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Posts Tagged ‘Barton College’

My middle name, just like my father and his father, is Wilson.  The county just east of Wake and just south of Nash is Wilson.  Its county seat and the home of Barton College is Wilson.  Is that why, when I drive past the magnolias and stately homes onto the pastoral campus and walk beneath the loblollies and grand willow oaks to the Sam and Marjorie Ragan Writing Center, is that why I feel so connected?

This second Saturday in April is the tenth annual (OK, Marty Silverthorne says it’s the ninth) celebration of National Poetry Month by Walking into April, a collaboration of the NC Poetry Society, Barton College, and the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series.

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Wild Geranium

Let Us Walk Into April

It was a pear tree in bloom
That lit up your eyes.
You came at blossom time –
Dogwoods and lilacs,
The camellia and azalea,
And the glow of the redbud tree –
Thousands of wildflowers run before your feet,
And a faint green hovers in the woods.
Here we are just before the coming of April,
When the whole world is new
And each day is a beginning,
A time of sunlight and splendor –
Come, let us walk into April.

Sam Ragan, NC Poet Laureate 1982-1996

.     .     .     .     .

In the morning: readings by two featured poets (this year Debra Kaufman and me), a round-table discussion.  In the afternoon: readings by each of the Eastern region’s Gilbert-Chappell students, a reading by their Distinguished Poet mentor (this year Michael White from UNC Wilmington), and of course open mic.

My impression, after attending Walking last year and again this year, is that this is a time and a place to become connected.  The young Gilbert-Chappell poets (Elizabeth is still in Middle School) connect to their mentor for months via prompts, suggestions, critiques — literary bonding.  This day of reading is the culmination, the pinnacle of all the poetry they’ve worked on together.  A few faces are present at the meeting year after year: Becky Godwin, our Barton College sponsor; Marty Silverthorne, without whom no open mic could be complete; Bill Blackley, to remind us of the legacy of Marie Gilbert and Fred Chappell in creating this program. And of course Sam Ragan is ever present.  His vision and creative spirit, keeping bright the connections between the literature of our past and the hottest verse of today, are a major reason North Carolina has become such a state of poetry.

Well, I just had a wonderful day and once again I feel connected to a big encouraging family, all of us blood kin because of the poetry in our genes.

.     .     .     .     .

Elizabeth: Spring “. . . eventually something will grow from the ashes of a fire!”

Rachel: I Am Spring “I am the recovered youth in all life.”

Nancy: Spring Poem “I felt perfect . . . like the butterfly poised on the coral azaleas.”

Lauren: To Be Celebrated “speechless . . . grasping for verbs of uninvented languages.”

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During the morning reading, Debra Kaufman shared poems from several of her earlier book and then focused on her new collection, The Next Moment (2010 Jacar Press).  The poems cover an entire life’s span with sensitive maturity and a light touch that brings me, the reader, into the poem’s very moment.  The petals of star magnolia and tulip are falling; the breeze already hints of July; I will re-read these poems and traverse the seasons and the years.

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Shimmer

After the rain, heat
rises in mirage-like waves
on their hike to the river –
father, son, pregnant mom.
They sit midstream on boulders
and dip their feet in.

Above the river’s burble,
a high-pitched, ear-tickling thrill –
language of the infinitesimal –
and a horde of tiny angels
fills the hazy sky,
translucent wings glinting.

They’re going on into infinity,
the boy says, proud
to use the new word he learned,
along with optical illusion,
from a traveling magic show.
They watch, not talking,

until the cloud thins, disappears.
The woman wants
to say miraculous, but know
her husband would scoff.
the boy spies the first
split husk on a twig.

They find hundreds of shells
of the creatures
that ascended in a holy cloud,
then dispersed to light in trees,
beings that will sing lullabyes –
a choir of breathing – all summer long.

© Debra Kaufman, 2010

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I don’t know anything.  I’ve got a lot of people fooled into thinking I do, but no, I don’t know anything.

Sometimes Linda accuses me of thinking I know everything.  Well, OK, maybe I do tend to blurt out answers.  I hope I’m not as obnoxious as Bill Murray watching Jeopardy in Groundhog Day, but I do suffer from a mild case of expository blatheromania.  “What is a stereoisomer?”  “How about a four letter word for ‘wing-like’?”  Linda won’t let me within fifteen feet of her when she’s working a crossword. But all this fact stuff is just trivial.  I has nothing to do with knowing.  I say things out loud to test myself, to see if I finally do know anything.

Nope, still don’t.

