Writers must find a way to keep writing when all else shuts down.  In my planning, at the folk school, I thought carefully about the kind of writing classes that keep writers writing, even in the dead of winter.
Above you will find the list of winter classes.  Check it out.  Sign up.  I hope to see you there.

Comments are especially welcome form former folk school writing students.


When is blogging fun? When it is written by published writers.  More fun when a connection is made in cyberspace that is so filled with humor it makes you laugh out loud. 

This is a click now, chuckle now for you.

In the right column click on KUDZU KOTTAGE and read this item:  "Must Read Glenda Beall's Purdy Cows." It is written by Lynn Hamilton Ruthrford, accompanied by "Cow Cow Boogie".

Get along.  And when you have read Rutherford's humorous story, she gives you a click link to "Purdy Cows" which is followed with  a poem by southern poet, Janice Townley Moore titled "Learning to Live With the Cows."  

Music, Music, Music.

Get along.  

Sunday, November 16, 2008

SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN POETRY, a new textbook, edited by Marita Garin

SOUTHERN APPALACHIAN POETRY has been published by McFarland Press as No. 20 in its Southern Appalachian Studies Series.  Below is a review by Scott Nicholson, The Mountain Times, Boone, NC.


A new collection reveals the poetic influences of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and their culture.

Southern Appalachian Poetry is edited by Marita Garin of Black Mountain and is No. 20 in McFarland Books' series, Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies.

Garin's book collects works by 37 poets, mainly from the last century.  The 225 poems touch on not only the scenic beauty of the mountains, but the people that give the region its special place in the literary canon.

While many of the included poets are native to the mountains, a solid precentage have either visited the region or were born in the Southern Appalachians and later moved away.  However, their experiences give a fresh insight into the folklore because their impressions are colored by time and distance, as well as the comparative quality of flatland, city life.

The region's narrative, embodied by dialect, syntax and storytelling rhythms, suggest the changing traditions of the mountains, from backwoods folk wisdom to tourist influence, development and technological advances.

Several of the poets have distinct Watauga County roots.  John Foster West, whose Carolina bloodline goes back to the American Revolution, studied literature at several universities and as a professor helped found Appalachian State University's creative writing program.  He retired after 21 years from ASU in 1990.  He's published the books Time Was, Appalachian Dawn, The Summer People and The Ballad of Tom Dula, as well as the poetry collections:  This Proud Land and Wry Wine.  West contributes seven poems to the anthology, including "Winter Folk", where he writes:

 "On summer nights they carry winter in worn pockets 
And snow beneath battered hats.
 Let low-country intruder approach a cove
And eyes as gray as icicle fangs measure stranger
For size, honesty, and intent."  from Winterfolk.

Isabel Zuber was born and raised in Boone and confesses in her introduction that she doesn't know what it means to be an Appalachian writer.  " I may not be thinking of the mountains when I write, but perhaps they are there anyway, with the wild strain coming through it.  I hope so."

Ron Rash, whose mother's family hails from Watauga County, has achieved acclaim for novels like One Foot in Eden,  which was Appalachian Book of the Year  in 2002. Rash is also known for his poems and short stories.  The collection also features Robert Morgan, author of five novels, including 2000 best seller Deep Gap and a recent biography of Daniel Boone.  Former N.C. Poet Laureate Fred Chappell has several epic poems included. 

Other authors represented are Bob Henry Baber, Joseph Barrett, Kathryn Stripling Byer, Mark DeFoe, Charles Dickson, Hilda Downer, Gregory Dykes, Richard Hague, Marc Harsman, Don Johnson, Stephen Knauth, Mary Kratt, P.J. Laska, George Ella Lyon, Jeff Daniel Marion, Michael McFee, Liewellyn McKernan, Irene McKinney, Louise McNeill, Jim Wayne Miller, Valerie Nieman, Lee Pennington,  Bettie Sellers, Vivian Shipley, Nancy Simpson, R.T. Smith, Bob Snyder, Katherine Soniat, James Still and Charles Wright.  

