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Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Oct 6, 2017.

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25, 2017.

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Connie Regan-Blake posted events
Thursday
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Intermission

IntermissionHear audio by clicking mp3 attachment!(Part of poem, "Coalescence") I thought I might take a break at this point to look around,Now that I’m in the business of making things resound.It’s so nice to have the luxury of being carefree. If you stop and sit back and try to take in everything,It stuns you and you can’t focus on anythingUntil something crops up, and what…See More
Jan 16
Joan Henehan replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Coalescence
"It's an odyssey..."
Jan 8
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Coalescence

Coalescence (part of  Living Poem)by Rob Neufeld Intro Don’t listen, children, and do not hear.(A monster is coming and there’s no escapeWithin this story, and no good way to tell it, Except to gaze at the horror as at a flower,A disaster streaming off extremes it breedsEverywhere and in our minds, disabling our power.) Distractions are good, puzzles that teaseAnd please and fill the main scene,…See More
Dec 11, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Sultan's Dream

The Sultan’s Dream (Part of Living Poem) When it comes to walking, the jig’s up.No more fit lad sitting at the pub.No more flim-flam smiling with a limp. See how the legs totter and the torso leans.Do you know what a lame sultan dreams?Of reclining on a divan wearing pantaloons, Comparing his plight to a mountaineer’sNegotiating an icy bluff in a fierce wind,And then lounging in a tent to unwind. Which…See More
Nov 15, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Tale of Ononis

The Tale of Ononis by Rob Neufeld Part 1: The Making of a Celebrity ❧  Hare Begins His Tale  Ononis was my region’s name.People now call it Never-the-same.I’ll start with the day a delivery came. The package I got was a devil’s dare,Swaddled and knotted in Swamp Bloat hairAnd bearing, in red, one word: “Beware!” Bloats are creatures from the Land of Mud Pies,Wallowing in waste with tightly closed eyesUntil fears bring tears and the bleary bloats rise.   ❧  Hare’s Colleagues  I asked my boss,…See More
Nov 9, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Drop Your Troubles: A Solo Storytelling Performance with Connie Regan-Blake at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

December 1, 2018 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Join this internationally renowned storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she transforms a packed theater into an intimate circle of friends with old-timey charm, wisdom, and humor. We’ll also welcome the Singer of  Stories, Donna Marie Todd, who will perform her original story, “The Amazing Zicafoose Sisters.” Connie’s last two shows at BMCA have sold…See More
Nov 6, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Explore the Landscapes of Story and Telling at Lenoir-Rhyne Center for Graduate Studies

January 23, 2019 at 10am to February 27, 2019 at 12pm
A Storytelling Offering in Asheville, NCWednesday Mornings 10am-12pmJanuary 23 – February 27, 2019 This winter Connie is excited to offer a learning opportunity to warm-up your storytelling voice and creativity!  Join her in Asheville, NC at Lenoir-Rhyne University for six story-work sessions with a weekly format that allows for skills to grow over time while encouraging a consistency in discovering, revisiting and refining your stories. During these weekly sessions participants are invited…See More
Nov 6, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event
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Explore the Landscapes of Story & Telling at Lenoir-Rhyne Center for Graduate Studies

January 23, 2019 at 10am to February 27, 2019 at 12pm
A Storytelling Offering in Asheville, NCWednesday Mornings 10am-12pmJanuary 23 – February 27, 2019 This winter Connie is excited to offer a learning opportunity to warm-up your storytelling voice and creativity!  Join her in Asheville, NC at Lenoir-Rhyne University for six story-work sessions with a weekly format that allows for skills to grow over time while encouraging a consistency in discovering, revisiting and refining your stories. During these weekly sessions participants are invited…See More
Oct 28, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Connie Regan-Blake presents A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 6, 2019 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her workshop participants in an enchanting evening of storytelling in “A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories.” The event will be hosted by the Black Mountain Center for the Arts, just a short drive from Asheville nestled in the picturesque mountains surrounding the area. Call the Center for advance tickets (828) 669-0930 or order…See More
Oct 28, 2018
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Connie Regan-Blake's Taking Your Story to the Stage Workshop at StoryWindow Productions

April 5, 2019 to April 7, 2019
The focus of this “Taking Your Story to the Stage” 3-day workshop is on storytelling performance. Each participant is asked to come with a story that is almost “stage-ready.” Set in Connie’s home tucked in the beautiful mountains surrounding Asheville, NC, this workshop provides a supportive, affirming…See More
Oct 28, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Let’s say every word is precious

Let’s say every word is precious (Part of Living Poem) Let’s say every word is precious.Say every word is precious.Every word is precious.Every word precious.Every word.Word.--Rob Neufeld, Oct. 16, 2018See More
Oct 17, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Oct 12, 2018
Nancy Sutton replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Metamorphoses
"Poignant in so many ways!   "
Oct 3, 2018
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses (Part of Living Poem)Hear audio: Metamorphoses%20181004_0192.MP3 So Apollo committed the first rape.He’d come back from exterminating Python,The Bane of Humanity, now his arrow-victim,And stopped to mock…See More
Oct 2, 2018
Joan Henehan replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Fantastic, that will be very helpful."
Sep 22, 2018

A walk through nature with the Ellisons

by Rob Neufeld

AUTHOR EVENTS

George Ellison talks about his new book, “Literary Excursions in the Southern Highlands: Essays on Natural History,” at Macon County Public Library, 149 Siler Farm Road

Franklin, 7 p.m., Dec. 7 (828-524-3600); and at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 3 p.m., Mar. 12, 2017 (828-254-6734).

