New anthology includes work by Byer, Carden, Crowe
By Lynn Hotaling
A new anthology of Appalachian writings includes work by several local writers.
“Echoes Across the Blue Ridge,” a collection of poems, stories and essays from the southern Appalachians, features poems by former N.C. Poet Laureate Kay Byer of Cullowhee; stories by Gary Carden of Sylva; and an essay by Tuckasegee writer Thomas Crowe.
A celebration of the book’s release from Winding Path Publishing is planned this Sunday, Aug. 8, from 5 until 8 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore. The volume was published with sponsorship and support from the N.C. Writers Network West, a chapter of the statewide N.C. Writers Network.
“Netwest members conceived this anthology, raised funds and brought it to fruition,” according to Nancy Simpson, the collection’s editor.
The anthology’s introduction is by author Robert Morgan, and its cover holds compliments from noted Southern writers Ron Rash and Lee Smith.
A new anthology, “Echoes Across the Blue Ridge,” a new poetry and prose collection, includes work by several local writers. A special book celebration is planned at City Lights Bookstore on Sunday, Aug. 8, from 5 until 8 p.m.
“Anyone who enjoys Appalachian literature will be delighted by this excellent anthology, particularly because it introduces the reader to a number of our region’s gifted though lesser-known writers,” Rash writes.
“Straight from the land of sky, song and story, another dynamite collection – strong and surprising – these mountain writers know how to howl at the moon,” adds Smith.
In addition to Byer, Carden and Crowe, local contributors to “Echoes Across the Blue Ridge include James Cox, Carl Iobst and Arnie Nielsen. The remaining writers and poets reside within the nine counties south of Asheville, on the Qualla Boundary and in bordering counties of Georgia and South Carolina.
In his introduction, Morgan says the anthology, which places the writing of poet laureates like Byer and former Georgia Poet Laureate Bettie Sellers with the work of newcomers, gives him renewed confidence in the future of Appalachian literature.
“Beyond the storytelling, the ballads, the songs, the fiddle music, there is something profoundly poetic about the Southern Appalachian Mountains,” Morgan writes.
Byer, Carden and Crowe all said they are pleased with the book and proud to be among its writers.
“This anthology is a labor of love by Netwest, especially by Nancy Simpson, the editor,” Byer said. “This project took two years to bring to completion, and the effort was well worth the time. Here we have a diversity of voices ranging from the well known to the relatively unknown. Robert Morgan’s introduction is stellar, and the testimonials by novelists Lee Smith and Ron Rash hit the bull’s eyes, especially Lee’s: ‘These writers know how to howl at the moon.’ I hope Jackson county lovers of the word will come out on Aug. 8 to hear these literary howls echoing across the mountains.”
Crowe said he appreciates the anthology’s role in allowing new voices to be heard.
“One of the things that this highly inclusive anthology does is bring new voices (and they are many with both natives and ‘new natives’ sharing their stories and talents during a period that can only be seen as a kind of renaissance of writers here in these hills and surrounds) before the general public and to the fore in terms of chronicling the new life of our region as well as delineating the work to be done to preserve and protect the beauty and sustainability of Western North Carolina for future generations,”
Crowe said. “Having spent the majority of my life in these mountains, I am very pleased to be counted as one of the members of this writers community who writes passionately about this place.”
For his part, Carden termed the book “an impressive collection” and said he intends to invite its writers to read their work at the Liar’s Bench, his monthly storytelling and mountain culture event. In addition to contributing several of his stories to “Echoes Across the Blue Ridge,” Carden donated the proceeds from a special production of his play “Birdell” to NCWN West to help with costs involved in publishing “Echoes.” Carden said he was glad to help. “It’s wonderful when art nurtures art and produces another kind of art,” he said.
The anthology is dedicated to the memory of Appalachian ballad poet Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958) whose poetry collection, “Bow Down in Jericho,” was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1950. “Echoes Across the Blue Ridge” includes several of Reece’s poems.
Participating writers will read from “Echoes Across the Blue Ridge: Stories, Essays, and Poems by Writers Living in and Inspired by the Southern Appalachian Mountains” during Sunday’s City Lights event.