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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."

Monday, November 29, 2010

LOOKING GLASS (a Personal Essay) by Jennifer McGaha


    As  you sit down to write these pages, you close your eyes tightly,  
you hear a dulcimer playing in the distance, and you feel cool river water 
pulsing against your ankles. You smell winter approaching and hear the 
silence of snow filling the creek beds and coating the evergreens until 
the limbs begin to snap and popping sounds ring like gunshots over the 
mountains. You see the trails of Pisgah National Forest winding 
through the hills, your shaggy terrier bounding ahead on a path, 
trampling patches of pink trilliums on his way to the creek bed. You see 
a patch of May Apples scraping the forest floor, the crackle of a campfire, 
the seared edges of a marshmallow bulging from the end of a stick, its 
glossy whiteness oozing over the melting chocolate as you press the 
graham crackers together. 
    You feel Looking Glass Rock hard and cold beneath your back, 
and you are dizzy and intoxicated by the wildness of the forests below. 
You see the wheel of the corn mill spinning slowly around, and you suck 
the end of a sugar cane until the heavy syrup rolls over your tongue and 
slowly down your eager throat. You hear “Amazing Grace” a hundred 
different ways—bagpipes and choirs and trumpets and fiddles, a medley 
of voices rising over the years. You smell the sweetness of honeysuckle 
growing wild in a pasture, and you hear a soft whistle as you bite the 
end off a blossom, holding the green stem in your teeth and breathing 
in the honey. You see your great-grandmother, her long, gray hair 
pinned in a bun, stooping over the quilting loom by the black wood 
stove in her cabin, and you see her strolling in her garden, her brown, 
crinkled hands pulling a green bean fresh from the vine and poking it 
into your open mouth. 
    You see a young girl at camp, lying on the top bunk in her cabin, 
writing letters home and listening to the creek gurgling outside the 
window, to the mice running across the rafters overhead. You hear 
“Taps” rising clearly and mournfully over the hills, and you are homesick 
and at home all at once and all over again. You feel glorious, icy lake 
water hit your sunburned legs as you leap from the lifeguard stand. 
You smell the musty scent of the barn, and you are tall and wild on the 
back of a horse. You see your dad floating down the French Broad River 
on a raft, his strong arms pulling the oars through the dark water while 
lightening streaks the dark sky. You scramble together up the riverbank 
and duck into a cow pasture, and you feel that quiet moment just before 
the bull charges you. Gray and angry, he stomps his feet, and his nostrils 
flare. You turn and see your dad, stopped solidly between you and the 
bull, waving you on, toward the fence at the edge of the pasture, and you 
feel the earth hot beneath your feet and the sting of the rising wind as 
you run to safety. 
    You see the clearing at the top of Sam’s Knob and the outline of 
Devil’s Courthouse. You see a family of deer along Graveyard Fields, the 
mother’s head tilted high in the air, frozen in time. You see a skinny 
teenage boy sitting on a rock beside you at the base of Looking Glass 
Falls, the water spraying your hair and swallowing your words. He is 
eighteen, you are sixteen, and neither of you knows you’ll end up 
    You feel summer slipping reluctantly out of the air and autumn 
moving stealthily in. You see patches of yellow and purple and blue 
dotting the fields and the first bursts of colors across the green hills. 
And, then, there is an explosion of color—the reds and oranges and 
yellows and golds—through which you can see a chestnut-haired girl 
running down a wooded path toward her bold father, her young soul as 
much a part of the mountains as the leaves and the trees and the deer 
and the air. 

by Jennifer McGaha
Originally published in Smoky Mountain Living
in a slightly different form, And featured in
in the Autumn section of Echoes Across the Blue Ridge

A native of Transylvania in western North Carolina, Jennifer McGaha writes nonfiction and literary nonfiction with an edge. Sometimes humorous and sometimes quirky, but always informed by her Appalachian upbringing, McGaha's writing has appeared in numerous  regional and national magazines and literary journals. 

