, an assistant professor Western Carolina University, has won the 2009 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition with a dazzling poem, titled, “Toast,” about a tall tale attraction to an electric man. The contest was recently judged by the North Carolina Writers’ Network
Carter states in her biography that she’d been “raised by wolves and vultures on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.” (Click attachment below to read bio.) Now, she coordinates the English education program at WCU and writes. Her work has appeared in major poetry journals, and has made it into “Best American Poetry 2009.” Her first book, The Memory of Gills
(LSU Press, 2006), won the 2007 Roanoke-Chowan Award. Her chapbook, The Swamp Monster at Home
, is currently circulating.
“Toast” begins, “Here’s to a man like the swoop and rise of an electric line,” and remarks on him as he approaches. He’s so hot, “his tie-knot crisps with heat…rattlesnakes lair in his hair.” Read the full poem below, or click the attachement.
Here’s to a man like the swoop and rise of an electric line.
At a distance he’s some anonymous steel tower
stalking across the hillside, but come nearer
and you can’t miss the power
vibrating through him. It could toast your skin
like bread. At ten feet he’s no great beauty,
but at six the room gets warmer.
At four feet the heat’s banked, a dormant ruby,
and you don’t get to three. Maybe you’re not the electrical kind;
maybe you like beeswax candles, the snap of woodfire,
maybe you’ve your own fire at home,
lively and hot. But there’s that wire,
thrumming with acquiescence and resistance,
singing with force, lighting up streets.
Stripped of whatever insulates him, he’d fry
mountainsides; his tie-knot crisps with heat;
in November, rattlesnakes lair in his desk.
One day a condor tangled in his wiry hair;
it didn’t end well. You wouldn’t survive being locked to that grid,
hooked in by manmade power. But the shimmering air
around him buzzes, fidgets, seethes, kinetic;
it takes some doing to resist the field
pulling your hand that way, while you wonder
if he’s noticed when you reel
or stammer. So it’s no good pretending
you never liked the shock-streak down your spine
grounding you to the dirt: no, here’s to him,
that man, humming like a power line.