Poet of the Week Archive: December 2005 Part II
A Garland of Holiday Poems
Before Christmas began being hawked in stores even before Halloween, we were able to save the magic of it until after Thanksgiving. The week before Christmas was especially exciting, when we would sit down to string garlands of popcorn and greenery to hang over the doors and windows and drape over the Christmas tree. This year I decided that we needed a garland of poems to celebrate the week of Christmas and the beginning of Hanukkah, on December 26th, and so each day this week, you'll find on our website a gift of a seasonal poem by one of our North Carolina poets (two on the 25th!). I'll return to the weekly format at the end of this month, with poems you can read on the screen or listen to with just a click.
Feel free to print them, string them into a real garland, and hang them wherever you wish. It's a way of reminding us of the gift of poetry and how it can bring both mystery and light into our lives. -- K.S.B.
December 19, 2005: Heather Ross Miller
Familiar cedars barb the strange sky
Rough snow mottles his denim
Heather Ross Miller, with more than a dozen books of poetry and fiction, is Distinguished Professor Emerita at Washington and Lee University. She lives in Albemarle. Her most recent collection of poems is Gypsy With Baby(Hammond, LA: Louisiana Literature Press, 2005). Ms. Miller was honored by the North Carolina Writers Conference this past July for her teaching and writing. This fall she was the Rachel Rivers Coffey Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Appalachian State University. This poem is drawn from her collection, Friends and Assassins(University of Missouri Press, 1993).
December 20, 2005: Rodney Jack
On a glacial slope,
Rodney Jack lives in Laurinburg and teaches creative writing at St. Andrews Presbyterian College. His poems have appeared in many journals, includingPloughshares,Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and AGNI. He has had residencies at Yaddo, Breadloaf, and the MacDowell Colony and has received numerous grants and prizes. Last year he was a finalist for the Walt Whitman Award.
December 21, 2005: Isabel Zuber
In the kitchen
Isabel Zuber was a librarian at Wake Forest University for many years and is now writing full time. Her novel,Salt(New York, NY: Picador USA), was selected for Virginia Commonwealth University's 2003 First Novel award. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in a number of literary magazines, including The American Voice,Poetry, Now & Then, Pembroke Magazine, andShenandoah. Some of her prizes include the North Carolina Writers' Network's poetry chapbook competition, the Lee Smith Award for Fiction from the Appalachian Writers Association, the University of Tennessee Press Prize for Short Story, and a Forsyth County Arts Council grant. Her poetry collections areOriflamb(Carrboro, NC: North Carolina Writers' Network, Harperprints Chapbook Series) and Winter's Exile (Southern Pines, NC: Scotch Plaid Press, 1997). "Solstice" is drawn fromWinter's Exile and is reproduced here with the permission of the author, who holds the copyright. It originally appeared in a booklet printed as a gift for subscribers to Jackpine Press.
December 22, 2005: Mark Smith-Soto
Fogueres de Sant Joan*
It worries my sister we want that poster
To her, two souls suffering forever
Themselves happy even to suffer together...
The almost smile on their man's and woman's faces,
* In Alicante, as in many regions in Spain, a festival held in honor of St. John during which the people jump through bonfires.
Fogueres de Sant Joan*
Mi hermana se preocupa al ver en la pared
*En Alicante como en varias regiones de España, la gente celebra la fiesta de San Juan saltando por hogueras.
Costa Rican-American Mark Smith-Soto is director of the Center for Creative Writing in the Arts at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he edits the journalInternational Poetry Review. A 2005 winner of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in creative writing, his poetry has appeared in Nimrod, Carolina Quarterly,The Sun, Poetry East,Quarterly West,Americas Review,Callaloo, Literary Review, Kenyon Review and various other literary magazines. His Green Mango Collagewon the North Carolina Writers' Network Persephone Competition in 2000, and a second chapbook, Shafts, won the North Carolina Writers' Network's 2001 Randall Jarrell-Harperprints Poetry Competition. His first full-length book of poetry, Our Lives Are Rivers(University Press of Florida, 2003), was runner-up for the Best N.C. Poetry Book of the Year award, offered by the Poetry Council of North Carolina. His most recent collection, Any Second Now, is slated for publication this spring by Main Street Rag Press.
December 23, 2005: Robert Morgan
Firecrackers at Christmas
In the Southern mountains, our big
Born and raised in the North Carolina mountains and educated at UNC-CH and UNC-G, Robert Morgan has been a professor of creative writing at Cornell University since 1971. Over the years he has received a number of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1991, he received the North Carolina Award for Literature and the James G. Hanes Poetry Prize from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Mr. Morgan is the author of a number of collections of poetry and short fiction. His novel, Gap Creek(Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books, 1999), received the Southern Book Critics Circle Award for 2000 and was chosen as a "Notable Book" by The New York Times. It was also an Oprah Book Club selection. In 2004, Louisiana State University Press publishedThe Strange Attractor: New and Selected Poems, from which "Firecrackers at Christmas" is drawn. We reproduce it here with Mr. Morgan's permission.
