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Archive for the ‘Imagery’ Category

A ten minute walk from Buxton Woods there are a hundred people milling around at the base of the lighthouse waiting to climb or just spraining their necks. A ten minute walk into Buxton Woods it’s just the three of us. The trail rises, ancient dune now eternal with live oak and yaupon. Surf crash can’t reach us here but the hum is constant, cicadas, mosquitoes, something swift in peripheral vision. We descend to a slough, marsh slowly becoming meadow then woodland. Looks ancient. Smells ancient.

Even in deep shade the trail is not cool but our grandson thinks it’s cool to be here. We’ve never seen this many different colors of dragon flies. Along one stretch a platoon of thumb-sized toads is invisible until one hops across the trail. It’s not a dinosaur, this trail, not yet extinct but endangered. Not only because every other scrap of maritime forest along the outer banks is scrutinized greedily by developers with bulldozers, but because this is the Outer Banks. The dune ridges are a timeline of shoreline creeping ever west, the bank rolling over itself for millennia, now faster and faster. Thousand year old clam and oyster middens are still uncovered, evidence of the human beings that have visited and resided here. How much longer?

This little trail is an insect in amber. Engrave it in memory. From the gallery rail on Hatteras Lighthouse they can’t see us here.

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This poem is from Susan Meyer’s My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass. I return to this book when the world smells like asphalt and I need a whiff of spartina. I mean, when my own ideas are pedestrian and my inspiration is muckbound and I need something with clear veined wings to chase me back into sunlight. Or a chiseled head and slender neck. How can writing be at once so rooted and so lofty? Oh Susan, how few words we need.

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Two Friends Hiking at Old Santee Canal

Ahead of me, he balances his feet, left then right,
on the first of two planks – an unsteady bridge of sorts –
laid down for hikers to cross
               what, on most days,
would be bog,
     but on this one, after weeks of rain, is flooded.

We are learning the look and feel of swamp.

Waiting my turn, I can see his every step.
He pauses halfway across, standing sweaty
in the midst of the ordinary.
          An inch or so beneath his heels,
under the seam of the two boards,
I see the loops and curves
          of a thick brown snake.
The chiseled head, the slender neck. Above them,
his bare ankles.
     How few, the words we need.
Snake, I say, unable to utter where
               or put sense to it.
Which way should I go? He is a statue,
his arms frozen in air.
I tell him to come back, and he does.
          We watch the snake uncurl
and disappear, but in the thrill of fear just past,
our bodies, all breath and jitters, now belong
          to someone we don’t recognize.
Forward is the direction we want to choose
but neither of us can step onto the board.
               We know what we must do:
stumble through ferns and mud,
               clotted roots, the thick
of mosquitoes, a limestone bluff –
backtrack in the safety of a path already taken.

Susan Laughter Meyers
from My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass, Cider Press Review, 2013

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Tonya and Roseann found them: wings scattered beside the river bank. Dozens and dozens of wings, bright yellow with stark black bars and fingerprints of orange and blue along the margins. Where had they come from?

Our entire class trooped over to observe. Leaf sized wings strewn on boulders at the north point of Girl Scout Island, Middle Prong of Little River, weekend naturalist skills course, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, perfect setting for our mission: not to know an answer but to learn to question. “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” Why were they here?

Only wings, no butterfly bodies. Had they congregated here to die? No dark females’ wings — were the males puddling, gleaning minerals for their spermatophores, and then attacked? Or had some devious predator collected the wings and brought them here to mystify us?

We crouched beneath the sycamore and hemlock while the mountain stream raced and chattered beside us. We parted the grasses, looked under rocks, collected a few wings and peered with our hand lenses. We paid attention. We were astonished.

Swallowtail wings

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The naturalist method and poetry have something in common. We want truth but we want to experience it directly. We make connections. We let light shine in dark places. And if we discover an answer it will likely bring with it not only a dollop of new knowledge but more than a dollop of wonder.

Susan Laughter Meyers has been a person and poet who has filled me with wonder. When her ultimate collection, Self-Portrait in the River of Deja Vu, was published this year, two years after her untimely death, its poetry opened my heart and my mind again to the mystery and power of words. She was a fierce observer of the earth and all that is in it, the heron’s plume, the subtle change of hour, of season. And she was an uncompromising naturalist of the soul. In subtle phrase and in lancing stab she uncovers the dark places within us.

And lets in the light.

Oh, and as she reminds us, and as we beside the river finally remembered, besides looking back we must not forget to look up.

