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Joan Henehan replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Fantastic, that will be very helpful."
Saturday
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

First Drumbeat

First Drumbeat(Part of Living Poem) The time has come.Call it a drum,Or a crumb,What’s left of life. I used to tell a jokeWhen my life was wide,And I was a stud,And not a dud—I knowI’m not a dud.  I’m a dude,A dad.  But everyone mustRebut the dud chargeAt summing up time. Oh yeah, the joke,A trademark one for meIn that it’s not funny. I used to say I’ll never retireFrom writingBecause if I’m ever…See More
Saturday
Rob Neufeld replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Thanks for the prompt, Joan!  I have attached the whole work in progress as a doc at the bottom of the table of contents page: http://thereadonwnc.ning.com/special/living-poem"
Saturday
Joan Henehan replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Is there a way from this website to print everything or might you send me such a document to bayjh@icloud.com?"
Saturday
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event
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Julia Nunnally Duncan at Marion Branch McDowell County Public Library

October 24, 2018 from 4pm to 5pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be launching her new poetry collection A Neighborhood Changes (Finishing Line Press, 2018) at a book presentation and signing to be held at the McDowell County Public Library in Marion on October 24.See More
Friday
Rob Neufeld replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"This could be interesting--thanks!  I'm at 828-505-1973 (my home business office).  And RNeufeld@charter.net."
Thursday
Joan Henehan replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"I'll ask the kids, Barb and Ethan, if they have any contacts who might have an interest in this as a unique topic for any performers they know. It might also be something that my friend Ruby Lerner could brainstorm about to her theatre…"
Sep 19
Rob Neufeld replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Thanks much, Joan!  I'm trying to get some attention for these poems.  Triple Whammy is def in rap style.  And the beat goes on.  Hugs from me and Bev."
Sep 19
Joan Henehan posted a discussion

on Reading Living Poem

You might be the first ALS-subject-matter rapper. Add some beats and spread it. the time is now...See More
Sep 15
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

More from the World of ALS

More from the World of ALS (Part of Living Poem)    Negotiating steps is like someone who seeksTo emulate a goat on mountain peaks. Crossing a threshold, limping inIs like the valley-walking of an Olympian. A cane and its grip make a fellow stopTo consider the physics of leans and drops. To know how a forefinger grabs and digsImagine your digits are chestnut twigs When a new drug trial notably…See More
Sep 6
Nancy Werking Poling posted a discussion

RANDALL KENAN SELECTS NANCY WERKING POLING WINNER OF THE 2018 ALEX ALBRIGHT CREATIVE NONFICTION PRIZE

RANDALL KENAN SELECTS NANCY WERKING POLING WINNER OF THE 2018 ALEX ALBRIGHT CREATIVE NONFICTION PRIZE(31 August 2018)Nancy Werking Poling of Black Mountain is the winner of the 2018 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Prize competition for "Leander’s Lies." Poling will receive $1000 from the North Carolina Literary Review, thanks to a generous NCLR reader’s donation that allowed this year’s honorarium to increase (from the previous award of $250). Her winning essay will be published in the North…See More
Sep 4
Rob Neufeld shared their discussion on Facebook
Sep 4
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Upcoming Rides

Upcoming Rides(Part of Living Poem) I must take a break from writing aboutThe third Lord Granville’s loss of landIn colonial North Carolina to noteI’m losing functionality in my hands. I’m confining my writing to a four-line,Alternate rhyme form, like a horse-fenceFraming a pantomimeOf equine force.  Hence, It’s time to imagine the power of mind,For instance, when a nod or thoughtInstructs a machine to…See More
Aug 26
Ann Miller Woodford updated their profile
Aug 17
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Cherokee and the Colonists

The Epic of the Cherokee and the Colonists            Hernando De Soto stopped in Asheville in 1541            When the Spanish conquistador came through here on his way from the Gulf Coast to Lake Michigan, he encountered big towns, well-used roads, and abandoned homes.   A smallpox epidemic—one of a series of plagues…See More
Aug 17
Connie Regan-Blake posted events
Aug 3

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 that did their jobs better and easier, but “nobody came up with anything to replace the cradle.” 

            Parris, the late, great columnist for the Citizen-Times, had roamed the mountains from Brasstown to Blowing Rock for 42 years, beginning in 1955, often gravitating to Sylva, his hometown, and to Burningtown, 20 miles southwest, in Macon County.

            Burningtown was where his maternal grandma and grandpa lived.  This grandpa, whom Parris sometimes called the “Old Man of the Mountains,” was a go-to source for reliable lore.

 

Rock-a-bye

 

            “My Uncle Eli was the masterest cradle-maker in these parts,” the Old Man avowed.

