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Posts Tagged ‘Kimberly O’Connor’

[with poems by Kim O’Connor, AE Hines, Cheryl Wilder, Yvette Murray]

The North Carolina Poetry Society was organized in 1932 at the Charlotte home of Edna Wilcox Talley. The six members present elected Zoe Kincaid Brockman, well known poet and women’s editor of the Gastonia Gazette, as the organization’s first president. Could those six writers have imagined that ninety years later their idealistic endeavor would be thriving, with a membership of over 500 and sometimes more than a hundred persons from all across the state attending meetings? That through the decades the North Carolina Poetry Society would be the forerunner of additional writers’ organizations such as the Poetry Council of North Carolina, NC Writer’s Network, and NC Writer’s Conference, not to mention numerous local and regional groups in NC towns and counties? That poetry would be happening in schools with Poetry Out Loud, in shop windows and on buses through Poetry in Plain Sight, in countless books and journals published in North Carolina every year?

Zoe Brockman, Edna Talley, and friends knew the truth long before Doris Betts coined the phrase: North Carolina is the “writingest state.” Perhaps they wouldn’t have expressed it so eloquently but they would have agreed with Ed Southern, NC Writers’ Network executive director, that “one cannot spit, piss, or throw a rock in the Old North State without hitting a writer.” I like to believe those women of an earlier time would have been pleased but unsurprised at the many poets inducted into the NC Literary Hall of Fame after its inauguration by Sam Ragan at Weymouth Center in 1996; they especially would have applauded when all the inductees in 2014 were poets – Shelby Stephenson, Betty Adcock, Ron Bayes, Jaki Shelton Green. The Charlotte Six would no doubt have volunteered to serve as mentors in the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series, helped set up tables at the Sam Ragan Poetry Festival, and host open mic on Zoom during the pandemic. We who participate in the North Carolina Poetry Society of 2022 benefit from their high ideals, keen vision, and energy – we uphold a worthy tradition, and we have embraced the creativity, inclusion, and diversity that now make this tradition our own.

NCPS gathered to celebrate its 90th anniversary on September 17 at Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities, Southern Pines, NC – the first meeting in person in two and a half years. We look back and we look forward. We pay tribute to those who have taught and inspired us, and we open ourselves to the newest voices among us. We listen to the words of poets who dedicated their lives to building the power of literature in North and South Carolina: Joseph Bathanti reading Kathryn Stipling Byer, Shelby Stephenson reading Marty Silverthorne, David Radavich reading Susan Laughter Meyers. And we listen to the words of today’s poets reading the poems of now.

The Brockman-Campbell Book Award is the most prestigious honor bestowed by NCPS, awarded annually for the best book of poetry published by a North Carolina poet in the preceding year. Past winners have included Fred Chappell, AR Ammons, Betty Adcock, and Robert Morgan, among many others. The 2022 winner is Kimberly O’Connor for her book White Lung. Finalists are Anything That Happens by Cheryl Wilder and Any Dumb Animal by AE Hines.

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The History of My Silence
Hendersonville, North Carolina, 1961

white people sit in the front my great-grandmother
says my mother is angry
she wants to sit in the back

my mother is six years old
her first time on a bus
she wants to sit in the back

why? she stamps her foot

my great-grandmother does not answer the rest of the world
the boycotts the marches the fire
hoses let loose on children burning
crosses any of it does not
exist for them

they sit in the front like good white
women I think that

their silence their
compliance
has flowed into me
a river I have to swim
even as the water turns to flame.

Kimberly O’Connor
from White Lung (Saturnalia Books, Ardmore PA, © 2021)

Kim is a North Carolina native who lives in Golden, Colorado. She received an MFA from the University of Maryland and has taught creative writing and literature in middle school, high school, and college classrooms in Colorado, Maryland, West virginia, and North Carolina.