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If Not Birds Dodging Loneliness

The bluest ones in an open sky
fan reveries with their wings.
Dream time, that’s what they inhabit —
fabulous as the past and its dingy veils

I wore in a favorite childhood game:
dress-up with the girl whose father
ran a funeral home. The newest shroud
had no holes to trip us, one a princess

the other a bride. The least breeze
and the shroud would ripple, barely
kissing the skin. Wasn’t that a dalliance
to wish for? On days when birds soar

toward light, when they tip and wheel
and turn until they silhouette,
you’d think they’re being chased.
Or if not birds dodging loneliness,

then memories loosed into view.
Like the ones of a blindfolded
child with stick or pin-and-tail in hand,
steering toward a prize, when to win

the game is to break something
or make something whole again.
Fringed and fleeting, such remnants,
though the world is full of them.

There are moments in my life
when gravitating toward feels the same
as ducking from. Moments when,
for recompense, I look back. Or up.

 

Susan Laughter Meyers
from Self-Portrait in the River of Deja Vu, Press 53, 2019

Smokies - Tremont

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The quotation “Pay attention . . . ” is excerpted from the poem Sometimes by Mary Oliver, from Red Bird, Boston: Beacon Press, 2009, page 37.

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Doughton Park Tree #3

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. . . heaven that extends to comfort all the night . . .

Traveling by night. The way is obscure, although we still think there must be a way. The way is darkness. We think darkness is what we are leaving behind. The light of full day would blind us. We trust the small light in the moonless night, steady unflickering point that goes before us.

We think doubt is what we are leaving behind. We think certainty is something that must surely lie before us, across the desert, the impassable, the treachery. Aren’t we followers? Aren’t we on the way?

This is certainty: everything we thought was certain we have left behind us. Crowns and gold, nothing. Light and darkness, among us and in us, totality, consummation. We are breath and human and awake have seen all birth and burial merge and fall away.

Carol of the Three Kings
W. S. Merwin

How long ago we dreamed
Evening and the human
Step in the quiet groves
And the prayer we said:
Walk upon the darkness,
Words of the lord,
Contain the night, the dead
And here comfort us.
We have been a shadow
Many nights moving,
Swaying many nights
Between yes and no.
We have been blindness
Between sun and moon
Coaxing the time
For a doubtful star.
Now we cease, we forget
Our reasons, our city,
The sun, the perplexed day,
Noon, the irksome labor,
The flushed dream, the way,
Even the dark beasts,
Even our shadows.
In this night and day
All gifts are nothing:
What is frankincense
Where all sweetness is?
We that were followers
In the night’s confusion
Kneel and forget our feet
Who the cold way came.
Now in the darkness
After the deep song
Walk among the branches
Angels of the lord,
Over earth and child
Quiet the boughs.
Now shall we sing or pray?
Where has the night gone?
Who remembers day?
We are breath and human
And awake have seen
All birth and burial
Merge and fall away,
Seen heaven that extends
To comfort all the night,
We have felt morning move
The grove of a few hands.

 

 

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In the Manger

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In the Manger

They process down the center aisle
while the pastor reads the story from Luke,
Mary and Joseph, angels and shepherds,
now my grandson with a paper crown

bearing treasure to his savior;
Mary in a bathrobe holds a plastic baby
in a yellow receiving blanket
but in the pew behind me

my daughter-in law cradles
two month old Amelia, premature,
less than 5 pounds at birth, even now
just about the heft of a healthy

Middle Eastern newborn boy –
why not lay her in the manger?
For today in the city of David is born
to us all a savior, anointed one, and this

shall be the sign – we shall find
the babe wrapped in a pink blankie
and lying in a manger, and we shall call
her name Wonderful, Counselor,

Bringer of Peace, Mighty One,
and in her presence we will hear angels
singing, Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth Peace to all creatures.

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Bill Griffin
Christmas Day 2015

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Here’s a sobering thought: even when you receive that wondrous acceptance letter (or email) telling you that The Editor has decided to publish one of the poems you sent him or her, she or he is still rejecting the other two or three or four that were in the envelope (or .PDF). I hear the trombones going, “WAH Wah wah.” And equally sobering: if anyone is reading the poem once it does get published, they’re not calling you to tell you how much they like it. How not sexy is that?

But no, wait a minute, I take that back. I have a special friend who always tells me she likes my poems. (I won’t reveal her name, but her initials are “Caren Stuart.”) If she finds something I’ve written appearing in a regional journal or anthology she shoots me the kind of email that is 100% guaranteed to improve posture, dissolve scowl lines, and overcome even the most stubborn case of writer’s block. For several years she and I and Nancy King had a monthly email poetry critique session going. We’d share one poem apiece and comment. CS could find something wonderful in my lamest efforts, which inspired me to keep hacking away at them until they really were wonderful. Thanks, Kiddo – I write a lot better when you’re in the world.