He’d take a short length of buckeye log and work on it like he was makin’ somethin’ that was gonna hold a king.  He pegged it with oak pins to two hickory rockers,” because “rockers out of hickory won’t creep.”

Caretakers would rock the cradle with a foot while sewing, knitting, or churning; or, when moving about the house, they’d set the cradle rocking as they passed by.

The comforts of home reached a peak at Christmastime, and merited Parris’ prose poetry.

 

Homemade poetry

 

            “In the Carolina Highlands, December is an old man with memories and a young man with dreams.” Parris wrote.  It’s a time “when the stars come close and night winds are winds of song.”

            “It’s when,” he adds, “a house, be it cabin or mansion, reveals its true character and abody gets to know the meaning of a home.”

            The nostalgia attached to an old-time mountain home is not all in vain. The recollections cause us to reconsider progress and value such blessings as a world full of evocative smells.

            “A man can no longer drink into his lungs a thousand proud, potent, and mysterious odors,” Parris wrote from Little Savannah, his paternal grandparents’ place west over the mountain from Cullowhee.  “Gone are the smells that whip the senses and plough a furrow on the memory.”

            The smell of warm foaming milk; the manure-hay-leather-oats smell of a barn; the blue smell of hickory smoke; the bread-molasses-kerosene-coffee-vanilla smell of grandma’s kitchen; the starch-cabbage-wax-tobacco-mint-paint-cat smell of the country store; the smells of rain-wet plums, corn pollen, and burning leaves; and the “exciting smell of the hills blooming in the dusk”—these and other odors “have been tamped down, obliterated, or extinguished.”

 

Going home again

 

            “The road back to childhood is a road to shattered illusions,” Parris related after visiting the place where his father had grown up and his grandfather is buried.

            “The springhouse, shaded by a gnarled old oak, is gone...The peach trees have withered and died and the apple trees have been cut down...There’s only a slight depression in the earth where the barn stood, and I remembered the last time I had stood there.  Neighbors with saw and hammer had been there then, making a coffin of pine for my grandfather.  And I remember how they talked in hushed tones, their hammers ringing in the September afternoon.”

            The old house still stood, sagging, its oak shingles replaced by a metal roof.  Inside, Parris saw “the big bed on which his grandfather died...in the front room, fast by the fireplace.  And over it is spread one of my grandmother’s coverlets.”

 

Cornshuck rain hat

 

            Cash-scarce times were heart-filled times on the farms. 

            The Old Man remembered that during the Civil War and Reconstruction, ladies made “the prettiest bonnets you ever saw” out of corn shucks; and “the menfolks got to wearin’ hats out of the same stuff.”  

            Corn was a way of life.  “It was corn-shuckin’s and hoe downs, fiddle-music and banjo pickin’” Corn was “pudding and soup, hominy and mush...It was dolls and whistles.”  It was feed for the cows.  “Many a family slept on cornshuck mattresses.  They burned corn cobs for fuel.”

            “There was no finer pipe than one made out of corn cobs....(and) I remember once,” the Old Man recalled, Uncle Eli “made me a cornstalk fiddle and bow.”

 

Mountain cooking

 

            Grandma was “mighty peart with a skillet,” Parris observed.  “In the early summer when the corn first ripened, we’d start havin’ gritted bread.  Now that’s somethin’ to make your mouth water.”

            There’s a recipe you can look at in Parris’ 1978 book, “Mountain  Cooking,” but Grandpa gives a pretty good description in “My Mountains, My People,” Parris’ second of five books of collected columns.

            “You take fresh corn and rub it over a piece of tin that’s been holed with a nail, rubbin’ the ear of corn on the rough side, and make a meal that’s milky-like.  Sweetest, tastiest thing you ever tasted.”

            Every resource got used in every way—peach trees, for example.  They used to be more greatly favored than apple trees, the Old Man stated.  “What we didn’t dry or make into peach butter or pickle we sold over at the stillhouse where they run ‘em through a mill and made brandy.”

            Folks also made peach leather, pressing the peaches through a coarse sieve, adding brown sugar and cooking them, and spreading the sauce on plates to put out in the sun until it dried and could be rolled up.

            “No one was ever known to go hungry at Grandma’s,” Parris proclaimed about his father’s mom; and it also applied to his maternal grandmother.  “Nor was it necessary to make a flying trip to the store.”

            At times, after the meal was distributed, Grandpa, holding his plate said he reckoned “the chickens didn’t have livers and gizzards anymore, teasing Grandma and knowing all the while she had held them back for the children.”

            Grandma was happiest, Parris attested, “when the house was bulging at the seams with company.  And it was the same with most of her contemporaries here in the mountains.”

Originally published, with a few changes, in the Asheville Citizen-Times.   Follow Rob Neufeld on Twitter @WNC_chronicler.

 

ART

Cover of “Mountain Cooking”

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