Welcome to where I am, where my kitchen's always messy, a pot's (or a poet) always about to boil over, a dog is always begging to be fed. Drafts of poems on the counter. Windows filled with leaves. Wind. Clouds moving over the mountains. If you like poetry, books, and music--especially dog howls when a siren unwinds down the hill-- you'll like it here.


MY NEW AUTHOR'S SITE, KATHRYNSTRIPLINGBYER.COM, THAT I MYSELF SET UP THROUGH WEEBLY.COM, IS NOW UP. I HAD FUN CREATING THIS SITE AND WOULD RECOMMEND WEEBLY.COM TO ANYONE INTERESTED IN SETTING UP A WEBSITE. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT MY NEW SITE TO KEEP UP WITH EVENTS RELATED TO MY NEW BOOK.


MY NC POET LAUREATE BLOG, MY LAUREATE'S LASSO, WILL REMAIN UP AS AN ARCHIVE OF NC POETS, GRADES K-INFINITY! I INVITE YOU TO VISIT WHEN YOU FEEL THE NEED TO READ SOME GOOD POEMS.

VISIT MY NEW BLOG, MOUNTAIN WOMAN, WHERE YOU WILL FIND UPDATES ON WHAT'S HAPPENING IN MY KITCHEN, IN THE ENVIRONMENT, IN MY IMAGINATION, IN MY GARDEN, AND AMONG MY MOUNTAIN WOMEN FRIENDS.




Sunday, August 31, 2008

Labor Day Eulogy


As another hurricane bears down on New Orleans, this poem that appeared in THE RALEIGH NEWS AND OBSERVER shortly after Katrina's devastation seems appropriate.

❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉❉
In the days after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, I was in near constant email communication with my friend doris davenport, African-American poet and performance artist, who now lives in Albany, Georgia. Her grief over the destruction of New Orleans and my own horror at what I saw unfolding came together in message after urgent message. I wanted to speak to our words shared across the the racial divide that this disaster has so clearly revealed and to draw the horrific images that we beheld together into the closing image of “Hands All Around,” my favorite quilt pattern from the North Carolina Mountains, one that signifies what we must do in the wake of this disaster.

LABOR DAY EULOGY
          

........ This labor to make our words matter
is  what any good quilter teaches.
A stitch in time,  let’s  say.
A  blind stitch,
that grips the edges
of what’s left,  the ripped
scraps and  remnants, whatever
won’t stop taking shape even though the whole
crazy quilt’s falling to pieces.
                   from "Mountain Time" Black Shawl, LSU Press, 1998


for doris davenport


This day we’ve been given
to sit down and catch our breath,
look at the goldenrod flooding
the roadsides, the pumpkin vines

clinging to rusty fence,
coneflowers blooming their last,
I keep thinking of words
from a poem I wrote so many years ago
I can’t remember the woman who wrote it,

the one who believed words do
matter.   And yet our words burned
across cyberspace last week,
our deep-Southern horror and rage
at what we beheld, our people

flailing in  high water,
wandering rubble like ghosts,
while the microphones stalked them,
wanting some raw words to beam

round the country,
the man who wailed over his wife
washed away,"She Gone!"
Old women rocking on porches
the waters spared, muttering

prophecies nobody knew
how to understand.
"Listen," I wanted to say
to the journalists,  President,
all the ones come down to pose
for their photo-ops, "Listen!"

And let the words linger
a long time, for these are the voices
of this place we love,  These are
our people, we said again and again, 

for we know how the old ditch
of race makes us stumble
apart from each other. But not now.
We poets now must labor,
to listen and  make our words
matter enough to stitch
"Hands All Around"  to pull over us
all, saying, Rest awhile here
in the silence from which our best words
grow like coneflowers,
pumpkin vines clinging to fencewire for dear life.



"Hands All Around" is a favorite quilt pattern here in the  NC mountains.

6 comments:

Vicki Lane said...

O,Kay! This is fine and worthy and what poets do better than anyone else. I wish this poem were on the front page of every newspaper in the country.

James Hogan said...

If you'll forgive the passive voice later in the stanza, here's a few lines from a poem I wrote during college days back in 2001...

"Here comes the cold, crisp fall: / Bare feet retreat to wollen socks, / and darkness falls on younger clocks, / as lights come on and blinds are drawn / for cards and drinks tonight."

These are Labor Day lines, written in September, and they may be the only lines I've written that I've cared to memorize and say to myself often throughout the fall. That sounds vain, but I promise it's just because I love the last days of summer and the first days of fall so much. Kelly and I just bought our first pumpkin-spice candle of the season, and already the house is filled by its presence.

Susan M. Bell said...

Kay, I need some poet-to-poet advice. How do you know exactly where the poem should be divided for the stanzas? For some reason, I have trouble with that.

And today we can be thankful that Gustav was no Katrina.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Susan, I don't always know "exactly" where to break, and I often change my mind in the course of working on a poem. Other times, stanza breaks (or none) just feel right. if you are working with a specific stanza length, or form--couplets, triplets, four-lines, sestina, etc., it's easier to know when to break, but so much depends on the dynamic of the poem you are writing, and often when you think you have a particular stanzaic pattern, you'll change your mind as you keep working on it. The important thing is to keep experimenting with both lineation and stanza structure, trusting your "ear." I have trouble with this myself. I've taken out stanza breaks, put them back in, begun with sestina, then thrown it out. Another important thing is to read all kinds of poetry and model your own on some of those poems. I've learned a lot from doing that. Heaney, Billy Collins, Mary Oliver. Yeats, and so on---and see what happens.

Susan M. Bell said...

Thanks Kay. I do have to say that I had my first experience writing a sestina for the Poetry Month Challenge I did, and I hope to never to that again. That was the hardest poem I've ever written.

In a way, it's nice to know that you often change and rearrange, and may not even know how it's going to come out. If someone as established as you has trouble...well, makes me feel OK about having the problems I do. :)

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Susan, try to think of the "problems" as creative snags, points at which you can go more deeply into the poem and engage its energy yet again and try to follow its lead. I've poems I still don't consider done. And I could show you stacks of drafts and revisions, if I could dig them out of other stacks of other things!