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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, August 31, 2011

Poet of the Month Scott Owens on the Last Day of the Month - TWO POEMS


And this is the way
you play the game
the only way
        to win.
And this is the man
with the huge right hand
and the black shining boots
and the pounding gullet
who calls you boy
and tells you
you are nothing
        unless you win,
you are nothing
and stands above you
and stands before you
and draws a line
and tells you
whoever stands
across that line
is your enemy
         your enemy
and you must hit him
and you must beat him
        until he falls
and if he gets up
you must beat him again
and if he gets up
you must take him down.
And these are the hands
and these the feet
and this the body
you give up for the game.
And these are the cloths
you wear, these
the bold numbers, these
the bright colors, this
the iron mask.
And this is the map
that shows you the way
and these  the people
who cheer you on
and tell you to go
        And you go
to play the game
the only way
        to win.

by Scott Owens
from The Fractured World


One said dying slowly.
Another said living
and barely cracked a smile.
Many said extreme pain,
torture, in all its varieties:
burning, drowning, beating, crushing, starving,
cutting the body away in small pieces,
breaking down the mind bit by bit.
Others said insanity, loneliness, paralysis,
isolation, deprivation.
One said watching others
be tortured,
family, friends, total strangers.

In a dry white season
they tried to teach us
the reach of human cruelty--
a bloody face turned upward,
the body suspended by elbows,
electrodes on nose, nipples, testicles.
A young guard walked in,
unsuspecting, unknowing.

Imagine having to live
with the knowledge.
Imagine how he sees people now
from the corners of his eyes,
how he hurries home each day,
squeezes the handle,
cracks the door.
Imagine how he holds his wife,
his children,
afraid of what his own hands might do.

by Scott Owens
from The Fractured World

Owens, Scott. The Persistence of Faith. Charlotte: Sandstone, 1994.
Owens, Scott. Deceptively Like a Sound. Winston-Salem: Dead Mule, 2008. http://www.deadmule.com/poetry/2008/04/scott-owens-deceptively-like-a-sound-a-chapbook/
Owens, Scott. The Fractured World. Charlotte: Main Street Rag, 2008.
Owens, Scott. The Book of Days. Winston-Salem: Dead Mule, 2009. http://www.deadmule.com/poetry/2009/01/scott-owens-book-of-days-a-chapbook/
Owens, Scott. Paternity. Charlotte: Main Street Rag, 2010.
Owens, Scott. The Nature of Attraction. Main Street Rag, 2010.
Owens, Scott. Something Knows the Moment. Main Street Rag, 2011.

Order books or contact the poet: 

Read the blog of Scott Owens - MUSINGS.
Read and submit poems to Wild Goose Poetry Review, the on line literary magazine he edits.
Read and submit essays to 234 Journal edited by Scott Owens.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Eyes on an American Poet Destined to Be a Major Poet - Scott Owens Poet of the Month

I celebrate Scott Owens as Poet of the Month,  and I  recognized him as an advocate of poetry and a community organizer of poetry. He is one poet who has dedicated his life to poetry, given his time to promote poetry, and given his time to support other poets. He is the editor and publisher of Wild Goose Poetry Review which has earned seven Best of the Net awards,  and was former associate editor of Southern Poetry Review.  He  serves as Vice President of  the Poetry Council of NC and is the founder of  Poetry Hickory, a chapter of NC Writers Network now celebrating it's 4th Anniversary.  He is also editor of a weekly poetry column "Musings."

It's good to see Scott Owens saved some time to learn and to practice poetry himself. He earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English at Ohio University, a Masters Degree in English at UNC Charlotte, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from University of NC at Greensboro.   His poems have been published widely in literary magazines. Six times his poems have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, and did you know?  He is the author of seven poetry collections.

In her interview with Scott Owens for Outlook 2010, Ann Chandonnet asked him this question: "How did he know he was a poet."  He answered: "When Robert Waters Grey, the editor of Southern Poetry Review, was teaching me  in a graduate level creative writing class, he said he wanted one of the poems I had submitted for the magazine. And I thought, 'Well, maybe I am getting it after all.' "Owens was only 24 at the time of this revelation."

I have come to see Scott Owens as perhaps our next Billy Collins.  Earlier in his poetry career, Billy Collins was, I am sure,  loved by those who knew him, but in the field of poetry, he simply was not
known to most of us throughout the country until one magic day when, with seven books to his credit,  he was named Poet Laureate of America.  I see other similarities between these two humble men who never seemed to toot their own horns, yet they teach us in their poems about what it is to be human. In their early years both proved to be relentless and prolific poets and both are still in the business.  We will have to wait and see if Scott Owens rises to the top.  I believe it is possible.