She teaches composition at both Blue Ridge Community College and Brevard College, where she serves as the nonfiction editor for Pisgah Review. 

More recently this month, on Nov. 18, 2010, Jennifer McGaha was the featured reader at Poets and Writers Reading Poems and Stories at John C. Campbell Folk School.

Samples of her work and a complete list of her publications are available at her website: jennifer-mcgaha.wordpress.com.

Sunday, November 28, 2010



(If you live in the area, you may get the class for 1/2 price.  Pre Register now to secure a seat. Limit 8 students per class.)

What Is Memoir, Anyway?
Instructor: Dana Wildsmith
Tuition: $308.00

Ready to embark on writing the story of your life? Before you start, it's helpful to learn the difference between memoir, autobiography, and family history. Our focus will be on memoir methods as we delve into contemporary examples and classic memoirs for direction. Explore how to work parts of your life into very readable prose. Writers of all levels are welcome.
Creating the World That Isn't There
Instructor: Patricia Sprinkle
Tuition: $596.00
In good fiction, the imaginary world is so real that the readers feel they've been there and know those people. Learn to create such characters and settings. Bring the first chapter of a novel or one short story on which you want to focus. Class consists of instruction, writing, group critique, and revision, with pauses for laughter and learning exercises. Designed for intermediate to advanced fiction writers, but writers of memoirs, biography, and history can benefit.
Sing and Paint with Words
Instructor: Karen Paul Holmes
Tuition: $546.00
Come get inspired. Through music and other arts, we'll stir the creative juices. We might listen to Beethoven or Elvis, look at paintings by Monet or Finster, read literary masters or contemporary writers - all to generate ideas for our poems, fiction, or essays. You'll receive editing tips and one-on-one critiques to make your work stronger and more readable. Open to anyone who needs inspiration and help perfecting the art of writing.
Poems from the Heart (VALENTINE WEEK)
Instructor: Gene Hirsch
Tuition: $546.00
Love reflects life, and innumerable Valentine poems are written. We will explore broad aspects of poetic expression of love that match our varied emotions and perspectives. We will join, in verse, possibly the most important adventure as it binds us together as human beings. Individual attention will be given to students at all levels of experience. Bring any poems you've previously written.
Writing True Stories
Instructor: Carol Crawford
Tuition: $546.00
This class is for experienced and aspiring writers who write true stories and personal essays. Focus on "how-to" techniques for making facts fascinating. Write every day and get feedback from classmates and the instructor. Learn how to self-edit, search markets for publication, prepare your manuscript, and write a cover letter.
Mining the Mother Lode - Making the Most of Your Material
Instructor: Darnell Arnoult
Tuition: $546.00
We almost always write about the same things over and over. Characters, places, and plots may appear different, but we are driven by the same passions, questions, and obsessions - the same vein of ore. Use assignments to dig deep into personal experiences, curiosities, and knowledge to strengthen your writing. This class is beneficial to beginning and experienced writers of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Rosemary Royston is the POET OF THE MONTH OF NOVEMBER here Above the Frost Line.  She  lives in the north Georgia Mountains.  Her poem-- Igneous or "Of Fire" won the 2010 Literal Latte Food Verse Contest. Rosemary Royston holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University, has taught creative writing at Institute of Continuing Learning, at the Writers Circle and will teach Writing in 2011 at Young Harris College and John C. Campbell Folk School.
Strange Garden
The devil manifests himself
through a bright red, fiery itch that spreads
from my palms to my feet.
I rip off my cashmere socks and scratch,
sowing row after row of raised skin.
My son hovers.  His mouth moves
but I cannot hear his questions due
to the buzzing deep inside my ears.
Bees are pollinating my brain, I think
and I resist the absurd urge
to slap my son’s soft cheeks
for no reason other than he cannot understand
the unrelenting itch, the shock
of the sudden bloat and sag of my face.
My stiff chin and wooden tongue prohibit
me from speaking.
What strange garden is this?
I fill the bathtub with warm water
rake the loofah over my itchy flesh,
and watch as red blisters appear on my thighs. 
When I swallow, my throat is tight
as if a chicken bone is stuck deep within.
It is then that I realize it was not the apple,
but the strawberry,
that brought the world down.
By Rosemary Royston