All of which is making me very nervous about being the featured reader (along with Debra Kaufman) at Walking into April this Saturday. [April 14, Barton College, 9:00 a.m., Sam and Marjorie Ragan Writing Center – be there and place your bets as to whether I know anything.] It’s not the reading part.  I love to read and recite – my poetry, classic poems, a Sam Ragan or two – I’m a big ham.  No, it’s the little entry on the day’s schedule at 11:00 that says “Roundtable Discussion with Griffin and Kaufman, who will present their tips on writing and reading poetry.”

Right now the anything I don’t know the most about is poetry.  As in a total mistrust of whatever I possess that passes for taste, opinion, judgement, skill.  I worry that at the very moment I begin to like a certain poem that proves that it’s inferior.  “Man, you don’t know anything about GOOD poetry.”  And those poems that appear to me as if they were compiled by a random phrase generator?  “What is the matter with you, man?  Where’s your head?”  Maybe it’s just lack of self-confidence.  Maybe it would help to beg an audience with the Wizard of Oz, who would tell me, “Nonsense, lad!  You imagine you have no poetic soul, but all you need is this . . . [fill in the blank:  MFA; Fellowship; Pushcart; One thousandth ‘like’ on WordPress].”

There’s only one cure.  Read some more poems.  Let myself get caught up in images that seem to float effortlessly from line to line like dragonflies laying eggs on the mirror of a pond.  Words never before juxtaposed that now seem as if they were meant to be married since the genesis of language.  A narrative so exotic and at once so universal that I suddenly realize it’s my own story this strophe has captured.

Maybe I’ll discover I don’t need to know anything.

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Now Debra Kaufman knows something.  I have sat in her presence.  As she shares, the lines wind and flow like silk ribbon that seems so casual but soon binds you with no escape.  Her poems may hint at a personal history at the same time they are invoking an entirely new and fantastic landscape.  I walk into that landscape, look around, and find myself at home.

I am counting on you, Debra.  Knowing you’ll be there on Saturday, I will stand up straight, put off all this sidling nonsense, and walk upright into April.

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Autumnal Equinox

Sugar maples blaze at sunset;
leaves swoop and skirt
the chilling wind like chimney swifts.

A boy leaps into leaves,
calls to a neighbor’s Irish red,
as light falls, a cat’s white shadow,

on his grandmother’s lap.
Her hands rest there,
her grandmother’s hands,

the same boniness of wrist and knuckle,
dry fingers nearly flammable in the smoky air.
She smells ripe pears

and feels her body drawn
toward the darkness that rolls in
earlier each day.

Heat and light retreat,
and evening covers everything
except the boy, whose hair shines

silky silver light
as he tosses armfuls of color
upward, like sparks.

from The Next Moment (Jacar Press)

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Debra Kaufman is a North Carolina poet, playwright, and educator.  The Next Moment is her most recent poetry collection.  Her short and full-length plays have been performed throughout North Carolina and elsewhere. Debra is the recipient of a North Carolina Arts Council playwriting scholarship and of a grant from the Central Piedmont Regional Artists Hub Program.

Sample her work at:

Debra Kaufman homepage

Kathryn Stripling Byer — Here Where I Am (blog)

Scott Owen’s Musings

Moon-Mirror-Whiskey-Wind

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The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.  Some see nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see nature at all.  But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.    —   William Blake

You can’t write what you don’t notice.    —   Peter Makuck

When I was sixteen I spent ten days backpacking with the Boy Scouts in the southern Rockies.  Twenty-four years later I hiked some of those same trails again with my son’s Scout troop.  This time the climb over Abreu Mesa and up along the Cimarron River was punctuated by green-tailed towhees, Stellar’s jays, the sudden flame of western tanagers.  Where had all those birds come from?  Where were they last time I was there?  The difference was the dog-eared copy of Peterson’s Guide to Western Birds in my pocket.  And looking.  Noticing is intentional.

On April 9 at Barton College Walking into April Peter Makuck read from his new and selected poems, Long Lens.  An apt title.  The poems invite us to accompany the writer during a long career as a poet.  They focus for us the quotidian observations that suddenly blossom into meaning.  And most of all the poems’ images bring things up close — a ladybug that reminds of leaving home; a pelican to release us from bondage; a hawk killing a squirrel on a college campus —  or rather the poems bring us closer so that we can begin to notice.  To notice like the poet notices.

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Wild Ginger

Prey

Coming from the pool
where I’ve just done laps, letting water bring me back,
I’m already elsewhere, thinking
about Tennyson and my two o’clock class
when a squirrel appears
ten feet from the concrete walk, by an oak.

Then a loud ruffle at my shoulder,
like an umbrella unfurled, before a flash glide
makes the Redtail seem to emerge from me

and nail the squirrel with a clatter of wings —
a long scream that strips varnish from my heart
before the sound goes limp.

