Poet of the Week Archive: July, 2006
July 3 - 9, 2006: Carolina African American Writers Collective
The Carolina African American Writers' Collective (CAAWC), based in Raleigh, is a workshop and readers' group consisting of poets, fiction writers, dramatists, essayists, journalists, children's writers, graphic artists, publicists, photographers, teachers, librarians, archivists, and editors who meet monthly to critique one another's work, read and discuss books by African American authors, and share information about the literary scene. CAAWC also serves as a literary and cultural arts liaison for the community.
Members of the Carolina African American Writers' Collective are currently featured in major anthologies, editions of national literary journals, newspapers, and magazines. Some of these publications include Fertile Ground; Dark Eros; Catch the Fire!!!; The Saracen; BMA: The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review; African American Review; FYAH; and PoetryBay. The Collective has been featured at Page One Festival of the Book; the North Carolina Literary Festival; the Bimbe Festival; the Virginia Festival of the Book; the National Black Arts Festival; the Festival For The Eno; the Hayti Heritage Center; the North Carolina Museum of History; and at bookstores, schools, colleges and universities, libraries, and cultural arts centers. Mendi Lewis Obadike arranged a major CAAWC reading in 2001 as part of the Dialogue Among Civilizations Through Poetry (a United Nations-affiliated event). In addition, the collective has been featured on television and radio programs, including WSHA 88.9 FM radio station. Members often teach writing at colleges, universities, community centers, prisons, public schools, libraries, conferences, and writers' workshops and retreats.
I began planting the seeds for a writers' group in 1989. I met Janice W. Hodges that spring in an advanced poetry writing class taught by Gerald W. Barrax, at North Carolina State University. Janice and I were the only two African Americans enrolled in the class. We began to talk about our experiences and how we turned them into poetry. A few weeks after the class began, I told Janice that I was planning to start a writers' group for African Americans. Three years later, in February 1992, I sent letters to Janice W. Hodges, Carole Boston Weatherford, Jaki Shelton Green, Beverly Fields Burnette, and Cynthia Guinn inviting them to participate in a critique group that would meet at my house at 7:00 on the third Wednesday of every month. For a few months, Beverly Fields Burnette was the only writer who attended.
That summer, Nayo Barbara Malcolm Watkins hosted a Carolina African American Writers' Collective meeting at her house in Durham. Then in the fall, CAAWC convened again-this time at the Hayti Heritage Center, also in Durham. Although the organization struggled in its early days, Jerry W. Ward, Jr., continually encouraged me to keep working with CAAWC. In 1995, the collective experienced much growth. Nudged by Afefe L. Tyehimba (formerly known as Lana C. Williams), former CAAWC president, I sent a letter to former and prospective members, informing them that I would host a critique meeting on Saturday morning, August 12, at 9:30 am. Since then, CAAWC has been meeting monthly, breaking only for the summer months. At present there are 40 members; and more writers are on the collective's waiting list. Members travel from as far away as Virginia, Ohio, Georgia, and elsewhere to attend CAAWC meetings.
Today L. Teresa Church, our archivist and membership chairperson, spreads the word about CAAWC and arranges readings for us at major festivals. The collective awards an annual series of prizes recognizing two writers for service to the state and to the national literary communities. Gina M. Streaty is the editor of The CAAWC Newsletter, which is distributed throughout the country and abroad. Stay tuned as the Carolina African American Writers Collective sends shockwaves throughout the literary world. -Lenard D. Moore
Lenard D. Moore was the featured "Poet of the Week" from June 26th through July 2nd. His work appears in the archive on this web site. This essay appeared in different form in BMa: The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review. The following links will take you to more information about the Carolina African American Writers Collective:
Dust-Black People Blues
In New Orleans
Lies from abstract men
My TV sings
Gina Streaty is a writer, poet, lecturer, editor of the CAAWC Newsletter, and a contributing writer for The Independent Weekly. She earned a B.A. from the University of Maryland and an M.A. from Duke University. Her work has appeared in anthologies and literary journals, including BMa: The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review, In Our Own Words, Vol. II, The Saracen, Voices, Black Arts Quarterly, The News & Observer Sunday Reader, Windhover, and Role Call: A Generational Anthology of Social and Political Black Literature and Art. A separate collection of poetry earned her the 2001 National Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award.
radius- a long, prismatic, slightly curved bone,
cool lava got skin
crinkles knee joints
i know how
I know the fingers
eres el indigina que camina
A native of Houston, Texas, Ebony Noelle Golden is an experienced choreographer, actor, and writer. She has worked with the world-famous Ensemble Theater as a choreographer. She also served as a writer-in-residence with Texas Southern University's Project Graduation and Project Row House's summer arts program, in Houston's third ward.