For More information visit mcfarlandpub.com.

Friday, November 14, 2008


MANSION BY Nancy Simpson


Forget you heard it, Rural Life Workshop,
mountaineers saying there is no Appalachia.
Forget the woman who asked
Where did she come from?
and being an outsider, forget
you wanted to walk through the window.
Came from the ocean, should have said,

but no, you behaved; that is the main thing,
and listened all day to their speeches.
No one knew you hoped Jim Miller would speak
with his accent, how you wished he would
take up his good book and read.

Driving up the gravel road
all you have is belief.
This is where you wanted to go.
Leaves fall like flecks of gold.
The road is paved with yellow leaves.

It's home.  Still,
this is not Heaven.  The door is locked.
The windows are dark like eyes of an old woman.
Go in.
Walk through the wall if you want.

Previously published in Step Around the Mountain,
Black Jack Twelve.

Included in Night Student

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Beloved Southern Physician Poet John Stone, born February 7, 1936, in Jackson, Mississippi, died on November 6, 2008.  He will be mourned.

John Stone was an emeritus professor of medicine in cardiology at Emory University.  He published many collections of poetry and a collection of essays during the time he taught English Literature and Medicine at Emory and at Oxford University, England.

His most recent poetry collections were published at Louisiana State University Press including Where Water Begins and Music from Apartment 8.  His essay collection, also from LSU Press is titled In the Country of Hearts: Journeys in the Art of Medicine. 

Early poetry collections from the 1980s, also from LSU Press are: The Smell of Matches, In All This Rain, and Renaming the Streets.

Saturday, November 8, 2008



Apple peelings
red and moistened
slide from the knife
onto my calico apron
in a large, curly heap.
I listen to the chatter of
my family around the table.

Over and over, 
I slice pieces from my apple,
and eat them from the knife
like my father before me,
until nothing is left but the core.
That's where I like to begin 
my story.

Previously published in Hard Row to How.
Included in When the Sap Rises.


I remember the day
you began falling
and didn't want help
getting back up.
A few months later,
you bought a bright red
scooter so you could
ride all over the farm
and check on your cattle.
You were proud of it
and showed it to all of us.

I have memories of you
riding through the pastures
with my son on your lap
and smiles on your faces.
One day you asked Jody
to help you work on the fence.
He was only four years old.
When the work was done,
you asked what he charged.
He replied, Five dollars, Papaw.
You paid gladly and laughed later.

Always an ambitious man,
you were determined to work.
One day while visiting,
I couldn't find you in the house
so I walked out on the porch
and looked up toward the garden.
There you lay on the ground,
plucking weeds around the onions.
That year you finished your jobs,
sold your cattle, made your will,
but didn't live to harvest your crop.

Previously published in Nostalgia.
Included in When the Sap Rises.


At feeding times
the female cardinal
is the first to the feeder
and the last one to leave.
Unlike the other birds,
she doesn't scare easily
or shy away as larger birds
light on the feeder beside her.

Instead with courage,
she remains calm and focused
and works hard at crushing
sunflower seeds, one at a time.
Sensing a difference in her,
I inch closer to the window
and notice there is a problem.
She is blind in one eye.

Somewhere deep inside me,
emotions hard to define
start to surface.  I feel
a deep connection,
a bond of some kind,
not only with the bird,
but to something deeper
and on a larger scale.

A feeling of knowing,
no matter what happens, 
there will always be hope
and endless possibilities.
The moisture from my breath
leaves a circle on the windowpane,
and I watch from my scooter,
until the cardinal flies out of sight.

Previously published in Mindprints Literary Journal.
Included in When the Sap Rises.

Thanks to Glenda Barrett for sharing these three poems.