She presides with mantling wings
over the last twitches of gray as I
edge closer to her golden eye.
She hackles her head freathers, tightens her talons,

holds me prey to what I see, watches me
as she lifts off , rowing hard for height, the squirrel
drooped in her clutch.

Now skimming a lake
of cartops in the south lot, making for the break
between Wendy’s and Kinko’s, she swerves up

sharply to land on the roofpeak of a frat house
over on Tenth.

Some noise from the world snaps me back.
I look about, but nobody has stopped
to look at me or where she stood by the tree,
only ten feet away.  Slowly released,
I move ahead with the passing student crowd,
holding fast to what I have seen.

Prey, Peter Makuck, from Long Lens: New & Selected Poems, BOA Editions Ltd., 2010

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Peter Makuck
http://www.makuck.com/

Featured at Kathryn Stripling Byer’s NC Poet Laureate Site:
http://ncpoetlaureate.blogspot.com/2009/10/poet-of-week-peter-makuck.html

Some persons seem to have opened more eyes than others, they see with such force and distinctness; their vision penetrates the tangle and obscurity where that of others fails . . . How many eyes did Thoreau open?  How many did Audubon?  Not outward eyes, but inward.  We open another eye whenever we see beyond the first general features or outlines of things — whenever we grasp the special details and characteristic markings that this mask covers.  Science confers new powers of vision.  Whenever you have learned to discriminate the birds, or the plants, or the geological features of a country, it is as if new and keener eyes were added.  John Burroughs

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“. . . I think / of the artist’s needle, how it broke the skin.”
 
A short story may wander, but it knows there’s a way through these woods and dammit it’s going to find it, even if it’s nothing but a deer path and briars.

A poem is a story on open water with a busted keel. It may try to tack, but when the wind blows it skitters sideways. It has to go where it has to go.

John Hoppenthaler read his poem Buffeted at Walking into April last Saturday. Within its lines how many stories swirl and beat against each other like storm surf?  Hints of a rocky past; the lovers with their secrets. And in dead center a Gordian knot of a line that’s worth repeating slowly out loud: how much like the book / you said you could read me like this is of me:

Damaged everything and matching dragonfly tattoos – will they take flight, or will they only remind us of blood? Even the atmosphere – faux Tiki bar, clams and tequila – is a character in this story. And the title. Did one word ever have more meanings?

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BUFFETED

Stoned in the canned jangle of steel
drum tunes in the faux Tiki bar, I sit below
dusty plastic frond and nurse my drink. A few stools
down, too precious for words, a tongue-studded, nose-ringed
lesbian couple, heads bowed close, whisper secrets and softly laugh.
I want their love to last.

I order a plate of clams oreganato
with crusty French bread on the side for dipping
into the buttery broth that strongly hints at salty brine.
Ted slides another frozen margarita down the lacquered
surface of the bar top while come raw, tequilaed-up synapse fires,
and I remember the Paul Simon

song that mentions two fragile ex-lovers
speculating over who’s been damaged the most.
Guess what?: I think of you: how much like the book
you said you could read me like this is of me: to flounder
still in our marred way of being together in the world. I love the dead
dumb clack of emptied shells

as I assemble them into a stylized pile, as if
building an already weathered monument to sailors
the night sea took away and never gave back. Damaged
dreamboat. Damaged land. Damaged ocean. Damaged man.
Damaged woman. Damaged tide. Damaged moon. Damaged pride.
Damaged angel. Damaged wing.

Damaged Jesus. Damaged everything. I don’t think
it will last, though the adorable lovers have not gathered
tightly in each other’s arms and seem, in this heartbeat, defiantly
inextricable, their matching dragonfly tattoos now visible, poised as if
for trans-Atlantic flight on each girls right shoulder blade. I think
of the artist’s needle, how it broke the skin.

(c) John Hoppenthaler, from Anticipate the Coming Reservoir, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2008; reprinted by permission of the author.

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Walking into April, Barton College
http://www2.barton.edu/news/collegenews/?p=1405

John Hoppenthaler profile
http://www.ecu.edu/cs-cas/engl/profiles/hoppenthaler.cfm

Four poems by John Hoppenthaler
http://www.authormark.com/article_716.shtml

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Leave the Carolina silverbells blooming up the Elkin Valley. The foothills daffodils are still bright but curling at the edges. Now Redbud Alley, I-40 where it slices through woodlands between Winston-Salem and Kernersville, is about a week past its peak. Raspberry sherbet ribboned with lime. In Durham after showers the corner of every parking lot is drifted with yellow layers like foam the tide has ebbed to discard. We park for an hour or two, and the overhanging sweetgum trees cover our hood with anthers like clusters of powdery nerf grapes.

