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Posts Tagged ‘Joan Leotta’

[with poems by Ana Pugatch, David Poston, Maureen Sherbondy, Joan Leotta]

The original Constitution of the North Carolina Poetry Society stated these objectives: to foster the writing of poetry; to bring together in meetings of mutual interest and fellowship the poets of North Carolina; to encourage the study, writing, and publication of poetry; and to develop a public taste for the reading and appreciation of poetry. These tenets still inspire the mission of NCPS. During the second decade of the twenty-first century that mission has expanded, metamorphosed, and grown wings.

On September 17, 2022, the NC Poetry Society gathered at Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities for a gala celebration of our 90th Anniversary. This was the first meeting in person since the spread of COVID19 two and a half years earlier. After dozens of virtual workshops, poetry readings, Zoom programs, and online open mics, our faces had somehow remained familiar but we had come to know many new faces as well. When we walked into the Boyd House in Southern Pines the greetings were ecstatic, the hugs manifold, and behind the masks were face-splitting smiles. Joy overwhelming!

And isn’t this the essential nucleus of the mission of NCPS? Oh yes, we thrive on the unexpected metaphor, the well-honed line, the expressive reading. Poetry, though, is more than craft. It is the art and magic of connecting, the door that opens shared experience, a key to community. As we share poetry we share our self. Suddenly there are two of us walking this journey of humanness, two to delve its depths, two to breach its heights. Wherever poets and lovers of poetry gather, wherever a hard and beautiful and true word is spoken, there is joy.

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The Lena M. Shull Poetry Manuscript Contest was established in 2013. The Poetry Council of NC disbanded and donated its residual assets to NCPS to endow an annual full length poetry manuscript contest named for Lena Shull, the founder of PCNC. NCPS publishes the winning manuscript; the author receives fifty copies, a monetary award, and featured readings. The inaugural prize was awarded to Becky Gould Gibson for her book Heading Home. The 2022 winner is Ana Pugatch for Seven Years in Asia. Finalists are David Poston for Letting Go and Maureen Sherbondy for The Body Remembers.

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Dissolution

You’ve come to a place that is always raining. The silence: a flood.
At five a.m., the group stands like still poplars outside
the monastery. The previous night, your white uniform had blown
from the laundry line into the dirt and the smell of earth never leaves you.

She tells you about how she cut class to go sit on the toilet,
contemplating ways to end her life. “I knew then that I had to do something,”
the monastic explains. “That something needed to change.” Your head is shaved,
each strand an earthly attachment; when you sweep up

the pile of sunlight you don’t feel any lighter. The poplars paint
their characters and you’re told to stop smiling. On Mt. Wutai, the prayer flags
flutter furiously. There’s never enough rice and your body burns
through itself; those flags are a fitful hunger. At night,

you don’t bother turning over when water drips from cracked
plaster onto your forehead and you begin to wonder
why do lay people come here—why did you come here—and has your pride
become a fist—does dukkha melt in summer snow—

You share a room with a stranger. The pilgrim’s back is hunched, her eyes
a brilliant black. “N duō dà le?” you ask. She thinks she’s eighty but can’t be sure.
You shit in a hole and shower alongside her, your frame nearly twice
her size. She doesn’t care you’re a giant or that it’s your birthday.

The mountain is chilly in July. When you give a monk your WeChat, he sends
a pixelated lotus; you reply with thank you hands. The monastics’ robes are flecks
of crimson. You can sense the five flat peaks, the thousands of vertical pines. Your skin
is so damp you become Wutai, and the well of your anger dissolves into rain.

Ana Pugatch
from Seven Years in Asia, winner of the 2022 Lena Shull Contest of the North Carolina Poetry Society. Dissolution first appeared in The Poet’s Billow and won their 2020 Atlantis Award.

Ana lives in Raleigh, NC, with her husband and son. She has taught English in China and Thailand while studying Buddhism. Ana received her MFA from George Mason University, where she was awarded the ’20-’21 Poetry Heritage Fellowship.

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Something Beautiful

Last month,
as the Fourth of July barrage
dissolved into the night
and people around me
gathered camp chairs and blankets
for the slog through everyone’s trash
back to their cars,
I stood there in the dark
waiting for
one more
bright flowering
I knew
would never come.

Now, lying alone
just before dawn
waiting for the Perseids
to flare across
the edge of sight
as the sky begins to pale
behind a rumple of mist
where the dark lake waits,
I shouldn’t worry about
which faint streaking
will be the last.

I’m remembering
my ninety-year-old father
bursting into laughter
at the Dairy Queen
as he ate a banana split,
and what was so funny to him
was the sudden thought-
he said this-
that it might be
the last one he ever ate,
and what could I do
but laugh with him
and remember later
that he was right?

David Poston
from the manuscript Letting Go, finalist for the 2022 Lena Shull Poetry Award.

David Poston lives with his wife Bee in Gastonia, NC, and is a frequent book reviewer for Pedestal Magazine and a co-editor of Kakalak. He has published three poetry collections, including Postmodern Bourgeois Poetaster Blues, winner of the 2007 Randall Jarrell/Harperprints Competition.

