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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, November 3, 2010

SCOTT OWENS, EDITOR OF WILD GOOSE POETRY REVIEW Writes About Our Writing Community Here in the Southern Appalachian Mountains

Editor Scott Owens writes:
Writing Way Out West
Most people who pay any attention to writing in NC are aware of vibrant writing communities in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area (thanks to multiple universities and the NC Writers’ Network), in Wilmington (thanks to UNCW), in Greensboro (thanks to UNCG), in Charlotte (thanks to Main Street Rag), in Asheville (thanks to Malaprops), and even here in Hickory (thanks to Poetry Hickory, Poetry Lincolnton, and Lenoir Rhyne’s In Their Own Words series), 
but farther out even than Asheville there is another vibrant writing community spearheaded by the NC Writers’ Network NetWest.
This group includes writers from the 8 NC counties west of Asheville, but also draws participants from bordering counties in GA, TN, and SC. Key figures in the group include writing fixtures, such as Coffee with the Poets and Writers Circle Founder Glenda Beall, John C. Campbell Folk School Writing Coordinator Nancy Simpson, former NC Poet Laureate Kay Byer, Young Harris College Instructor Janice Townley Moore, and Your Daily Poem blogger Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, as well as “up and coming” writers like Rosemary Royster and Karen Holmes, among others.
Just a few highlights of the group’s activities would include Coffee with the Poets at Phillips and Lloyd Bookshop in Hayesville and City Lights Books in Sylva; Mountain Writers meetings at Blue Ridge Books in Waynesville; the Netwest Poetry Group meetings at Tri-County College in Murphy; Writers Night Out at Young Harris College; the Writers Circle Workshops in Hayesville; and regular weekly creative writing workshops at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown.
Now, under the capable editorship of Nancy Simpson, the group has gathered forces in an anthology of stories, essays, and poems by writers living in and inspired by the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The anthology is called Echoes Across the Blue Ridge and has been published by Winding Path Publishing.
I am honored to include in this issue of Wild Goose Poetry Review a special section dedicated to and featuring new work by poets from Echoes Across the Blue Ridge. That section begins with a review of the anthology, which is followed by poems from 10 of the writers included in its pages. I hope you enjoy this special section and all of the poems and reviews in the Fall 2010 issue of Wild Goose Poetry Review, and please never underestimate how much the writers enjoy the discussions you begin by leaving a comment after their poems.
Book Review By Scott Owens.
Imbued with the Spirit: A Review of Echoes Across the Blue Ridge
Echoes Across the Blue Ridge (Winding Path 2010)
Edited by Nancy Simpson
238 pages, $16
ISBN: 9781450701525
What makes the Appalachian Mountains so special? Certainly one distinctive quality is age. Where else can you see stone so old it crumbles, trees left alone to grow as big around as houses, houses bent on one knee but still lived in, and traditions as old as . . . well, as old as the hills?
Things, even people, are allowed to grow old here without someone knocking them down in the name of progress or shuffling them off to a nursing home. And that’s how the real magic of the place happens, because, in one respect, nothing dies here — not really. Sure, physical presence may come and go, but the essential character of things is retained in stories, poems, songs, artifacts, traditions, and, most of all, memory.
The word “haunted” has a negative connotation in most places, but one can hardly read about the southern Appalachians without that word or a synonym being, if not named, then at least implied. Robert Morgan uses it in his Introduction to Echoes Across the Blue Ridge: “The deep valleys seem haunted by the natives who once lived there.” Kay Byer uses it in a comment quoted by Nancy Simpson in her “Note from the Editor:” “our most haunting artifacts.” The first poem, “Beyond the Clearing” by James Cox, certainly suggests it by referring to “a place sublime / where spirits sing invisibly.” And the first two stories, “Rendezvous” by Charlotte Wolf and “The Third Floor Bedroom” by Lana Hendershott, are, to some degree about the sensation of being haunted. And despite the usual expectation that non-fiction wouldn’t involve such fanciful ideas as spirits and haunting, even the first essay, “The Oldest Answer” by Steven Harvey quotes Bettie Sellers saying, “My bent was to espouse the unseen that’s in the woods at night.” To which, Harvey adds, “It is the need to fill all this haunted otherness with something human.”
All of this repetition of the word “haunting” or the sense of being haunted reminds the reader that the implication of the word is in fact not limited to an unpleasant habitual visitation but rather to a persistent presence of spirit, a presence that may be desired, embraced, just as I, a flatlander, have been haunted by images of Cade’s Cove, Caesars Head, Graveyard Fields, and the Devil’s Courthouse since visiting them as a child and returning to them as often as I can manage. This usually pleasant but sometimes unsettling lingering of spirit is closer to the type of haunting the writers in Echoes Across the Blue Ridge have discovered in these mountains and expressed in these pages.
Not that every piece in this anthology deals with the past or memory or spirit. Some of the selections deal with other reasons people are attracted to these mountains. Ellen Andrews comments on the beauty and sense of community in the mountains in “Homing:” “We are connected not by school uniforms / but by a raging lust for these purple mountains.” And in poems like Gene Hirsch’s “Where It Comes From,” we see even more closely the intimate relationship between the human and the natural: “Love / sprouts from lichen, / in the shade, by the lily pond . . . / in the thicket / of a chapter of floating / leaves / beneath the silky / hairs of a willow.”
Even the descriptions of nature are, however, frequently haunting, as in Janice Townley Moore’s “Photos from Another State,” where she describes the sound of a creek as “lyrics from the unseen.” Similarly, Jennifer McGaha’s reverie in “Looking Glass” is punctuated by images from the past: “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 Susan Lefler’s harrowing story “The Spirit Tree” tells of one little girl’s attempt to use the spirits of nature and tradition to fend off the hazards of her mother’s emotional disorder.
Whether spirits of joy or grief, familiarity or strangeness, there is no doubt that the southern Appalachians are possessed by a presence that transcends the physical and temporal. In the same way, the poems, stories, and essays in Echoes Across the Blue Ridge are possessed by the various spirits of these mountains, leaving us standing, in the words of Janet Sloane Benway’s poem “Sugarloaf Mountain,” “in awe, / even in the face of sorrow.”
Want more Wild Goose Poetry Review Nov. 2010 issue

1 comment:

glenda said...

Scott Owens is a big supporter of our mountain writers. He will teach a workshop and give a reading in Hayesville and Hiawassee in October, 2011.
He was well received here last spring.