Ms. Golden has an MFA in Poetry from American University, in Washington, DC., and has served as a writer-in-residence for D.C. Writers' Corps and Montgomery Community College's Young Writers' Workshop. She has studied with Willie Perdomo, Saul Williams, Ruth Forman, Henry Taylor, Ishmael Reed, Lenard Moore, among many other artists, activist, and teachers. She has been awarded fellowships by the Atlantic Center of the Arts, Voices of Our Nations, and Soul Mountain Retreat Center.
Ms. Golden is an Instructor of adult basic skills and English at Vance-Granville Community College. She continues to serve the community as a volunteer with SpiritHouse and Peace Fire Art Gallery. Her first poetry collection, mama's hieroglyphics, will be published by her grassroots literary press, betty's daughter.
Back where I come from
If you travel to South Carolina's Low Country,
Go down to the Southeastern crux,
Beyond the Wax Museum and haunted mansions -
Go past old plantations, just there,
A native of Columbia, South Carolina, DeLana Dameron is a third-year student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, concentrating on African and Middle Eastern histories. She has been a member of the Carolina African-American Writers' Collective for two years. She was named a fellow this summer at Cave Canem -- one of nine CAAWC members claiming that distinction.
On Sunday strolls
To our parents,
L. Teresa Church lives in Durham and is a native of Virginia. She is a playwright, freelance writer, quilter, poet, library professional, and member of the Carolina African- American Writers Collective. "Offspring" appeared originally in The Saracen Literary Magazine, published at Hampton University. Ms. Church's work has appeared in many other publications: Southern Theatre; Fertile Ground; The Saracen Literary Magazine; BMa: The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review; Word and Witness: One Hundred Years of North Carolina Poetry; Sauti Mpya: The Literary Magazine of the Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center; Exquisite Reaction; Moonwort Review; Nocturnes (Re)view of the Literary Arts; Drumvoices Revue; and Black Arts Quarterly. In 1989, Ms. Church won the North Carolina Arts Council's playwrights fellowship for her third play, One Day When I Was Lost. She has degrees in English and English/Creative Writing from Radford University and Brown University, respectively. She also holds a master's degree in library science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Your word is a light to my feet and a light to my path
only a child never to delight in flesh
joseph's lilies have died only the staff remains
she waits for dawn angels and prays
her form curved into my height
O Lord, and teach me your judgments.
Raina J. León, a Cave Canem fellow and member of the Carolina African American Writers Collective, is currently a doctoral student in education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her poem "Voz: Mamá" is part of a series that appeared in the spring, 2005 issue of Furnace Review. She is founder and curator of the Touchstones Open Mic and Reading Series and head of program/workshop facilitator for the High School Literacy Project, which runs through the Research Triangle Schools Partnership and the School of Education at UNC-CH. Her work has been featured at Cornelia Street Café, Nuyorican Poets Café, Bowery Poetry Club, through readings with the LouderArts Project, and in AntiMuse, Furnace Review, Farmhouse Review, Constellation Magazine, the anthology Poetic Voices without Borders ( Gival Press), and Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem's First Decade. Her poetry manuscript, Canticle of Idols, has been a finalist for the Cave Canem First Book Prize and received honorable Mention in the Andres Montoya poetry prize competition.
July 10 – 16, 2006: Shelby Stephenson
There is this about good poets -- once you've heard them perform, then their voices stay with you, and you hear the music of their speech, the rhythm of their song, when you read their poems. I feel that way about Shelby Stephenson. I can pick up any of his books, and hear that music. Like Fred Chappell and Kay Byer he has the earth, the sky, and the people of his land in his poems. In Shelby's case the land is the Coastal Plain of eastern North Carolina -- the area in Johnston County, around Benson, where he grew up. I can hear Shelby's voice, and I can close my eyes and hear Shelby and his lovely wife, Linda ("Nin" he calls her) singing and playing their instruments. Shelby's not just a poet; he's a presence.