The Possibility of Snow
Ms. Callie is like a perfumed sparrow,
tiny and fragile in dress slacks,
the seam straight and pressed,
her sweater a matching shade of green.
When I hug her hello I’m afraid she will topple
under the weight of my slender arms.
At 80 her hair is coiffed and teased
and she’s just short of five feet,
only a head taller than my son, Luke.
We are visiting Angie, her daughter, (my friend)
and after talking and laughing over Oolong tea
we realize that my 7-year old has vanished—
he’s not in the guest room with the TV,
nor is he chasing the many cats around the house.
His drawing pad lies abandoned on the floor.
In the distance we hear a soft song of sorts
and are drawn to it, only to find him
on Ms. Callie’s bed, stretched out,
his head propped against the footboard,
conversing with her on the possibility of snow.
by Rosemary Royston
Previously published in 
Echoes Across the Blue Ridge

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving Day to All.

I am a thankful kind of person. Thank you, Dear Ones,  for enriching my life. I am blessed to have you in a big way or in any small way.

Today I am thankful for the early morning phone call from Sarah and Savannah. Savannah said so loud and clear, "Happy Thanksgiving, Nannie."   Mid day a call call came from Lynn.  The girls checked in. The guys are either here or on their way.

We have a feast and flowers from the garden on our table.

Monday, November 22, 2010

An Afternoon of Poetry with Nancy Simpson

An Afternoon of Poetry with Nancy Simpson

A crowd gathered on Thursday in the Keith House Living Room to hear the Folk School’s Resident Writer, Nancy Simpson, read from her newly published book of poetry entitled Living Above the Frost Line: New and Selected Poems. The cozy Living Room with an assortment of refreshments provided a welcoming opportunity to come in from the cold, settle in a chair, and listen to poems read with the inflection that the poet intended.  

Nancy explained that “living above the frost line,” according to old timers, means living on the mountain, where the autumnal killing freeze is a least a few days delayed.  In this short amount of time, growing continues, in spite of the inevitable freeze to come.

Nancy Simpson is the founder of North Carolina Writer’s Network West, and her poems have been published in Southern Poetry Review, the Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, and other noted literary magazines.  Living Above the Frost Line: New and Selected Poems was published by Carolina Wren Press, as the first book in their new Carolina Laureate Series.  The new book can be purchased at the Folk School’s Craft Shop.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In Honor of The Full Blue Moon (November 21, 2010)

IN HONOR OF THE FULL BLUE MOON, here are the lyrics to the song, "Blue Moon."
Lyrics by Lorenz Hart, Music by Richard Rogers

Blue Moon
Blue moon, 
you saw me standing alone 
without a dream in my heart
without a love on my own.
Blue moon,
you knew just what I was there for
you heard me saying a prayer for
somebody I really could care for.
And then there suddenly appeared before me,
the only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper, "Please adore me."
and when I looked, 
the moon had turned to gold.
Blue moon,
now I'm lo longer alone
without a dream in my heart
without a love on my own.


Blue Moon Every Twenty Years
by Glenda Beall

Blue Moon was not my favorite song
until the night you sang to me,
before our wedding day in 1964.

You were a student of the forties' music,
played it with your band when you
were just a high school lad in 1953.

On the Love Boat in eighty-four,
backed by strings, you owned the stage,
like you were born to be the rage. Like Frank,
you melted hearts when you sang again Blue Moon.

Cruising on St. Lawrence Seaway, in 2006,
Brits, French, and Austrians cheered,
when you sang our song for my birthday.