Give it a try yourself. Lot’s of times I’ve discovered a poem by someone I know, picked out my favorite line, and sent them a little message about why I like it. Such an act never fails to reverse entropy and slow down global warming.

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Yellow Fringed Orchid, Patanthera ciliaris — Gorges State Park NC, 8/2015

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I confess that for a few years I’ve almost quit submitting poems for publication. Who needs the fame, right? But in 2015 the tide is turning. Maybe I’m beginning to see that my personal journey as poet is developing a more unifying theme or gestalt. Maybe I’m feeling more comfortable in the community of poets. And it certainly helps that so many journals accept online submissions – I’ve got a roll of 100 “second ounce” postage stamps I’ve hardly touched. I’m sending my little darlings out to the Mercy of Editors again.

AND . . . I’ve got a new system. Which I am going to share with you.

Ever get all fired up with a sheaf of poems, stuffing them into a .PDF only to discover the journal you’ve envisioned for them closed its annual submission period last week? Grieve no longer. Check out the creation below (which has been made possible by dozens of hours on the computer and a constant infusion of what CS calls my “Type A-ness”):

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This table shows the months when various journals accept submissions, plus how to research their submssions guidelines. Just look down the column of the current month to pick a journal that’s currently open to submissions!

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Click the link below for the entire .PDF. As of March, 2016 I have about 75+ journals and contests listed. I’d like to keep expanding– my email address is listed in the document so you can send me your suggestions and additions, plus any corrections. I’ll keep the updated document linked to this page.

Click  below for .PDF file with the FULL LIST:
[Last updated 3/6/2016]

. . . . . . . . . . . !!Submissions Calendar 2016-03 . . . . . . . . . .

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Luna Moth, Actias luna — Gorges State Park NC, 8/2015

After Shelby Stephenson published Orange Cap in Pembroke Magazine in 2005 I didn’t submit again for a few years, and now he has turned over the reins to the new Editor, Jessica Pitchford. Last year I had written a poem about my paternal grandmother that I thought my aunt and cousins might enjoy. Whenever we’re together we usually share a story or two about Grandmother (no lesser title could ever suffice), the stoic matriarch and proud link to the Weatherspoon side of the family, now to be captured for posterity in a sonnet. But before I sent the poem to the family I sent it to Pembroke. Thanks, Jessica! The family is indeed enjoying this. (And it explains why I bought four extra copies of Pembroke #47.)

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Sonnet for the Woman Who Fried 10,000 Chickens

And don’t forget about a bazillion quail,
each three bites for breakfast with biscuits and grits
and gravy über Alles thanks to red setters’ skill,
Granddaddy’s gun, and us willing to pick little nits
of birdshot out of our teeth, but save that fat pullet
for this Sunday’s dinner, piled crisp high and brown
as pecans shelled last night for green jello salad.
The triumphal platter Grandmother sets down,
we pray Come Lord Jesus, me and Brother grab
for the juiciest piece ‘til we backpeddle before
her Presbyterian eye – Boys, what will you have?
and Finish your greens before you ask for more.
.     No one says thigh or breast here: Grandmother will offer
.     only second joint, white meat, and everything proper.

[First appeared in Pembroke Magazine number forty-seven, 2015]

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Extremely hungry millipede, Narceus americanus, trying to untie my bear bag & steal the goodies. Gorges State Park NC, 8/2015

Post Script – One other reason to send out a poem: last year I wrote a poem about a friend and patient who had died at the age of 98. It placed in a contest and appeared in an anthology. This summer I took a copy of the book to his widow, herself 98, read her the poem and just reminisced for a while about the many great stories her husband had shared with me over the years. About a month later she mailed me a thank you note, said all her kids had enjoyed the poem about their daddy, and she had read my other poem that appeared in the same book and commented on it.

It doesn’t take a thousand readers to make the writing worth the effort. One will do.

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Wow, I really like your enjambment.

To the women who said this to me after a reading last Spring: Where are you? Who are you? I’d like to get to know you better. Let’s get together and talk . . .

. . . about my poetry. Oh, right, about yours, too. About all sorts of poetry. Just remember: the sexiest line in the English (Major) language is, I like your poem.