December 24, 2005: Irene Honeycutt
Driving Up 181 to Jonas Ridge
The winter moon rises
Once upon a time Irene Blair Honeycutt lived in Jacksonville, Florida, where she loved to read fairy tales and to write poems in her palm hut in the woods. When she grew up, she began teaching creative writing and fairy tales at Central Piedmont Community College, in Charlotte. She received the college's Teaching Award for Excellence and founded the Annual Spring Literary Festival. She still lives in Charlotte, teaches at Queens University, and leads writing retreats. She hikes, bikes, travels, and retreats to her cabin in the woods on Jonas Ridge. She believes, as Rilke said, that writing is an extension of who we are. Her two poetry books are: It Comes As a Dark Surprise(Sandstone Publishing, 1992), and Waiting for the Trout to Speak(Novello Festival Press, 2002), from which this poem is drawn. The Prince with the Golden Hair, her first children's book--a fairy tale -- will be published in the spring of 2006 by D-N Publishing.
December 25, 2005: Anjail Rashida Ahmad and Stephen Smith
a December's blessing
the grandmother shuffles about the kitchen
washed in the hush of an early morning
the times since the mill closings
There was the time the lights were restored
...or the time she had to kick the screen door open,
today, in the midst of the morning's frail air,
accustomed to bobbing up
under her breath, slow and measured,
by noon, the room shimmers
Anjail Rashida Ahmad lives in Greensboro and is a professor of English and director of the Creative Writing program at North Carolina A&T State University. She holds a Ph.D. in African American Literature with a specialization in 20th Century American Poetry and Women's Literature from the University of Missouri-Columbia and an M.A. in 20th Century Poetry from New York University. Her first collection of poems, necessary kindling, was published by Louisiana State University Press in 2001 and was a finalist for the Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award, judged by Dorian Laux. Her chapbook, the color of memory, was published by Clear Vision Press, in 1997. Her work has appeared in publications such as Ikon, The Washington Square Review, The Missourian Weekend Magazine, Midlands, The Black Scholar, All that Jazz, The Greensboro News and Record and The African American Review.
Ms. Ahamd is currently the North Carolina Poetry Society Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for the Central Region, and she has received numerous other awards and honors including The College Language Association Margaret Walker Alexander award for Poetry, The Academy of American Poets Janef Preston Prize for Poetry, the Robert Frost Prize, the Agnes Scott Writer's Festival Award for Poetry and the Southern Literary Prize for Poetry as well as awards for academic excellence. She conducts readings and writing workshops at public libraries and at colleges and universities around the country.
I cannot write a Christmas
But what I can do
I looked up too,
If you are an old believer,
Stephen E. Smith was born in Easton, Maryland, in 1946. After graduating from Elon College, he attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he received his MFA in 1971. His poems and stories have appeared in Quarterly West, Poetry Northwest, Southern Poetry Review, Light Years, The Arts Journal,Southern Exposure, and many other periodicals and anthologies. In 1981, he was awarded the Poetry Northwest Young Poet's Prize. He is the author of a book of stories, The Great Saturday Night Swindle; a novella, The Honeysuckle Shower and Other Parables; a book of creative nonfiction, Worst I Ever Had Was Wonderful; and six books of poetry, A Short Report on the Fire at Woolworths, The Bushnell Hamp Poems, Most of What We Take Is Given, The (More) Complete Bushnell Hamp Poems, Loose Talk, and The Complete Bushnell Hamp Poems, which received the 1992 Zoe Kincaid Brockman Prize. He is the recipient of three North Carolina Press awards, and he has contributed more than 2,000 columns and features to newspapers and magazines in North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. He lives in Southern Pines, where he is a columnist for The Pilot and an adjunct professor of Creative Writing at St. Andrews College. "Christmas Poem" is drawn from his collection, Most of What We Take Is Given (Singular Speech Press, 1991) and appears here with Mr. Smith's permission.
December 26, 2005: Richard Chess
The Jewish Angel
It doesn't answer to a Polish name
Richard Chess is Professor of Literature and Language at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He directs UNC-A's creative writing program as well as its Center for Jewish Studies. He has two books of poetry, Tekiah (1994; 2001), from which this poem is drawn, and Chair in the Desert (2000), both currently available from the University of Tampa Press. His next book of poetry, tentatively titled Seventy Faces, is forthcoming from the University of Tampa Press next year. His poem "Kaddish, after Charles Reznikoff," is included in the anthology Best American Spiritual Writing 2005, published by Houghton Mifflin. Later this academic year, he will be the featured artist of the month on the website for IMAGE: A Journal of Arts and Religion.
December 27, 2005 - January 1, 2006: Jeffery Beam
Jeffery Beam's forte is the natural world; his poems present the wondrous idea that humankind is an intrinsic part of nature rather than an observer. He understands that in the natural world, "Death & Being exchange vows" forever. His poems, coiling and uncoiling, put prickles on the back of my neck. Poet of the week? He should be given a month at the very least. -- Janet Lembke
Janet Lembke's translation of Virgil's Georgics, a long poem on farming, appeared this year from Yale University Press. She's published many collections of essays. Her next, coming in January, is From Grass to Garden. About this book, Ms. Lembke writes, "It deals with my grass extermination project. Out with grass! In with everything else!"Janet Lembke lives in Virginia, and makes occasional forays here for the North Carolina Writers' Conference or a book-signing/reading.
An Invocation for North Carolina
The Green Man's Man
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Green, I want you green.
For a long time I
What can you tell me of
Its heartbeat doesn't stop
Dark windBright wind
In order to make sense
The ants welcome me as their brother
Each day I visit my mound
I ask the wind to carry me
I open Nature's book
Finding under the oak:
Once when the hurricane slammed the oak
I, in my green shirt,
To entice the eye
The oak my father
Twig in winter
All that I am:
A woodpecker at dusk and dawn
A cardinal flower at field's edge reading cloud shadows
The cardinal points - every direction a good and purposeful one