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Naturalization

We’d been lucky. I’d made it out of Guatemala
alone with the baby, and the baby still alive.
I hadn’t let him crawl out a hotel window.
I hadn’t let him swallow a button from my sleeve.
Managed to feed him and change him
and carry him in taxis and embassies, through
markets and airports, beneath the electric barbwire
of US Immigration. In Houston, I watched
badged women and men berate
brown men in shackles while they sat
tethered to stiff chairs beside us. Most stared
at their shoes. I am embarrassed to admit
I did nothing. Said nothing. Didn’t catch a man’s
tired eye and offer him even a nod, my feeble Spanish.
Instead, I just called my little son’s name over
and over, and bounced him on my lap.
Then we were ushered back into the land
I’d promised him. Bound together by law,
and off to our next gate without a glance back
at the men on their way to whatever place
they no longer called home.

AE Hines
from Any Dumb Animal (Mainstreet Rag Publishing, Charlotte NC, © 2021)

Earl grew up in rural North Carolina and currently resides in Portland, Oregon where he is pursuing his MFA from Pacific University. He is winner of the Red Wheelbarrow Prize and a finalist for the Montreal International Poetry Prize.

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Bailed Out

The house stirs with my stirring.
I am the elephant, the devil’s minion.
Secure in my arms a woven afghan

blue and darker blue. I run
fingers through holes and open
like a wish bone but cannot pull

them apart. A wish not wished
establishes habit, like sleep-dancing
or tangling the vacuum cord around my wrist

to make love. I am two people now—
the before and the after; one I’ve already forgotten
the other I have not met. I hear voices whisper

what if—a crossroad so difficult to leave
I build a roadside bench. At some point
I will rise from this bed, speak though I only hear

his curdled breath, allow my first taste of bone
in the broth I can smell, but no one will notice
my stained hands, the bloody prints on the wall.

Cheryl Wilder
from Anything That Happens (A Tom Lombardo Poetry Selection, Press 53, Winston-Salem NC, © 2021.)

Cheryl lives near the Haw River in North Carolina, where she gives talks and workshops on art and writing, serves as president of the Burlington Writers Club, and owns a small web development company. She is co-founder and editor of Waterwheel Review.

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The Susan Laughter Meyers Fellowship in Poetry was established in 2017 in memory of former president of both the North Carolina and South Carolina Poetry Societies, Susan Meyers. The annual merit-based fellowship for one North Carolina or South Carolina poet requires submission of five poems with blind judging by a three-judge panel. It is co-sponsored by NCPS and the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities, and includes a one-week residency at Weymouth Center plus an honorarium. The 2022 Fellowship recipient is Yvette R. Murray.

Poem In Which Words

don’t deserve this.
They have been around a long time; served us well.
Why then do we use them like poisoned blue darts?
Words have been so kind as to adapt.
They want to stay relevant too.
But we spit them into red plastic cups like
‘bacca juice and leave them on the side of the road.
They never harmed us,

Yet we turn them ugly side out,
Pit them against each other,
Use our fangs to inject venom.

The poor words can’t be unheard,
the ring after of their scent,
makes folk mad.

I hope they don’t cry,
I hope they don’t die by suicide,
I hope they don’t vanish within.

Then we will never again find the words.
They might like that though.
Scrubbed clean with different color hair
They can hold hands,
stroll the streets,
carry their shopping bags,
or look for a bistro
in peace.

Yvette R. Murray
from a gathering together literary journal, Spring 2021

Yvette is a Gullah poet from Charleston, SC. She writes because she has to. The words bump around in her head and give her headaches. Just kidding! For Yvette, Poetry is the most beautiful event space on the planet.

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.

NEXT WEEK: NCPS 90th Anniversary celebrations continue with the Lena Shull Manuscript Prize: poems by winner Ana Pugatch, finalists David Poston and Maureen Sherbondy, and workshop presenter Joan Leotta

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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.

Why We Are “The Writingest State”; Southern, Ed. North Carolina Literary Review; Greenville NC, Nr. 25 (2016): 92-99.

 

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