Meanwhile, when Scott Owens told me I could reprint any of his poems on this site. I read and read and reread. It's a difficult task to choose because he has many accomplished poems. Here are three to share with you to  honor Scott Owens as Poet of the Month for August, in this his birth month.


Holding The Breath We Feel Inside Us

Days here the room breathes constantly,
clouds sift through a view we never
imagined from below, blackbirds bank
and veer in the distance, swoop
erratic patterns over treetops.
Asleep or awake there is always 
the long intake of shallow breaths,
the hurried short returns.

Every day we come to see the man
we stayed away from for years.
It has always  been easier
to blame than understand.

Nights we drive home in darkness,
the lights moving towards us
like moments we can't get away from,
answers our eyes can't bear.

At home we are too tired to sleep.
We lie on our backs, stare at the ceiling.
pull the covers tight around our throats.
My father moves towards me in the dark.

Sometimes the Sky

Sometimes the sky 
keeps back what the earth
needs. Six days in Columbia
and thunder every night,
but still no rain.

In the waiting room
we named your grandson
not yet born:
Uriah, Eoghan, Forrest, Donovan.
We talked of fifty years
of marriage, from  Phoenix City
to Bond Street, from Greenville
to Wilmington. We counted pigeons
on rooftops where they come
to mate, sleep, die,
never getting the same number twice.
We listened to doctors
tell us how hopeless it was,
how helpless we were,
how little we really knew.

We kept waiting for something
to appear, some vision, some word
to fill up the absence growing
in our eyes, ears, mouths.

There should be more screaming
in hospitals, more breaking of glass,
window, all that can be broken,
more pounding of fists
into walls, more anger unkept.

On The Days I Am Not My Father

I don't yell. I don't hold inside
the day's supply of frustrations.
My hands stay open all day.
I don't wake up tired and sore,
dazed from senseless, panicking
dreams. On the days I am not
my father I hold my son
when he cries, let him touch my face
without flinching, lie down with him
until he falls asleep, realize
that just because he has a sharp tongue,
just because he 's sometimes mean,
just because he is smarter than me
doesn't mean he'll become my father.

On the days I am not my father
holding you is enough until
holding you is no longer enough
for either of us. I listen well
I let things go unfinished,
in an order I didn't plan.
My mouth is relaxed. My teeth
don't hurt. My face stays
a healthy shade of pink all day.
On the days I am not my father
I don't fill the silence with my own
irrational  rants.  I don't resent
the voice of others. I don't make fun
of you to make myself feel better.

On the days I am no longer my father
I don't care who wins
or loses. The news can't ruin
my day. I water plants.
I cook. I laugh at myself.
I can imagine living without 
my beard, with my hair cut,
without the fear of looking
too much like my father. On the days
I am not my father I romp
and play, I don't compare myself
with everyone else, the night
is always long enough. I like
how much I am like my father.

These Poems are from The Fractured World.
Order a signed copy from the poet himself 
or order from Main Street Rag. Remember his new
book just off the press, (2011) Main Street Rag,
Something Knows the Moment.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

GEORGIA POETRY SOCIETY with Poets Robert Kinsey and Robert S. King

Georgia Poetry Society will sponsor a Poetry Reading and a workshop on publishing plus an open mic reading, book raffle, book sales and book signing.

Featured Speakers are Robert Kimsey and Robert S. King

WHERE?  Blue Ridge Mountains Arts Association, Blue Ridge, Georgia
WHEN? Friday September 16, 2011 6:30 p.m. 


Click http://www.georgiapoetrysociety.org/Downloads/BlueRidgeReading.pdf

And Mark your Calendar -(Oct. 2011)

Georgia Poetry Society will sponsor a  Poetry Writing Workshop and Poetry Reading by poet Nancy Simpson at their all day annual meeting at Young Harris College October 29, 2011. Also scheduled to read that day is GPS member Janice Townley Moore.

Monday, August 15, 2011


WRITE YOUR POEMS IN FREE VERSE FORM  Instructor Nancy Simpson   Cost :  $20
This class is for practicing poets which will focus on forms of free verse. Also each week the class members can bring one copy of one of their own poems to share and discuss. Guidelines for how 
to assemble a chapbook manuscript will be discussed.   Poetry markets will be discussed and a list of markets will be given at the last class. 