Because let’s face it, most of the people I run into every day don’t want to hear about my poetry. I’d most likely encounter a blank stare, or even a lynch mob, if I confided, “I’m writing a sestina using the argot of 1930’s gangster Chicago.”

But there must be someone out there who admires my enjambment. I guess I’ll have to place myself at the mercy of the Editors.

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Years ago when I first became afflicted with this obsession Poetry I was writing in a vacuum. Lines tumbling about in my head pressuring to be set down on paper – why does someone do that? For a Pulitzer? Not in a million years. Pushcart? Never heard of it. Fortune? Ha ha ha ha ha! Fame? Of course not . . . well, maybe a little would be nice.

No, I suppose I write for the same reason as all writers: the compulsion to get it onto the page, and to get it right. But how to know if it’s right? I was desperate to have someone read from the growing stack. Not to tell me it was good (OK, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they did) but just to confirm that what I was writing was poetry. That the lines communicated what they were meant to. That they connected with the reader.

Having no access to a writer’s group it occurred to me that I should submit to poetry journals. The Editors would let me know how I was doing! Editors are wonderful human beings, but of course they are far busier than I imagined. Most of the feedback they gave came from their Xerox machines. A few had distinctly negative things to say (without ever quite using the word “sucks”). But there was one Editor, one Golden Pen beyond the vale of the SASE, who never failed to encourage.

Perhaps you’ve guessed – I’m talking about Shelby Stephenson. Between 1999 and 2004 I sent him seventeen submissions, eighty plus poems. I must have exhausted him! But the tiny slips that returned along with the poems usually said, “Keep writing!” or “You’ll place these elsewhere.” Sometime during those years I met Shelby in person at an NC Poetry Society meeting and then I understood. The concept rejection does not reside in the man’s soul.

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And then on April 14, 2005, I received in the mail an 8½ x 11 page on the Pembroke Magazine stationery. An acceptance. I must have written a real poem at last.

Here are a few samples of the “non-rejection” slips – I saved every one. Here’s the acceptance letter, and here’s the poem Orange Cap which appeared in Pembroke Magazine Number 38 in 2006.

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Pembroke 2005-04-12

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Orange Cap
for Grady at ninety

Common as dirt; cotton and nylon with a plastic snap band,
stiff front, forehead’s high profile that begs
for jaw ballast of a heavy chew; the kind a man wears
while he primes tobacco, hoes a row of beans,
seep of sweat darkening the brim, its shade
a cool welcome across the man’s red face
while the Piedmont sun sows his ears with slow cancer.
I can see one like it settled low on your narrow head

in many a long day’s field, beneath the nights’ revival tent,
at sixty still cutting timber with your boys,
your bony arms like axe handles, your hoarse chuckle
taming the chainsaw’s growl. You’ll never sit still,
almost ninety now and determined to ride that durned mower
across town, little wagon in tow to carry a brown paper sack –
bread, milk, a slab of streakéd meat
for the creases your daughter cut at the creek bank.

Never still and never capless, one clutched in silent hands
at the hospital that night we lingered with Opal,
last Yadkin County breath struggling from her lungs,
prayers that she’d open her eyes one more time
to your foolish teasing, the only one who could make her laugh –
prayers to be answered in the next life.
For today, always a cap and another to share:
I’ve kept the one you gave me, orange, Kennedy Auto Supply,

dusty then and more so now from its berth
beside these books that don’t tell a single story
that’s as worth hearing. See, I inked your gift’s date
here inside the hem: May 19, 1989. Remember
all the times I’ve rediscovered it, surprised you
at the door with the old blaze perched on my scalp?
Used it to make Opal cluck (but she couldn’t help grinning)?
Coaxed a phlegmy chuckle from your throat?

At each goodbye you ask, Still got that cap?
Like all the things we can’t take off –
the smell of woodsmoke in a canvas jacket,
black tobacco gum beneath cracked nails;
like all the things we’ll wear into glory –
grief, redemption, love for one companion,
shared laughter at an old fool’s tales . . .
yes, friend, I’ve still got it.

first appeared in Pembroke Magazine Number 38, 2006

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Spring Larkspur, Delphinium tricorne — Appalachian Trail north of Groundhog Creek Shelter, 5/2015

Post script

– I pulled out my copy of Number 38 this summer to leaf through it again and discovered there a host of poets I’ve since some to know and revere: Ronald H. Bayes, Ann Deagon, Janice Moore Fuller, Sharon Sharp, Heather Ross Miller, Nancy Tripp King, Isabel Zuber, Susan Meyers, Ruth Moose, and more. I just want to say, “Holy Cow, Shelby!”

And THANKS!

