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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Salman Rushdie come to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
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Jan 31
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

73 classic works about Appalachia going online

Key Appalachian studies publications now going onlinefrom press release, Jan. 27. 2016 Appalachian studies scholars and those interested in regional history will have greater access to out-of-print works thanks to a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Open Book Program grant totaling $88,000 awarded to Belk Library and Information Commons at Appalachian State University.  Pamela Mitchem, the library’s coordinator of digital scholarship and…See More
Jan 30
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

John Parris' home-grown prose

South of Sylva, back of yesterday: John Parris' inspiration             “For the life of me, I just can’t understand why folks stopped usin’ cradles,” John Parris’ 97-year-old maternal grandfather had told him 60 years ago.            The oil lamp, the buggy, and the spinning wheel—they all were replaced by things…See More
Jan 27
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

James Sturm expands scope of graphic novels

James Sturm blazes cartoon path to a new worldby Rob Neufeld             Why is it that when an author combines pictures with words, the medium is considered juvenile, like comics?  Words create literature; images, art.  Why, when you marry them, is it like pairing a milk cow with a mop?            Nothing against…See More
Jan 24
susannah eanes posted a blog post

The Writer as Pilgrim

Two articles leapt at my consciousness this week, both about writing. And suddenly, I know how to go forward from here. The first, The Price I Pay to Write, by Laura Bogart and published online in Dame Magazine, reflects on the difficulties of…See More
Jan 24
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Tired of thrillers with no soul?

Why read a 1940 man-on-the-run classicby Rob Neufeld             After reading a classic novel, you might think, “Oh, look at this superior ancestor of today’s fiction.”              For instance, “The Power and the Glory,” Graham Greene’s 1940 thriller about political oppression in Mexico, exemplifies the…See More
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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Art of Grace by Sarah Kaufman

Dance critic applies grace to every moveby Rob Neufeld             It’s nice to find just the right word for something, especially when it sums up a main idea in your way of thinking.            That was the case with Sarah Kaufman when she’d first felt moved, nine years ago, to write her new book, “The Art of Grace” (W.W.…See More
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Fire and Ice Roses interview with author/gardening blogger Kathryn Hall

Fire and Ice Roses has been interviewing gardening bloggers and gardening experts and were kind enough to include this short interview recently which was quite fun and very much appreciated! http://fireandiceroses.com/ask-an-expert-kathryn-hall/See More
Jan 5
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

History in the making, January 2, 2016

History in the making: items of note, January 2, 2016It was reported in today’s print edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times that a new state law went into effect, requiring people who’ve filed for unemployment benefits to make at least 5 job contacts a week.  It had been 2.  How will that work?  Are there that many jobs for which a person is qualified?  Can you apply to the same job twice if it continues to be listed? Paul Bonesteel, noted Asheville filmmaker, revealed on Facebook that a…See More
Jan 2
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Local event of the day, Jan 1 2016

Tarantino, eminent domain, and emancipation Tarantino comes to townQuentin Tarantino’s New Year’s gore and gabfest, The Hateful Eight, is gutted by New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane, who says that Tarantino toys with rather than explores history, using it “for boyish fantasies of revenge, as if enormous crimes could be undone, after the event, by lone and wanton acts of humiliation.” …See More
Jan 1
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Railroad history in Western North Carolina: a close-up and bottom-line look

Railroads in WNC: the perils, the people, and the profitby Rob NeufeldWritten in conjunction with exhibit, "How The West Was Won," in Rural Heritage Museum, Mars Hill University PHOTO CAPTION: The entrance to the railroad show at the Rural Heritage Museum is commanded by a mock-up of Climax engine…See More
Dec 24, 2015

Asheville Poetry Review informs the world

by Rob Neufeld

 

            “In times like these,” Newton Smith writes in the new issue of Asheville Poetry Review (APR), “when men and women are dying miserably everywhere, and when politicians and nations have lost all dignity and compassion, it is time to turn to poems.”

            The 22nd issue of the Asheville-based, internationally read journal comes through again with a representation of what’s vital in the field. 

            Does poetry fill a critical need, as many of the contributors declare?  That’s not an easy argument.  Poems do not teach you how to change a tire, though they may teach you how to change tiredness.

 

Beginning with the fetus

 

            Becky Gould Gibson’s poem, “Heading Home,” 2012 winner of the William Matthews Poetry Prize (given by the APR) takes you on a journey from conception to birth with a world of prayer.

            “The jig is up…You’re past blastocyst,” she tells a fetus.  Gibson’s at-ease, intelligent voice talks street, science, and spirituality, as in her address to the baby when it’s 12 weeks in the womb: “And where’s original sin?/  Will it show up on your next sonogram?” 

            Seven months along, Gibson intones: “Stunning how badly we’ve managed Earth.  Yet/ you’ll find it stunningly beautiful,/ wrinkled in places like you.”  Ultimately, she announces: “Here you come in your craft plaited of reeds/ dragging a seine of bright constellations…Lung/ leaves the ocean of its origin, and/ you take your first breath on land.”

 

Very like a bat

 

            The second-place winner of the prize is also a magical expression of worldly caring

            “The young need the old,” Catherine Carter writes in her poem, “The Young.”  “You wouldn’t think it, to see/ them toss their hair silky as the ears/ of vampire bats, eyes not focused on anything/ you can see.”