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Cousins I Never Met

Fire burns down the entire forest
but still one flower thrives. The moon’s
silhouette against the sky reminds me
yes, we are still alive. We ran and walked
through yesterday’s parade. You thought
the kite you ran with on the sand could
fly up to the night-imprisoned moon. My cousins, too,
(all gone too soon) watched this same light
in Germany as night-time, day-time prisoners in
rooms fit for two or three, not fifty.

Two years ago we let go of white balloons
at the newborn’s funeral. Five days
he lived. Son, nephew, brother. Five days. We looked up
until white globes blurred into white clouds.
Devoured. We throw rocks at death both now
and then. Still, death stays with you and me hours,
months, through years of lingering. Remember

painting the German Shepherd thick
with tomato juice to release the stink.
Oh, that stink, it lingers. Oh, this scent
of death too. Stink of burning flesh,
I have heard about it, read about it.
Lampshade flesh, they whisper in the halls.

Now walk with me inside
the burned-down forest, take in the sweet
perfume of one flower reaching up
to the sun and moon. My relatives made it
through until the final hours and then
and then. Auschwitz, final hour. The end
when release could be tasted, sulphur burning
on his defeated tongue. Fuhrer fury. The end arrived
when release could be swallowed from the air
so close, and yet. Their blood, our blood waters
burnt soil. We plant new seeds. We march forward.

Maureen Sherbondy
first appeared in Connotation Press

Maureen lives in Durham, NC, with her husband Barry Peters and her cat Lola, and teaches at Alamance Community College. She has published eleven poetry collections, most recently Lines in Opposition.

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No gathering of poets at Weymouth Center would be complete without a workshop. for the afternoon program Joan Leotta presented The Art of Poetic Storytelling, exploring how verse and narrative intersect. She used the metaphor of the moon’s phases to convey the various forms narrative may take, minimal to whole, partial to complete. One of her own poems illustrates, as Joan says, “an example of a crescent moon–only part of the story arc present, a slim piece, the rest filled in by the reader/listener:”

an owl continually questions
my identity
as I watch the stars

[first appeared in haikuniverse]

Joan also introduced her workshop with this insightful observation she solicited from Joseph Bathanti, Seventh NC Poet Laureate 2012-2014, for just this occasion:

“I fancy myself, essentially, a narrative poet, one that relies a good bit on what I call reimagined autobiography – though not all of my poems are narrative or autobiographical. I’m also a novelist, so I’m always preoccupied with story and I also think it’s important that a poem be accessible, rather than a coded conversation a poet has with him/her/their self that only the poet understands. Strong narrative poems tell stories through utilizing classic conventions of fiction such as dialogue, plot, conflict, characterization, setting/place, etc., while still relying heavily on key elements of poetry such as compressed, often impressionistic, language; rhythm; stylized line and stanza breaks; and attention to sound. They balance the image-charged voltage of poetry with traditionally discursive narrative strategies of fiction and creative nonfiction, focusing on
the occasion of the poem, and the dramatic situation that inspired it.”
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Joseph Bathanti

Joan is a Pittsburgh native who now lives in Calabash, NC. In addition to poetry she has written novels and non-fiction food and travel guides. Her poetry collection Feathers on Stone is forthcoming in 2023 from Mainstreet Rag Publishing. Besides teaching writing and performing, Joan is also herself a performer and story teller.

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The Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition is sponsored by the North Carolina Writers’ Network; winners are invited to read at the fall NCPS meeting and this year are part of the 90th Anniversary celebrations. Their poems will be published in storySouth and we hope to present the poems here at a future date:
+++++ Winner – John Haugh: Consider the Word Pursuit on the Winter Solstice
+++++ Runner-up – Aruna Gurumurthy: Madras
+++++ Honorable Mention – Jeff Miles, Vivian Bikulege

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THANK YOU to so many who made this North Carolina Poetry Society 90th Anniversary gathering not only possible but truly worthy of the banner, Infusing Ceremony with Celebration: Poetry with Light, Soul, and Sound: Lynda Rush-Myers, for a year of planning and countless hours of preparation and presentation; Celestine Davis, ever-present ever-encouraging ever keeping the wheels on the bus; Regina Garcia, heart and soul and thrilling Tribute introductions, and Romeo Garcia making sure we all got lunch; the entire NCPS Board of Directors, setting up, hanging signs, welcoming and greeting, picking up the trash; and special thanks to the staff of Weymouth Center and Executive Director Katie Wyatt, we/you couldn’t do it without you/us.

 

LAST WEEK: additional NCPS 90th Anniversary celebrations with poems by Brockman-Campbell Book Award winner Kim O’Connor and finalists AE Hines and Cheryl Wilder, plus Susan Laughter Meyers Fellowship in Poetry winner Yvette R. Murray.

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Portions adapted from The North Carolina Poetry Society: Part 5 – 2012-2022, Ninety Years of Creativity, Challenge, and Change; compiled and composed by Bill Griffin with special collaborator David Radavich; © 2022 The North Carolina Poetry Society.

Doughton Park Tree 2021-03-23

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