Poet, Glenda Barrett is a native of Hiawassee, Georgia. She is the author of a new poetry collection from Finishing Line Press  (Georgetown, Kentucky 2008) under the title When the Sap Rises. Her poems have been published in Nantahala Review, Kaleidoscome, Hard Row to Hoe, Red River Review and other literary magazines.

Glenda Barrett has studied poetry for over ten years through writing workshops and community college poetry writing classes with Nancy Simpson. She is a long time member of N.C. Writers Network West and regularly attends the monthly Netwest poetry critique group led by Janice Townley Moore.

Read three of her poems from  When the Sap Rises below. I hope you will want to order her book.  You can get it  at finishinglinepress.com or on amazon.com. 

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Fellow Poets and Writers, 

___It is time to take those last shots, make your vivid photos and print them.

___It is time to photocopy your poems and stories and send them out on the mail truck.

December will be too late.  

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Living above the frost line means - no frost up here on the mountain as yet. Each night,  the weatherman predicts below freezing temperatures.  I look out the next morning on flowers in full bloom.  Yes, it even snowed last Tuesday. Snowflakes rested for a few minutes on fuchsia sourwood leaves.  The Knock Out Roses were happy to get a drink, and not one of their blossoms withered from the snow.  The butterfly bushes, blooming since spring, are still sending up their cones of color.

Yes, yes.  I know the hard freeze will come, but until then, maybe through Thanksgiving, perhaps into the first week of December, I shall have flowers blooming in my garden, and I shall have finished poems on my clipboard.   That is what it means to live above the frost line. It means that  in this special dwelling place we get extended growing time.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Sometimes you get what your asked for,
to be left alone.  All day
not once the sound of a motor,
one sailboat only with a yellow flag waving.

From this shore I see where sky begins,
blue between oaks on top of the ridge.
Across Chatuge, the lake made by man,
a whole mountain rises out of the water.

I have no boat and no way to cross over
this flooded valley except to walk.
Where the road was, my feet can touch asphalt
if I let myself sink.
                          Here the house stood.

There is the roof of the barn, buried forty years.
Yes, I am sinking in doubt.
Rubble from lives in one lifetime passes before me.
This is the end, the new start,

rock I remember, and clay soft beneath my feet.
An old logging road leads me up the mountain
where trees stand apart,
where sky begins.

Previously published in The Georgia Review

Included in the poetry collection Night Student

Recently reprinted in Southern Appalachian Poetry
a textbook edited by Marita Garin, McFarland Press

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Above the Frost Line--You Can Get Here From There

Welcome to Living Above The Frost Line

Hello, I'm Nancy Simpson, poet and writer.

I believe the mountains are my natural home on Earth.  I came to the wilderness of  western North Carolina with my husband and sons in 1960.  We bought the top of a mountain and began spending all of our free time here.  We built a rustic cabin, put our sons in school and lived here year round.  I earned a BS in Education from Western Carolina University and began teaching in the village school. It was one of the happiest seasons of my life.  

In time, my marriage ended and my sons left to make lives of their own.  Only I stayed.  My life ended.  To go on, I had to start over.  I did not know how to make a new life.   As it turned out, all I had to help me was this mountain.  Looking back, I see Cherry Mountain  made me who I am.  

Poetry came tumbling out.  I took every class and workshop within driving distance.  The Arts Journal published my first poem and The Georgia Review published my second one.  I became a practicing poet. My first collection, a chapbook titled Across Water was published at State Street Press.

Warren Wilson College, near Asheville,  offered a Master of Fine Arts Degree  in Writing.  I registered, was accepted and earned my MFA.  My full length collection, Night Student, was published at State Street Press.  I added teaching composition and creative writing part time at the community college in Murphy, NC to my schedule.  

Welcome to my new blog.  Living Above the Frost Line is a dwelling place for practicing free verse poets.  Above the frost line, we give ourselves some extra growing time.  I am still here, still practicing poetry,  still studying, publishing, still teaching and still learning how to live. Yes, I know, the hard freeze will come, but until it arrives, I shall grow and share my poems.  

Stay posted.