Poet of the Week Archive: August, 2006
August 21-27, 2006: A Bouquet of Poems by Winston-Salem Poets
A Word about Winston-Salem:
Winston-Salem is a pleasant place to live, with a number of institutions offering exceptional programs in the arts -- theNorth Carolina School of the Arts; Salem College and its Center for Women Writers; Reynolda House Museum of American Art; Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art; Winston-Salem State University; and Wake Forest University. Downtown, the beautifully renovated Stevens Center has a film series that has filled an important need, and poetry slams attract lively audiences in urban settings for a younger set. Every other year the National Black Theater Festival showcases work by new and emerging African-American playwrights and theater companies.
Among the best known writers in Winston-Salem are Maya Angelou, who came to teach at Wake Forest in 1982 and gives public readings and speaks at many community occasions; and John Ehle, whose vision inspired the North Carolina School of the Arts and who has written many books of fiction and nonfiction. (Ehle's novel, The Land Breakers, is the choice for this year's On the Same Page community read, sponsored by the Forsyth County Library.) Visiting writers have stopped in Winston-Salem for memorable occasions. In 1992 the first North Carolina Women Writers Conference, held at Salem and Winston-Salem State, presented 150 of the state's best writers -- including Doris Betts, Jaki Shelton Green, Lee Smith, and the late Linda Flowers -- in a weekend of programs attended by more than l,000 participants. An annual Irish Festival is directed by Candace Jones, long-time associate of the Wake Forest University Press's Irish poetry series.
Winston-Salem now has her own annual literary festival (BookMarks) and a new literary publishing house (Press 53), which has reissued Ehle's The Land Breakers. Winston-Salem Writersmeets at the public library every month. Special Occasions is an excellent independent book store, specializing in books by African Americans. Although the Rainbow News & Café went out of business some years ago, it left a legacy of cultural get-togethers and remains vivid in the memories of the area's writers and readers. Winston-Salem's size makes it easy for friends to meet up at the end of the day -- often in one of the emerging popular places in downtown, which young people and arts activities have revived. Street festivals have returned.
Centuries ago, Moravian settlers brought culture and customs, still part of Winston-Salem today, in words and music. Every Easter small bands circulate in neighborhoods, playing to wake the sleepers and bring them to the square in Salem for a religious service. The sound of poets -- in the work of the three Winston-Salem poets presented below -- is another welcoming sound. Come.
Emily Herring Wilson is a Georgia native and a graduate of Woman's College of the University of North Carolina (present-day UNC-G). She is a poet and nonfiction writer who lives in Winston-Salem, where she and her family became friends with A.R. Ammons and his family during Archie's first residency at his alma mater, Wake Forest University ('49). Her most recent book isNo One Gardens Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2004). Her poetry appeared on this web site in August, 2005.
A Word about This Week's Writers:
Of course, Winston-Salem has many fine poets, some of whom have already been featured on this web site. The three poets showcased in this week's feature have spent their adult lives in Winston-Salem and have profited from the literary presences in their midst, the late A.R. Ammons chief among them.
Isabel Zuber was a favorite of Ammons: he called her "one smart cookie." Her poetry has the sharp-edged quality of gnomic revelation, and although lately she has turned to fiction, her collection Red Lily would grace any publisher's list.
Becky Gibson has been in the same poetry group as Isabel, the two of them reading and critiquing each others' work for years. Both have won the North Carolina Writers' Network's annual Randall Jarrell/Harperprints chapbook competition. Becky's poems are densely layered tapestries that show us the fabric of women's lives, medieval and contemporary.
Helen Losse, a former student of Jane Mead, turns much of her attention to nature and the way nature calls us into a deeper understanding of our lives and the lives of those we love. When she sent me an e-mail message a year ago introducing herself and her work,
Becky Gould Gibson
Flying in the River
Down past the spring, past the milk,
You were the old woman in dark shapeless dresses
Putting Up Damson Preserves
You were right. I've never seen such fruit --
I'm not sure I'd have you back I'm so used to going
Now I keep summer in jars, shelved for pale winter
"The angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. . . .'" -- The Gospel according to Luke
Words were spoken -- God needed a woman
"Every word which he spake, whether it were good or bad,
The women washing linens at the river
She ties up her bundle to leave, not looking
". . . she slumbered and saw a beautiful youth. . . .She perceived it was Jesus, and he told her that the garments were her shroud, and he vanished."