 

            When you read a book by George Ellison, you get, in his nature writing about our region, six voices blending into a unique style.

            First, there’s his informal voice, as when, in his new book, “Literary Excursions in the Southern Highlands: Essays on Natural History” (History Press), he talks about hornblende and admits to cribbing a Geology 101 textbook and consulting experts “who are in no way responsible for my conclusions.”

            He’s always there, in between his gifts of wisdom, like a folksy teacher.

            Then there’s the mystical Ellison.  His task in this mode is to advocate for divinity in an everyday way.  “At night, I don’t count sheep,” he tells us in the first chapter, “Geography of Place: Inner and Outer Landscapes.”   “I name the mountain ranges and rivers from east to west.” 

            In his chapter, “Inward Eyes,” he asks, “How do we go about making sure we continue seeing the world about us with fresh eyes?”

 

Observation packets

 

            Ellison titles his new book “Literary Excursions” not because he’s providing author tours, but because he treats other authors’ observations about nature as if they were, along with wildlife, part of a spread.

            William Bartram, in his 1791 book, “Travels in North Carolina and South Carolina,” Ellison reveals, loved the magnolia blossom, which, Bartram precisely described, “fits in the center of a radius of very large leaves, which...form an expansive umbrella superbly crowned or crested with the fragrant flower, representing a white plume.”

            Ellison then turns to James Costa, director of the Highlands Botanical Station, who informs us that the flower dates back to pre-bee times, when beetles had been the most sought pollinators.

            Finally, Ellison ends with a quip, quoting biologist J.B.S. Haldane, who, when asked what nature told him about God, replied that “the Creator apparently had an inordinate fondness for beetles.”

            When Ellison serves as the chief explainer, seeking conciseness and clarity, he often throws in a punchy line, such as: “If you happen to be a spider, the female dirt dauber is your worst nightmare.”   

            But it’s not all wit and charm.  At certain times, Ellison must be the scientist.

            For example, writing about the northern harrier in his chapter, “The Gray Ghost,” Ellison advises, “The diagnostic feature to look for is the white rump.  Less apparent are the facial disks.”

            He goes on a while longer about male and female coloring and size, and about nesting and roosting habits.  And then, extending the description to courtship and foraging behaviors, he gives poetry some space.

            First he borrows from “The Birds of America,” which portrays the male harrier “sweeping in great semicircles, gradually lessening in diameter,” at which point “he stops suddenly in the top of a swoop, closes his wings, drops, turns head over tail, drops again, turns over and swings upward from the last somersault, just clear of the ground on another ecstatic performance.”

            “What sort of female of any kind could resist that sort of display?” Ellison muses.  Then he does his own visually enhanced job by picturing the bird in foraging mode, “spreading the feathers in their wingtips, creating ‘slots’ that...allow low-speed maneuvers...hovering several feet above the ground, face always pointed downward.”

            Poetry, for Ellison, is knowing the world.  And that includes being able to distinguish between variations of the same species, a discipline that guidebooks often don’t do very well.

 

Poetry

 

            Ellison’s sixth voice is poetry.  His 2012 book of poems, “Permanent Camp,” issues such lines as: “Certain images rivet attention/ and lodge in memory banks:/ a timber rattler coiled beside a trail/ a kestrel hovering on blurred wings/ a hellbender in gin-cleared mountain water...”

            In “Literary Excursions,” he reins that lyrical voice in because, you get the feeling, he has a job to do, like a farmer who has to actually tend to his crops before taking a break and breaking out.

            Ellison’s job-like job is, first, to be precise.  Then, he can pause and be amiable. 

Don’t take for granted his favorite songbird, the redbird, he tells us.  “From time to time, we have to remind ourselves to pay attention to the commonplace.”

            The “Redbird” chapter is one of my favorites in that it builds a personality and a legend within the framework of natural history.

            “Elizabeth and I,” Ellison says about walks with his wife, “have observed that they (the northern cardinals) are almost always the first bird to sing in the morning during the breeding season and that during the winter months they are almost they are almost the last bird to visit our feeders before dark.”

            Ellison surmises, “They like to be in charge of the other songbirds in their area, so they wake them up in the morning and see them to bed at night...the male perhaps carries things a tad too far when he engages in lengthy battles with his own reflection.”

            There is a seventh voice, in a manner of speaking, in Ellison’s book, and that is Elizabeth’s brilliant watercolor artwork.  The photo-quality pages of their volume are rife with illustrations, all apt.

            For instance, when George set about showcasing witch hobble, he wrote Dan Pittillo, retired professor of biology and founding editor of “Chinquapin,” to have him look at “Elizabeth’s rendering of what I think of as a sort of Stained Glass Window effect.”  The artwork is in the book, as are Pitillo’s and his colleagues’ musings about the color phenomenon. 

            Ellison is a nature journalist, and he has created a community of naturalist-songbirds, in a sense.

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