            But “they need your/ time, your ear for their keening,” she continues, “your admiration/ and pity for their brashness/ and tenderness…Your approval, for the like of which many/ an adult still goes thirsty.”  So, we may forgive the hunger of the bat-like child, “its dainty fangs, its fingers for wings.”

            (See full poem below.)

 

Modest profession

 

            The late poet William Matthews, in whose honor his son, Asheville poet Sebastian Matthews, established the prize, is the subject of Robert Morgan’s elegy, “In Memory of William Matthews.”

            “Bill,/ wherever you are now, I’m sure/ you’re laughing at the way we poets/ take ourselves so seriously./  And I concede the fault, except/ I want to say I took you seriously/ and was not wrong,” Morgan writes.

            As he presents his loving memories like bouquets, Morgan hears Matthews snicker and say, “Send/ no flowers, bub, but maybe some good claret might not be unwelcome.”

            Like William Matthews, many contemporary poets have abandoned conventional Western lyricism for something that sounds more Eastern: lots of music, but not rhyming or strictly metered; with a freedom to shift voices, almost conversationally, and gifted with suggestive imagery.

 

Getting beyond human

 

            Sam Hamill translates a poem written by the eighth century Chinese poet, Li Po.

            “You ask why I live/ alone in the mountain forest,” the poem begins; and concludes, “I live in the other world,/ one that lies beyond the human.”

            One of the reasons that poets can speak to us in such a special way is that they have immersed themselves in lives of reading poetry; and can demonstrate the advantages of a poetic appreciation of life.

            “In her collection ‘Covet,’ Lynell Edwards manages to illuminate the small wonders of regular life,” Janice Moore Fuller reveals in her book review (one of 20 by various reviewers in the APR).

Edwards elevates ordinary things to the level of a mythical objects, Fuller writes.  “She also throws Wordsworth’s ‘certain coloring of imagination’ over ordinary actions.”

            Every rose has its thorn and, as Edwards’ book title suggests, a hunger for beauty brings with it a painful awareness of loss.  Is it folly to covet?  Or to love?

            One answer to those questions is that the poem makes a permanent flower of the dying flower because it comes alive every time you engage with it.  For those who love and grieve—and that has to be the most sensitive among us—poetry saves lives.

 

Saved from disaffection

 

            Poetry saved Sam Hamill, the Li Po translator, and a living stand-out in the boundary-crossing poetry world.

            The current issue of APR devotes 52 pages to Hamill, continuing its tradition of shining light on under-celebrated greats; and on representing world poetry as well as local roots (seven of the eight editors, including founder Keith Flynn, are Western North Carolinians; and the eighth is from Oak Ridge).

            In the late 1950s, Hamill had been a lost teen on the road in San Francisco when the late great Kenneth Rexroth took him under his wing.

            “I spent most of my days sleeping in Golden Gate Park and wandered at night between the Tenderloin and North Beach, searching cars for things to pawn or sell or trade,” Hamill told Lisa Morphew in an interview.

            “Then one crisp afternoon, I spent my last couple of bucks to buy ‘Thirty Spanish Poems of Love & Exile,’” Rexroth’s book of translations.  “I was standing outside City Lights (bookstore in San Francisco) when Rexroth came around the corner…I told him I wanted to be a great poet like him.”

            Rexroth let him stay at his home.  Hamill dried out.  He read through Rexroth’s library.  “It’s not an exaggeration to say,” Hamill says, “he not only shaped, but also saved my life.”

            Hamill has gone on to publish 14 volumes of poetry; and many other volumes of translations and essays.  He has taught in prisons and worked with battered woman and children.

            In 1972, he co-founded Copper Canyon Press, a heralded publisher of new works of poetry.

            Then, in 2003, Esteban Moore reports in his essay about Hamill, Hamill began to speak out against the war in Iraq.  He founded Poets against War.  Major newspapers and TV networks attacked him and “as a consequence, the board and sponsors of the publishing house he had founded asked him to resign his position there for its sake.”

            We wonder if and when poetry will assume the popular place it has had in other cultures and times.  The APR gives us a window into that effort, including with a good look at a hard-knocks-schooled iconoclast such as Hamill..

            “I’m simply not much moved by the stars of what I’ll call ‘workshop poetry,’” he told Morphew.  “The avant garde frankly bores me.”

THE BOOK

Asheville Poetry Review, vol. 19, no. 1, 2012, issue 22, $13.  Visit www.ashevillepoetryreview.com.

THE YOUNG

by Catherine Carter

Second place winner of the William Matthews Poetry Prize, published in Asheville Poetry Review, vol. 19, no. 1

The Young

for the new teachers

The young need the old.

You wouldn't think, to see

them toss their hair silky as the ears

of vampire bats, eyes not focused on anything

you can see.  You wouldn't think it

from the sound of the giggling

almost too high to hear, offering you less

notice than the cries of hunting

bats.  But the young

need you.  They need your

time, your ear for their keening

and chiming, even when it means nothing

you know.  Your admiration

and pity for their brashness

and tenderness, your abnegation

of what you hoped to do this hour,

which for either of you comes once

only.  Your approval, for the like of which many

an adult still goes thirsty, fifty

years on.  Your life drained out to feed

their unfocused need.  They drink

it like bats too, eternally beautiful for having

bathed in your blood like Bathory

countesses.  They do it helplessly,

as you do to your own beloved old,

who forgive you, helplessly

as you'll forgive these, as the weakening

cow forgives the hungry bat,

its dainty fangs, its fingers for wings.

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