As light sinks in the west, she wakes sobbing,
Becky Gould Gibson's poems have appeared in many journals, including The St. Andrews Review, Laurel Review, Connecticut River Review, Emrys Journal, Cumberland Poetry Review, Cold Mountain Review, Crucible, Pembroke Magazine, Southern Poetry Review (where "Triptych" first appeared), Hiram Poetry Review, Blue Unicorn, Iris: A Journal About Women, Potato Eyes(where "Flying in the River" first appeared), Kalliope: A Journal of Women's Literature and Art, Ekphrasis, Feminist Studies, and Brooklyn Review, as well as in several anthologies, most recently Working the Dirt: An Anthology of Southern Poets(2003). Awards and grants include a North Carolina Arts Council writers' fellowship (1993), nomination for the twentieth annual Pushcart Prize in Poetry (1995), recognition as first runner-up for the 1995 William & Kingman Page capbook award, finalist for the 1995 Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize, finalist for the 2000 Kalliope Sue Elkind poetry prize, a residency at Vermont Studio Center (February, 2000), and a Regional Artists Project Grant from the Winston-Salem-Forsyth County Arts Council (2000). She has published two prizewinning chapbooks of poetry -- Off-Road Meditations (North Carolina Writers' Network, 1989) and Holding Ground (White Eagle Coffee Store Press, 1996),where "Field Work" and "Putting Up Damson Preserves" first appeared -- and one full-length volume, First Life (Emrys Press, 1997). Poems are forthcoming in 10th Muse(Southampton, England), Tears in the Fence (Dorset, England), Shearsman(England), The South Carolina Review, and Comstock Review.
I want to hang your picture, sad in the hall,
with your face turned to the wall and me
The way the sun struck that certain tree this morning
"There are shadows to deal with," I said.
To deal with a shadow is to bind it forever.
Nothing's powerful as forever
On the Path To Jericho
Then on the path to Jericho,
"Is the man wearing a top coat
startles me with gentleness. We dance.
No one dances alone. "Include
"Am I wearing the clothing of a liar?"
At five o'clock we left the gift shop,
Wild lilacs climbed the marble walls.
drenched our cool, jacketed shoulders.
and the poems
Point of Departure
There's an echo against the cliff
. . . Listen, listen.
Yes, they only hint, --
The bones of kings,
Helen Losse is a poet, free lance writer, and poetry co-editor of The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Her poems have appeared most recently in Mastodon Dentist, Right Hand Pointing, Blue Fifth Review, Southern Hum, Adagio Verse Quarterly, The Centrifugal Eye, The Blueprint: An Assemblage of the Fifth Element, For Poetry, JMWW, and Scorched Earth. She has a chapbook, Gathering the Broken Pieces, available from FootHills Publishing, from which "Point of Departure" is drawn. Her second chapbook, Paper Snowflakes, from which the other poems that appear here are drawn, is forthcoming from Southern Hum Press this fall. Educated at Missouri Southern State and Wake Forest universities, she lives in Winston-Salem, where she occasionally writes book reviews for The Winston-Salem Journal.
Guided, a Path
My fields, he said, my land
but the downward beckoned.
through yellowed stubble
all vanished and
Lifting a corner, the golden beast
Bane and Simples
A current physic
for recovery or else.
pills. It doesn't matter.
dull bone, grass,
After we had destroyed them all
When the Queen
When the queen hurried to
nearly assembled, a
dahlias nodded beside
theology she put
and spoke so fair she saved
silver thimble. Something,
Isabel Zuber was born and grew up in Boone. She lives in Winston-Salem, was a librarian at Wake Forest University for many years, and is now writing full time.
Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in a number of literary magazines, including The American Voice, Poetry, Now & Then, Pembroke Magazine, Shenandoah, and The Southern Review. Some of her prizes include the North Carolina Writers' Network's annual Randall Jarrell/Harperprints chapbook award, 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. She was selected as one of the readers in the North Carolina Writers' Network's Blumenthal Writers & Readers series. Her poetry collections are Oriflamb and Winter's Exile and her novel, Salt, was published by Picador USA. Salt was selected in 2003 for Virginia Commonwealth University's First Novel award, which is presented as part of the James River Literary Festival in Richmond. She was one of the guest readers at the Eudora Welty Writers Symposium at Miss Welty's alma mater in Mississippi and will give a reading as part of the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series at Appalachian State University in March.