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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

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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
5 hours ago
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Oct 12
Nancy Sutton replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Metamorphoses
"Poignant in so many ways!   "
Oct 3
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
Joan Henehan replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Fantastic, that will be very helpful."
Sep 22
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
Sep 22
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"
Sep 22
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?"
Sep 22
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
Sep 21

The bag lady of Almond was a literary light

by Rob Neufeld

PHOTO CAPTION: Olive Tilford Dargan about the time she published her first acclaimed book c1904.  Photo from Charlotte Young Collection, Special Collections, UNC Asheville.

            In the late 1930s, children in Almond saw an old lady walking around town carrying bags and muttering to herself.

            She was the celebrated playwright, poet, and novelist Olive Tilford Dargan, who had come to Swain County, the place of her former farm, after feeling a Red Scare chill in Asheville over her allegedly proletarian novel, “Call Home the Heart.”  She had written it under a pseudonym, Fielding Burke, but a publishing insider had leaked her identity.

            Dargan’s bag contained gifts for the children.  The muttering they heard was poems she recited in the act of composition.

            “The rain it raineth every day/ From skies of wrath and rue,” she’d repeat, enjoying the “r” sounds before launching into her idyll, “But I’ve a garden where I play/ Whatever skies may do.”

            When a Citizen-Times reporter visited her at Bluebonnet Lodge, her West Asheville home, in 1936, he entered her garden there via a flagstone path at the end of Balsam Ave. to discover a lawn “hidden by massive trees and shrubs … Climbing roses, clematis and trumpet vine run riot over” the “ancient logs” of the home, “and boxwood and evergreens peculiar to the mountains add their beauty to a house that bespeaks the primitive, sturdy mountaineer.”

            The cabin dated back to the early 1800s, and had been bought, in 1897, by Rutherford Platt Hayes, son of President Rutherford B. Hayes, and early West Asheville developer.

            Not long after Dargan’s death at age 99 in 1968, Richard Coleman razed the cabin to make way for an office park that would include a U.S. Post Office.  The most visible part of that development now is Aldi’s.

 

Writer at work

 

            Dargan had established an indoor-outdoor office in a screened outbuilding at Bluebonnet Lodge and “moved her small portable typewriter outside beneath the tall, stately pine trees,” an unsigned reporter noted in 1932.

            She’d just completed her novel, “Call Home the Heart,” which follows fictional Ishma Waycaster from her mountain community to a piedmont mill.

          Workers’ lives, Dargan asserted, lie closer to real experience “than the ‘flutter of an eyelid.’ which has occupied bourgeois writers for years and is considered by standpat critics as art.  Still, these same critics will call the struggle of workers to free themselves ‘propaganda.’”

          “Before she was seven,” Dargan writes about Ishma, the girl “had joined the class of burden-bearers.” 

            At 18, she planned to leave, horrified by the fates of her pathetic sister and luckless brother-in-law.  Yet, she married Britt, a folk-singer, and they made a go at farming. 

            At one point, the couple “rebuilt their future on the slender basis of seven bushels of (soy) beans.”  Stray cows trampled half the hay crop.

            Continued misfortune overwhelmed even hope of joy, and one day, Ishma ran off to the mills with Rad, the beau she’d once rejected.

            The dark view of life in “Call Home the Heart” concludes when Ishma goes back home to Britt and the mountains.  Readers had become familiar with this setting in Dargan’s 1925 book of stories, “Highland Annals,” reissued in 1941 as “From My Highest Hill.”  The later edition included photos of people from Almond taken by celebrated photographer Bayard Wooten.

            “Highland Annals” had been based on the tenant farmer and local families Dargan had known while managing her farm in Swain County after her unstable husband, Pegram, had drowned.

            Even then, Dargan had been the writer lady.

 

Round Top world

 

            Since 1904, when she’d published the poetic drama, “Semiramis,” Dargan had been considered one of America’s great writers with her daring plays in Shakespearean form; and her poems of Wordsworthian wonder.

            Some time into her tenure on Round Top in Almond, “the families on my farm ceased to look upon me as a mere outsider occasionally invading my own territory,” she wrote in “Highland Annals.”

            Coretta, a tenant farm woman, comes by for a favor, interrupting Dargan’s precious morning hours after a long night.  Coretta doesn’t understand Dargan’s displeasure at being disturbed. 

            “But Sam.” Coretta exclaims, referring to her husband, “had to git to the ploughin’ early, an’ you only had to jest sit and write!”

            On the other hand, Serena, a young wife who helps Dargan, is on Dargan’s side when a haughty woman from Chicago suggests that if Dargan wished “to memorialize a passing folk, you will find material more worthy of your pen in the twilight of the bourgeoisie.”

            A fire to her Round Top home sent Dargan to West Asheville.  “The thing that most frequently stymies me,” she wrote a friend, “is a suffocating sense of guilt.  In the world we breathe in to-day every moment calls one to its own job, and it isn’t ‘poetry.’”

            The stock market crash occurred on October 29, 1929, and on Nov. 6, Dargan wrote her friend, Grant Knight, a University of Kentucky literature professor, about her state of mind.

            “When I said ‘there are no people here,’ I did not mean artists and writers,” she explained.  “We do have them with us.  But ‘real people’ to me are only those who understand that a new society is a-borning.”

            Dargan’s friend, Charlotte Young, a poet from Hominy Valley, called Dargan one of the best poets in the country in her time, but added that she was someone who hobnobbed with Communists and who would “fall for anything that came along if it was sold to her with a glib tongue.”

            In contrast, Sylvia Latshaw, a friend and neighbor in Almond, commenting on what she called Dargan’s blacklisting, said she didn’t mind because in Almond “nobody knew anything about it and no one cared … We weren't even reading the daily papers.   We don't get them out there.  And we didn’t have time to read them if we had gotten them.  There she [Dargan] stayed until the hue and cry died down.”

            Over the next few years, Dargan traveled and worked on “A Stone Came Rolling,” the sequel to “Call Home the Heart.” 

            Dargan “has selected and assimilated her material emotionally,” Bernard Smith wrote in a “NY Herald Tribune” book review,  … (She) is less interested in the epic and dramatic nature of her material than in the intimate and emotional effects of the class struggle upon individuals.”

            In 1956, when she was 87, Dargan sold her home in West Asheville to a couple who agreed to let her live upstairs.  Dargan’s space was reached by rickety stairs.   There was “a makeshift arrangement with her water and toilet,” Latshaw said.

            Dargan’s will, dated February 28, 1961, bequeathed her papers and manuscripts to the University of Kentucky at Lexington, but they never arrived.  Family members allegedly burned her correspondence; and her manuscripts and notes somehow got trashed.

            In 1958, when she was 89, she’d published “The Spotted Hawk,” a book of poems.  It won multiple awards.   In one poem, “Vain Rescue,” she imagines her death. 

 

But rising now no inner fires outflow,

No gleam around me save a pale moon's haze.

I know a wood of beech and birch and snow

That waits my step.  And come the June-warm days,

Where two brooks wed I'll find a lulling seat,

And stir white pebbles with my slow, bare feet.

 

            Dargan is buried in Green Hills Cemetery in West Asheville.  A state highway historical marker was erected in front of the West Asheville Library in 2000.

 

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Great Article!  Heart wrenching about her destroyed manuscripts and letters and notes but I will look for more of Olive Dargan!     Lee Ann Brown

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