Behind closed eyes, my mind, a time machine gone wild,
propelled me back to that June night. For one brief moment,
I was young again, eager to spend my life with you.
The years flew past on wings so soft

I hardly noticed.  You returned to sit beside me.
Basking in your new-found fame, you whispered
in my ear. I'll sing your song for you again

in twenty years.

by Glenda Beall
from Now Might As Well Be Then
(2009) Finishing Line Press
available at www.finishinglinepress.com
and amazon.com


Post by Nancy Simpson, photos by Lynn Hamilton Rutherford. 

November’s full moon in Colonial American tradition is usually called Full Hunter’s Moon or Full Beaver Moon. Not this time. When November 21, 2010’s moon reaches fullness, it will be named Full Blue Moon. It is not named Blue for its color. It is seldom seen as blue.   
Following the original “blue moon,” almanac definition that has been almost forgotten, this special moon is so named because it is the third of four full moons within one season. The original explanation was that usually the moon becomes full twelve times a year, three times each season. However, there will be years with thirteen full moons during a year. Native Americans were aware of the possibility of thirteen moons.
The newer and most popular definition of “blue moon” declares that it is a second full moon within a single month. It’s a simple definition that was made even more popular in songs and in the game, “Trivial Pursuit.”  Second full moon in a single month, a once popular world-wide definition of blue moon, turns out to be not the complete definition, nor is it the original definition of blue moon.
A season would most often have three full moons, either between a solstice and an equinox or between an equinox and solstice.  When taking a close look at moons of a season, there can sometimes be four full moons. In this autumn season of 2010, there are four full moons. That is precisely what is occuring now, happening tonight, on November 21, 2010. The third moon within the season reaches fullness. For that reason, and according to the original definition, it is being named a blue moon. It is  the Full Blue Moon.

The full moons of this 2010 autumn seasons appear: ( 1) September 23, (2) October  22, (3) November 21, and (4) December  21 when the forth of the full moons will reach fullness. What name will the forth full moon be given?  Wait. Meanwhile, look upward tonight, for this is indeed a very special full moon. Even though not blue in color, it is the true Full Blue Moon.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Rosemary Royston lives in northeast Georgia.  Her work has been published or is forthcoming in The Comstock Review, Main Street Rag, Alehouse, Literal Latte, Public Republic, and Dark Sky Magazine. She is the recipient of the 2010 Literal Latte Food Verse Award, her chapbook was a finalist in the 2009 Jessie Bryce Niles chapbook contest, and she was the 2004 recipient of first and third place in poetry, Porter Fleming Literary Awards.  Rosemary holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University and serves as Program Coordinator for NCWN-West.

As Poet of the Month here above the Frost Line,  Rosemary Royston has agreed to share some of her poems with us. If you enjoy them, and I am certain you will, please leave a comment.  More of her poems will be featured as the month of November moves forward.
We walk down by the water.
She needs no help identifying

tracks on the sand: dog, deer, horse.
Who is she, this young image of myself

the strong jaw, the Eastern European bones,
the girl whom I once carried in my body,

breech at 9 months, cut out of me on a cold March
morning.  I remember asking to see the placenta,

the life force, which had been plopped into a thin,
plastic bin.  It was liver-colored

with smooth edges.  Eleven years later is now.
We find a tiny springhead in the sand

and place our fingers in the center—
bottomless, yet full of life.

--Rosemary Royston

Dogwood Winter

Ants raid the bath, wasps claim the washroom,
even as the cool of winter looms.
The forsythia sings against a chorus
of green, yet the hue of winter looms.
The bunting’s a blur of vibrant blue,
off-setting winter’s gray loom.
Calves nurse in the open field, chilled
as the nip of winter looms.
Blood buds of azaleas burst forth
even though winter looms.
The creek hums a rain-filled song,
oblivious to the winter that looms.
Rosemary, thyme, and sage grow
in the sunroom, even as winter looms.