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Doughton Park Tree #3

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Our habitual experience is a complex of failure
and success in the enterprise of interpretation.
If we desire a record of uninterpreted experience,
we must ask a stone to record its autobiography.
Alfred North Whitehead, Process and Reality

One day the world’s unhappiest man decided to just stuff it all. His business partner had cheated him out of a fortune. His wife had left him. For the business partner. His son was in Rehab. His best friend had gotten himself elected to Congress . . . Republican. Every day the post delivered another stack of rejection slips. “Screw it,” said the world’s unhappiest man.

The world’s unhappiest man had read that scientists had discovered the world’s happiest man living in a small monastery in Nepal, so he tossed an extra pair of socks into a backpack and got on a plane, a bus, a donkey cart, a yak, his own two feet. As he walked upward through the mountains he gave his last rupee to a beggar, but he wasn’t happy. He recalled the happy days with his wife and truly wished for her to be happy again, but he wasn’t happy. He finally figured out that his son was going to have to take responsibility for his own life, but he wasn’t happy. He totally forgot about politics and for a minute he was almost happy. It occurred to him that he would probably write a poem about all this and he thought, “I’ll be happy if it’s any damn good.”

Mouse Creek Falls, GSMNP, 5/2015

A funny thing happened. The clean mountain air, the music of singing birds and laughing brooks, the mighty Himalayas on the horizon – yeah, yeah, whatever. He wasn’t happy.

The world’s unhappiest man finally arrived at the monastery with holes in his shoes, holes in his socks, holes in his heart. He crept into the chilly closet where the world’s happiest man lived and waited while the monk finished his meditation. When the monk opened his eyes, he smiled and welcomed the world’s unhappiest man and said, “People have called me the world’s happiest man, but now that you are here with me my joy is complete.”

The world’s unhappiest man sat down next to the monk and began thinking about that.

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What does it mean to be happy? God knows.

But what does it take to be human? Sitting down next to another.

These poems by Richard Krawiec in his new book, Women Who Loved Me Despite, are not often happy, but there is joy in these lines. Not the easy joy of summer mornings and wrens singing, but the hard-won joy of darkness and pain shared with another.

And there is mercy here, dropping as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. Mercy for the writer who has walked the unforgiving mountain and now sits down to consider. Mercy for us, the readers, who share that walk and that considering and discover, not happiness, but the possibility that we might still be connected, each with the other.

Big Creek, Walnut Bottom, GSMNP, 5/2015

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by Richard Krawiec

Lux Aeterna

I stand on the corner of a downtown street
tapping my feet to a klezmer trio
frenzied strokes of bass and fiddle,
rolling runs from a concertina,
conjuring twirling scarves and gypsies.
In five minutes the bells will strike,
so I turn and race to my friend’s concert,

enter the Cathedral of All Souls
breathless and sweaty as the singers
begin to raise their voices in Lux Aeterna;
the hush builds until the sopranos
pierce the dark inner encavement,
arched steeple-space misted green
and blue from the stained glass robes
of Mary, Joseph, the infant looking down.

Seated to the side of the main aisle,
I watch an aged man’s breathing
start to slow; he slumps sideways,
caught by a woman’s surprised hands.
Two men dressed in choirboy robes,
rush to comfort; one presses the pules
the other encircles shrunken shoulder,
hugs close a gray-crowned head.

Come Holy Spirit the choir sings,
the mass continues, through cleanse . . .
heal . . . joy everlasting . . . broken loaves
of brown wheat. The singers repeat
the sermon litany . . . blessed are . . . blessed are . . .
while EMS, clad in black, rush in and
crimp the man sideways into a wheelchair.
I leave the wine for the darkened streets.

One girl, a mountain Dorothy,
ripped leggings and shiny shoes,
gutter-throats an Appalachian lament
to the faceless mannequin in a storefront
window. It’s wearing a party dress
woven from condoms, black skirt accented
with white. The girl turns away from the bills
I flutter, finger-picks a banjo run of escape
taps a rhythm on the brick sidewalk,
toe plates sparking. Above her, night-scattered
stars loom down. She closes her eyes to embrace
everything as light, and nothing as eternal.

Yellow Ladies' Slippers, Appalachian Trail, 5/2015

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Richard Krawiec – poet, novelist, playwright; editor, publisher, educator – lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. Women Who Loved Me Despite is published by Press 53 in Winston-Salem, which also published an earlier collection by Richard, She Hands Me the Razor.

Richard is the founder of Jacar Press in Raleigh.

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Doughton Park Tree #2

 

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