I can hear his sly humor in Possum, the wonderful book of poems that won the Campbell-Brockman Award of the North Carolina Poetry Society just last year. I can feel his deep affection for his rapidly disappearing world in that lovely chapbook, Finch's Mash, published by St. Andrews Press in 1990. All the way through his work is his love of family and the abiding presence of his father, William Paul Stephenson, the subject of his 1990 chapbook, The Persimmon Tree Carol.
Yet for all Shelby's nostalgia and abiding love for the world of his childhood, there is about his poetry and about him an extraordinary energy that keeps his poems rooted in the present even as he writes about the past. He and his poems are so alive. Like Possum, he may be down, but "a cry and whelp and he was up again." Shelby Stephenson is one of our state's treasures. He was presented the North Carolina Award for Literature by Governor Michael Easley in 2001. May he be "up again" and again for many more years.
Anthony S. Abbott began teaching English literature at Davidson College in 1964. He is a widely published poet. His novel, Leaving Maggie Hope, won the Novello Festival Press Award for 2003. His most recent collection of poems, The Man Who, was featured on this web site in March, 2006.
The Ugly Changes
Possum thought of the farmer's plight−
He saw it caterpillaring
Possum saw it scooping whole fields.
He climbed clear in his persimmon and glared.
He saw it licking the countryside, suburbs, towns,
A boom quickened the dizzying earth.
Its time had come and gone.
I whisper to the holly. . .
I whisper to the persimmon. . .
I rub my eyes
Timber, in the deep forest,
Possum saw it.
He paddled the wrinkling water.
As the pear blossoms trailed springdust
The rose-hued finch puffed in the thistlebud.
His climbing rose was thorny on the splitrail.
My body quivers
A bluebird on the soldier's stone
There in the hedge
The Seeded Row
The love that flowers
The point deepens into furrows,
Coming in chunky clods,
The mules' traces loped
Down every row and back
Between ends to think
Hands, feel the lettering on the Mason jar,
If my body over the earth
The sun boughs down the longleafpine,
Hollybushes crinkle honeysuckle vines;
Some tongue a tine
You, my only you, come to wine.
Shelby Stephenson grew up on a small farm near Benson, in the Coastal Plain of North Carolina. He says: "Most of my poems come out of that background, where memory and imagination play on one another. My early teachers were the thirty-five foxhounds my father hunted. The trees and streams, fields−childhood−those are my subjects." After leaving the farm for college, he was graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (where he also studied law), the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He has worked as a radio and television announcer, salesman, right-of-way agent, and farmer.
Mr. Stephenson is now professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, where he has edited Pembroke Magazine since 1979. The state of North Carolina presented him with the 2001 North Carolina Award in Literature. He has received the Zoe Kincaid Brockman Memorial Award, the North Carolina Writers' Network's Randall Jarrell/Harperprints chapbook prize, the Bright Hill Press chapbook award, and the Brockman-Campbell poetry prize. In addition to a poetic documentary entitled Plankhouse (with photographs by Roger Manley), he has published Middle Creek Poems, Carolina Shout!, Finch's Mash, The Persimmon Tree Carol, Poor People, Greatest Hits, Fiddledeedee, and Possum, from which the first two poems that appear here are drawn. (Bright Hill Press published Possum in 2004.) The remaining poems presented on this web site are from his manuscript Paul's Hill, for which he is seeking a publisher. With his wife, Linda, he has made two musical CDs -- "Hank Williams Tribute" and "Stephenson Brothers & Linda Sing the Old Songs." Shelby and Linda live on the farm where he was born.
July 17-23, 2006: David Manning
After reading just a few of Dave Manning's poems, I knew this was a voice I would follow anywhere. Whether it is one of his quiet, meditative poems, a passionate love poem, or a humorous poem, his poems illuminate the world in ways that reveal things we have never noticed and transform the familiar into the strange and wondrous. He is a poet whose keen mind and