--Rosemary Royston
Previously published in 

Saturday at the Park

No vehicles, skateboards, or bicycles allowed.
-Sign on walking trail

Etched across the metal are angry scratches
over the word skateboard.
The cyclists don’t seem to care
that they cannot ride down the gray paved path,
but the skateboarders are pissed.
As if for concession a former tennis court
has been retrofitted with ramps and rails,
and the future Lords of Dogtown,
their boxers visible over the top
of their pencil-tight jeans, ride.
Their long hair is cut at odd angles
and dangles in their eyes.
The knees of their jeans are blown-out,
and one young man is bold enough to ask
Do you have a Band Aid? as if a band aid
would stop the bloody stream running
from his elbow south.  Instead, he wraps
a flannel shirt over his wound and wheels off,
the slap and scrape of wheels on concrete
making a music of their own—
testimony to tenacity.
No matter how many times they fall,
they get back up, determined to perfect
the kickturn, the Ollie, the 360.
So I don’t complain when they come whizzing
down the pedestrian path
because they are poets, poets of the park.

--Rosemary Royston

Friday, November 12, 2010


N.C. poet Nancy Simpson internalizes the external in Living Above the Frost Line 
Living Above the Frost Line
By Nancy Simpson

In her poem "Argument with My Mother," North Carolina poet Nancy Simpson describes autumn with brilliant brushstrokes: "My passion/ was the psychedelia of scarlet maples/ flashing on the mountainsides." The older woman prefers springtime: "I don't like fall./ Trees are shedding tears."
Simpson manages to turn her lovely description of a countryside drive into a poetic exploration of the relationship between mother and daughter. Many of the poems in her new book, Living Above the Frost Line, grab onto some detail in the natural world and internalize it, as in the lines "Leaves curl on the forest floor like wrens./ My mind must collect itself."
The book is a collection of new and selected poems, ordered chronologically and spanning 32 years of the poet's work. The most recent former poet laureate, Kathryn Stripling Byer, selected the book as the inaugural publication in the new Laureate Series published by Carolina Wren Press. The press, which is supported by a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, plans to publish both prose and poetry by underrepresented writers in the series, selected by poets laureate and other esteemed writers from the state. Simpson, a longtime member of the North Carolina Writers' network, co-founded Netwest to serve the literary community in the westernmost counties of North Carolina.
From the first page, you can see Simpson shares many poetic qualities with Elizabeth Bishop: an eye for detail, keen observation and a proclivity for nature poetry, in Simpson's case, mixed with a North Carolina flair. On the very first page is a poem titled "Driven into the Interior," which is very similar to Bishop's "In the Waiting Room." It is a coming-of-age poem, or the portrait of an artist as a young girl, where the child observes a bare-breasted woman in "Geographic" magazine and likens her to a stone carving, which infuses the girl with a "new respect/ for bowls and the oven in her kitchen." The girl in the poem doesn't travel as far as the places in Geographic; she grows up, instead, to live in Appalachia. As the first poem, it sets the tone for a book that is grounded in a sense of place, celebrating the domestic, the personal and everything else that makes up life in North Carolina.
The title poem of the book perhaps best describes that sense of place and the connection between nature and the personal: "Living above the frost line, I get a slanted view./ Cleome still blooms, but time is running out." This poem has a sense of urgency to show the importance of the view from the mountains, to hold on to the beauty of nature or even to defy the odds: "'Frost line' is not definitive, but I discuss it/ with old-timers who believe and say, Grow Apples." There is a pun at play here: That quintessential nature poet Robert Frost also loved to pun on the words frost and line. Simpson takes nature poetry beyond the lines of Robert Frost into the realm of personal expression, imbuing her world with heart: "Here in my garden,/ knockout roses still bloom their hearts out."

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Yes, We're past leaf peak on my side of the mountain, but don't cry for me.  It has never been a more beautiful autumn.   Yesterday a woman said to me that it just was not pretty this year. I thought:

How can that be when we live on the same planet, in fact in same neighborhood.  

I could only say that I had been out walking on the mountain all afternoon, taking pictures.

Enlarge to see -- roses still blooming.