Now I’m on I-540 escaping Raleigh; Knightsdale aproaches and my eyes are burning. Zebulon and sneezing can’t be more than minutes away. By the time I reach Wilson the season has advanced a good two weeks, and Barton College is planted firmly into April. I park behind the music building (it’s Weekend College and every lot is full), walk two blocks, and Rebecca Godwin is waiting to welcome us into the Sam and Marjorie Ragan Writing Center with Aunt Edna’s ginger snaps. And poetry.

Walking into April! Poets and poetry, greeting old friends with a hug, discovering that the impressive writers presenting their work today have now become your new friends, clapping to suport new poets that have come to read for the first time: just about every time I go to a poetry reading in this state, it feels like coming home.

The afternoon session of Walking into April always begins with this year’s Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet and his students. More on John Hoppenthaler in a forthcoming post, but here is some bright imagery from the verse presented by this year’s students:

Cindy Thomas

Cindy Thompson: “Let yourself become the fight, the dance.”

Nancy Seate: “It isn’t the object but the light it reflects.”

Candace Jones: ” . . . when the world is barking too loud.”

Marty Silverthorne: “sabers and rifles will grow like weeds. / Maybe we should plant boots / so when the marching blister’s busted, / blood would not ooze out weakened stitches.” [from Prayer for Boots, in the voice of his Civil War ancestor]

Sometimes April seems like the month of Too Much Poetry Stuff, but come next April on the second Saturday I’m saying, “Damn the pollen, full speed ahead!” and driving right into it.

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Writing a poem is an act of discovery. The poem discovers itself.     – – – Sam Ragan

Down East poetry fans celebrate every spring with a walk into April – an all day poetry event at the Sam and Marjorie Ragan Writing Center (Barton College, Wilson, NC). To open the festivities on Aril 9, I had the honor of reciting this poem by Sam:

The Marked and Unmarked
 
 I cannot say upon which luminous evening
I shall go out beyond the stars,
To windless spaces and unmarked time,
Turning nights to days and days to nights.

            This is the place where I live.
            I planted this tree.
            I watched it grow.
            The leaves fall and I scuff them with my feet.
            This is the street on which I walk.
            I have walked it many times.
            Sometimes it seems there are echoes of my
                                 walking-

In the mornings, in the nights,
In those long evenings of silence and stars

                                   -the unmarked stars.

[Sam Ragan, from To the Water’s Edge, Moore Publishing Company, 1971]

In 1982 Governor Jim Hunt appointed Sam Ragan North Carolina Poet Laureate for Life. This small fact doesn’t begin to express Sam’s immense influence on NC arts and letters in the second half of the twentieth century. Read his bio for the accomplishments, publications, and “firsts,” but for those who new Sam Ragan as well as we hundreds and thousands who know of him, he embodies the love of poetry and the love our state – place, people, and persnickitiness. Oh yes, and the affirmation that bow ties are cool.

About now Sam might well be saying, “Enough! Back to the poetry.” Back to Barton College. For the morning session Peter Makuck and Sara Claytor read alternately; they took turns reading a poem or two trying to forge a thematic link to the poems that preceded. [My next few posts will include some of their poetry.] They then led a roundtable on the craft of poetry. Very energizing. The afternoon session each year is the Eastern Region readings by the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet (this year John Hoppenthaler) and the four students for whom he has served as mentor over the past several months. [More about that later, too].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d like to think that all the poetry events, celebrations, publications and edifices that carry the name “Sam Ragan” would be satisfactory to the man, the legendary. But why is the event called, “Walking into April?” Sam’s poems were sensual and often deeply colored by North Carolina native creatures, flora, seasons. The scent of lilac, a cool night breeze, whatever changes and never changes. His poems are often deceptively simple, like the one above, but as I labored to memorize those lines they began to live in me more and more deeply. From Sam Ragan’s 1986 collection comes this:

Let Us Walk into April

It was a pear tree in bloom
That lit up your eyes.
You came at blossom time –
Dogwoods and lilacs,
The camellia and azalea,
And the glow of the redbud tree –
Thousands of wildflowers run before your feet,
And a faint green hovers in the woods.
Here we are just before the coming of April,
When the whole world is new
And each day is a beginning,
A time of sunlight and spendor –
Come, let us walk into April.

[Sam Ragan, from A Walk into April. Laurinburg, N.C.: St. Andrews Press, 1986.]

 

Sam Ragan Biography
http://www.ncwriters.org/services/lhof/inductees/sragan.htm

Gilbert-Chappell Distinguishe Poet Series of the NC Poetry Society
http://www.ncpoetrysociety.org/gcdps/

Sara Claytor
http://www.saraclaytor.com/home

Peter Makuck
http://www.makuck.com/

John Hoppenthaler
http://www.ecu.edu/cs-cas/engl/profiles/hoppenthaler.cfm

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