Nancy Simpson is the author of the chapbook, “Across Water” and the full length collection, “Night Student”, as well as a newly published book, “Living Above the Frost Line - New and Selected Poems”.  She edited “Echoes Across the Blue Ridge”….stories, 
essays and poems by writers living in or inspired by the Southern Appalachian Mountains.  Her poetry has been widely published.  She previously taught for 28 years in the Clay County School System and for 20 years at Tri- County Community College.  She has a BS in Education from Western Carolina University and an MFA in Writing from Warren Wilson College. 
Meet Tues., 9/20 - 11/8 (8 sessions) 1-3 pm Goolsby 104 
Offered by INSTITUTE FOR CONTINUING LEARNING at Young Harris College

all courses and registration form

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Questions keep coming to me about writing classes at John C. Campbell Folk School that I cannot answer. I‘m sorry. I no longer know what is happening at JCCFS.  I resigned from my Resident Writer job there in December.  I resigned because I was in a pickle with too little time. I had to take responsibility for my own writing which included the demands of trying to sell Echoes Across the Blue Ridge, a book I edited for NC Writers Network West, and also my own poetry collection Living Above the Frost Line from Carolina Wren Press that was published at the same time.  
I am happy I had the opportunity to serve and teach for fifteen years at John C. Campbell Folk School. I am happy I was able to advance the writing program and help hundreds of writers. That is what I love to do most, and I recall many happy times. My goal while at the school was to keep a balance between writing classes for the literary writers and to also offer classes for the many writers with no interest in publishing who only want to write memoir essays or plan to write their own story for their children. 
Keeping that balance, I offered a wide range of classes from writing one’s life story to  providing specific techniques that focus on character and plot for short and long fiction. I offered free verse poetry writing classes, even mystery writing, writing for children, and historical fiction in the past when we could get an instructor. My goal was to return to offering 24 writing classes a year so that writers across America could have at least two a month to choose from. Twenty-four classes a year remained my goal, even when cuts kept coming.
Your questions about what is happening to the writing classes now keep coming to me, and I do not  have answers. When I saw the current school catalog, I was as surprised as you to see no poetry writing classes. When I resigned, I talked with Program Director Karen Beaty. I suggested poet Rosemary Royston as my replacement because Rosemary Royston also has an MFA in writing, and she has a clear understanding of literature and what is being written today. She has her finger on the writing pulse of our own writing community, and she has contact with hundreds of writers from across America who teach writing.  When I talked with Karen Beaty she said she was not going to name a resident writer now but that she was going to schedule the classes herself. Her concern was the photography studio where the writing classes meet, and she said she planned later to hire a photo journalist to be the new resident writer. 
When I read the current catalog I saw there are 25 photography classes but only 17 writing classes. If the space were shared equally, there would be 25 writing classes and 25 photography classes for the fifty weeks in a folk school year. 
Seven of the writing classes in the current catalog are classes I scheduled before I left JCCFS. Seven others are classes I scheduled in the past that are repeated because of their success such as  “What is Memoir Anyway?” taught by award winning essayist Dana Wildsmith, “Your Life -Your Stories” with Glenda Beall, and “Building a Character” taught by award winning fiction writer Darnel Arnoult . Other successful, repeat classes are “Creative Non Fiction” with Carol Crawford, “The Habitual Writer” taught by Susan  Woodring, “Write Like a Genius” taught by Maureen Ryan Griffin, “Tools of the Trade for Professional Writers” with Wendy Webb and  “Harnessing the Power of Words” taught by Jayne Jaudon Ferrer. Five of these instructors are also published poets with poetry books in print (none self published): Darnel Arnoult, Glenda Beall, Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, Maureen Ryan Griffin, and Dana Wildsmith. Any one of those five writing instructors could teach an excellent poetry writing class.
In reading the catalog, I understand what you are asking. I agree.  Poets paint with words, as they say.  We have been carefully taught that if we have to illustrate our poems with sketches, paintings or photography, then we have indeed failed in our responsibility to deliver the images to the reader.  Seldom or never  will you see a book of poetry with illustrations or any image other than the cover art, which we know, can be a companion piece, but it can never simply “illustrate.”  
Here at the end, I cannot answer your questions. My best advice is, if you are a regular student at the school and if you are truly concerned, contact the Program Director Karen Beaty and talk with her. Let her know what kind of writing classes you want to see offered in the future.  
Also, to the number of you who have asked me about teaching writing at the school, I suggest you apply to teach if you want to.   Apply with a class title and a class description. I do not know what JCCFS wants now, but there used to be three main credentials: 1)You are a published author, probably have a book published (not self published) 2) that you have teaching experience, 3) and that you truly fit in well at the folk school’s  no-lecture, relaxed environment. Before applying, remember that a week at the folk school is super intensive, if not totally exhausting, and being a non-profit, the pay is not up to scale. But if you love learning and if you want to pass on what you know as an instructor, you should apply.  
If it is creative energy for your writing that you seek, the folk school has  an abundance of that energy flying through the air, hitting almost everyone up side the head who happen to be walking across campus, beginning about the middle of each week. I can guarantee that. That is all I know at this point about what is going on at the folk school.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Celebrating Scott Owens POET OF THE MONTH for August 2011 IN THIS HIS BIRTH MONTH

Scott Owens  is our Poet of the Month. Not only is this his birth month, we're also celebrating the publication of his new book which just arrived in his hands yesterday--SOMETHING KNOWS THE MOMENT, published at Mainstreet Rag.

