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.




Saturday, November 21, 2009

ALBANY STATE POETRY FESTIVAL: EVENING POETRY READING




The last evening of Albany State University's Poetry Festival featured Frank X Walker, Shirlette Ammons, doris davenport, and me. This event was held at the new Albany Welcome Center, a fine facility for the arts. I arrived early so that I could sit outside and watch the children and families play in Turtle Park.




Shortly after the sun went down, folks began arriving in the upstairs auditorium.


My friend, artist Cindy Davis, was among them.


Dr. doris davenport, the genius behind the festival-- and its director-- welcomed the audience.
She asked me to read first, and of course I couldn't refuse. Here is one of the poems she liked.


First Presbyterian

Sitting in church every Sunday, I hated the hats
I had to wear. They were small things with net
attached. Or hard plastic fruit. They did not fit
and sometimes they fell into the aisle or my lap
if my mother had not pierced their velveteen
skins with hat pins she wove through my stiff
hair-sprayed hair. There was no way to scratch

my small soul through those hats. No way
I could sit through the sermons if not daydreaming
out of them, using the blank wall beside the piano
as movie-screen, imagining myself hatless, free
of my hair spray and beehive, my hair grown
miraculously long, trailing hat pins across
the small town, heading north toward what soon

would be Interstate. What happened next?
Let us pray, said the preacher and I came awake,
though I shut my eyes dutifully. What was
he saying that I should heed, who was this God
who knew everything? Why should I pull on a girdle
and hose for His sake and sit waiting for Him
to call? Just As I Am, we sang, closing the service.
My soul took a deep breath and walked out

(From Aretha's Hat: Inauguration Day 2006, copyright Kathryn Byer)



Shirlette Ammons entranced the crowd with her poems, among them, one of my favorites, from her collection Matching Skin, from Carolina Wren Press.

What is Grass?

All of it—
the tin roof on Trinity Avenue
where the clouds sit and scheme
a seventy-degree Durham
before the heat peaks

A neither bad nor good morning

The Britneys, the Burmese,
a track champion halved and veined,
criminal attempts at concerned media
scribed by typewriters with filthy keys when

We all have medals we should return

The grass is a mattress for our trampling
whisking us past overdue fines and late fees,
oh shits and honest-to-god forgets
as we beg to get clipped
like a thief preying on sickly screen doors
in the beam of broad daylight

—Courtesy of Carolina Wren Press and Shirlette Ammons


(Photo by Jeremy Lange)


(Shirlette talks with students after the reading. )

Frank X Walker began his reading by asking how many in the audience could sing the first stanza of Amazing Grace.

He chose Chasity to sing, and did she ever sing it!

>



Then Frank read his poem.


Amazing grace! how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see ...

It isn’t negro
but it is spiritual
it do speak to the power
of redemption
to power period
converting lost
to found creating sight
where there was none
but what sound could be
so powerfully sweet
sweet enough
to turn a wretched
slave-ship captain
into england’s most outspoken
abolitionist and songwriter

was it the splash of bodies
dragged kicking and screaming
jettisoned off decks
of ocean coral
was it the crack of the whip
or the popping sound bloody flesh makes
when a sizzling branding iron
breaks the skin

the sound of fear and confusion
below deck
muffled by the sound of rape up above

the sound of 609 beating hearts
sardined into a space for 300

amazing is to be lost and blind
and still the captain
a willing participant
in crimes against humanity

but what was that sound
that liberating release
granting pardons
for penitence undone?
what does forgiveness sound like?

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come ...

now every time you hear amazing grace
listen for john newton’s apology
his silent sobs seeking salvation
listen and hear
what healing sounds like

’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home






(Photo by Tracy Hawkins)


(I pose with Chasity after the reading, to congratulate her for doing such a splendid job of singing! You can see doris in the background, looking on, obviously pleased with how successful the evening was.) Later I told Chasity that she could sing anything---blues, jazz, grand opera, gospel, country....etc. She couldn't stop smiling.




( The audience flocks to the book table.)


When the Welcome Center shut down, we headed for Orene Hall on the campus of ASU, where a memorable feast awaited us.



And, not long after, we were treated to a dance extravaganza onstage.



With Professor Davenport joining in!

This is the way to end a great day of poetry, don't you think?



7 comments:

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dorisdiosa said...

((((( Kay! ))))) Thanks for the *splendid* coverage! You are so good to us. :) i just wish you'd included a photo of you, and your "Hat" poem too.
- dorissima

Vicki Lane said...

Wow! The goosebumps are still on my arms after reading Walker's poem!

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Thanks, Scott, for dropping by, and to my friends, dorissima and Vicki, yes indeed, this was a fabulous event. I wish you could have heard Frank read this poem, Vicki, and Chasity sing Amazing Grace before. (You know, of course, how spell-binding doris is when she reads.)

Jessie Carty said...

and a dance party? could it get anybetter :)

非凡 said...

I'm appreciate your writing skill.Please keep on working hard.^^

Cindy Davis said...

I have been slowly working my way through the poetry book that I purchased that night at the ASU festival.

I purposely take my time with these books. I want to make them last and not use them up all at once.

Thank you for helping me discover the imagery of words.

As a visual person, I am discovering that poetry is a resting place for me. I feel no pull to pick up a pen myself, only enjoyment.

I still haven't forgotten "the pearl" I saw right there in your upturned palm as you read your poems to us that night.

-- Cindy