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.




Friday, May 20, 2011

Listening to Home: The Poetry of Lisa Parker






I met Lisa Parker several years back, when I came to Hindman Settlement School to direct the poetry workshop during the summer writing conference. I was the one being directed, though, as I soon realized. Young poets like Lisa, and not so young ones like Steve Holt and Jane Hicks, were doing most of the directing, bringing me their poems day after day in the workshop and convincing me that in the coal country of Kentucky there was a powerful lot of good writing going on. Top on that list was a young poet named Lisa Parker!




Since then, Lisa has won her share of literary awards, been published in national journals, worked in New York and Washington, DC. No matter where she goes, however, she carries her mountain landscape and its voices with her. Not to mention her mountain language. A people's language does seem to rise up from the leafmold, the rocks, and the moss, as Seamus Heaney claimed. The poems I've chosen illuminate that truth.


Lisa's first book, This Gone Place, published last year by Motes Books, received the Weatherford award in poetry.







Backslid North

I.

I am filled with words like drowned bodies.
Just beneath the water’s surface, they bloat
indignantly. I see their watchful eyes -
pine and mud-colored like mine.
I hear the soft gurgle I’ve reduced them to.


II.

Granddaddy told me once,
Don’t get above your raising.
I call him often to practice my self,
to remember that I am all about
holler and giggin, heared tell of and sigodlin.

I am taking steps.
I talk of craving pork rinds.
I drawl hard.
I write this poem out of spite.

III.

I am full of poems that lie
the language right out of me.
I’ve whitewashed my South Appalachian
to an understandable hue, put those regional words
in jars with lace lids and waited, breath held,
for the scholarly nods. That approval
is almost enough to tolerate knowing
that between what I am and what I write,
something is rotting.




Penitence Enough

If I thought it was penitence enough
for turning my back,
for this fraudulence I wear
like a pond film over my skin,
I’d return home,
and lay deep
in that Old Dominion soil.
I’d pull the hollyhocks close,
sprout pennyroyal - pungent mint
and purple bloom - from my teeth,
my eyes full of nothing
but the backs of Blue Ridge steeps,
ears tipped with corn tassels
and calamus root and nothing
but the roll of the Shenandoah,
the ring of a banjo carried down
on mountain wind.
I would stand still and long
as August heat
till the kudzu took me over,
wound itself through me,
anchored me to that land
I can still see under my nails
after months of scrubbing.
I’d press my face to the cool damp
of the cannery walls,
my knees against the porch boards.
I’d open veins and spill
against the sycamore roots,
give myself over,
give myself back,
and lay me down
in that red Virginia clay -
if I thought it would have me.



Body And Earth

for Clyde Whitt

When I was small, I slept
in Granddaddy's arms, my head
against his chest, dozing
to the rhythmic wheezing
my mama called Black Lung.

He muscled his pickaxe and shovel
into the black guts of the mountains
for twenty-five years, stooped ten inches
beneath the safety timbers
that held the earth.

We sit on the porchswing,
whittling twigs into smaller twigs
while Grandma hums "Over In The Gloryland,"
dips old cornshucks into a mason jar of water,
soaking out the dry age, their brittle edges softening.
She bends them, pliant and fresh again with water,
twisting them into bright, yellow dolls.

I look at Granddaddy’s fingers, knuckled deep and bent
around his knife, lean against the sagging point of his shoulder
and listen to the steady huff and whistle of his breath – a sound
like mud daubers buzzing,
encased in their tunnels of dried earth.




Fear And A Country Breakfast

Chicken feed
swirls crazy in autumn wind,
buckshot of cornseed and gravel
in my eyes.
Grandma’s feet,
heavy in plastic-soled slippers,
crunch on feed and pebbles.
Her pastel flowered robe
brushes the ground,
swings into a squall of feathers.
My fingers,
nails full of hickory bark
from my desperate tree-clutch,
shove against my eardrums,
against the final snap -
like a maple twig in deep winter.
Grandma yawns her way
to the shed,
white feathers dangling from her hand -
twitching, still clucking insanely,
one finger around the axe handle, two,
one more yawn on the downswing.
After the dull thump of the axe,
the scratching claws
run over feed and gravel,
and where I run,
the spastic death legs
point, propel the blood-
soaked body in a staggering
chase, so close
to dancing, these
intricate circles
toward each other,
and always
Grandma kicks the head
to the cats
before I can see
if the eyes follow me.

First Southern Love, Done Right

First Southern love, when it’s with the raised-right,
still boy enough not to wanna wait,
man enough to do it right,
that’s the kind not suited to backseats.
No vinyl for this sweet zinnia,
no Lynrd Skynrd on the stereo or radio commercials
for A&P and Booth Feed; not when she can have
the sway and sway of a wheatfield
or the quiet of a hayloft. Mountains and valleys
can sneak her into coves of wild fieldgrass,
or overhangs of tulip poplars and sycamores
that blow across her skin and cool the sweat
where it stands.

It’s not about, I’ll call you some time.
It’s about the rounded rock he’ll pull,
smooth and cold from the riverbed, and wrap
in cattail fluff to hold against her
until the bleeding stops.
When it’s right, he won’t sit too close in church
or blush in front of her daddy.
They’ll wait, on slow simmer, until they can put
a valley or two between themselves and everyone,
find sun against their skin,
an audience of bluejays and cardinals,
and a river to swim in when being naked
is the only way to be.

4 comments:

alexg said...
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Charlotte said...

You were such an inspiration and mentor to Lisa, Kay. Thank you for showcasing her poems!

Darnell Arnoult said...

Lisa is a gifted poet and I love this book. Kay, you have mentored so many strong women poets!

Darnell Arnoult

Glenda C. Beall said...

Thanks for introducing us to another gifted poet. I look forward to reading more of her work.