Below: Two Poems from his 
newly published book.

Scott Owens is the author 
of 7 collections of poetry with over 800 poems published in journals and anthologies. He is the recipient of awards from the Pushcart Prize Anthology, the Academy of American Poets, the NC Writers' Network, the NC Poetry Society, and the Poetry Society of SC. He holds an MFA from UNC Greensboro and currently teaches at Catawba Valley Community College.

Having His Hands Before Him
Less than All cannot satisfy Man
--William Blake
Having his hands before him
having his arms and shoulders needing work
having his mouth and eyes, feet and loins
and something called the void
God wanted more
so with his big right foot
he split the sky in half
so with the heel of his hand
he shaped the day into light and dark
so with great globules of spit
he hung the sun and moon
pissed the stars across the sky
coughed out clouds
threw down trees and vines
and bushes and grasses
and even a shrub or two.

Still, having his hands before him
his forehead shining
his hair hanging about his face
having his ears and nose and high cheekbones
he wanted more
so with his white teeth
he chewed up bits of earth
and molded tiger and lamb
dove and whale, serpent and flea
so with his toes
he scratched out a garden
so with his mirror
he chiseled a pair of little gods
so with his mouth
he said, "Be fruitful and multiply
but keep your hands off my tree."

Then, having his hands before him,
having his mirror cracked
his eyebrows knitted together
his lips pursed inward
having his teeth dripping
and his fruit spoiled
he wanted more
so with his eyes
he cried a flood
so with his breath
he blew up wind
to knock down towers and walls
so with his tongue
he burned a bush
and etched in stone
and lapped the center of the sea.

Having his hands before him
his fingers plucking his skin
having his chest bared
his belly grown round
his buttocks pushing out
he wanted more
so with his pelvis
he had a son
so with his silence
he nailed him to a tree
so with the shadow of his hand
he took him back
and with his long spine
he lay down beside him
and wept deep
into the hands before him.
God, Creating the Birds, 

Envisions Adam
Detail from the North Porch of Chartres Cathedral
No feathers, no fins. Each thing he wanted
to outdo the last. How now could he
surpass these flowers of the air, his mind
already tired, his hands sore, his body
spent from shaping. Nothing less than himself
would do, he thought. His own image
in miniature, puppet, mannequin, mirror
that moves. Important now to forget the early
mistakes, jellyfish, plankton, platypus,
to focus on this final act of creation.

In the darkness he saved from his own
restless hands he drank the wine he'd created,
his only company the quiet angels of his mind,
yes-men with halos and swords.
He will have no wings. That night
he slept the troubled sleep of dreams.
He saw faces that mocked his own,
fingers that picked his skin apart,
mouths that spat in the hands that made them.
His teeth will be like white soldiers, angry and hard.

Early the next day, his eyes barely open,
his head still humming from the night before,
he scraped the flesh from his own face,
opened a mouth, pressed his thumb hard
into the wells of eyes, pulled up ears
and nose, stretched out torso, arms, legs,
fingers, toes. He worked for hours shaping
the supple curve of back, rounding the buttocks,
pinching the tight cup of prick and balls.
His hands will be like these, clumsy and precise.

At last he draped it over the white sticks
he cherished, measured out sinew and nerve,
vein and gut, planted the bright seed
of his favorite tree in the loam of brain,
stood back, looked, retched,
dredged the life again from his lungs,
spat it into the mouth, called it
man, son of God, keeper of earth,
dropped it headfirst, naked, crying,
bruised and bloody to the ground.

"Why ask where none can answer?" Scott Owens' collection,Something Knows the Moment, poses this question and accompanies it with a hundred others about the nature of God, the nature of faith, of doubt, of trust and distrust, disillusion and resignation. Occasionally the subject of hope is addressed: "Here at least there is ice cream / and poetry, there are flowers" in the midst of "the nothing that surrounds us all." The answer to that first searching question is, We ask because we cannot help but ask. --These poems are necessary.
-- Fred Chappell, NC Poet Laureate