National Poetry Month, April 27, 2014


NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti

NC Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti

Yesterday, I was in Tryon, North Carolina as one of the presenters at the inaugural Lanier Library Poetry Festival. The Lanier Library, named for Georgia poet Sidney Lanier, who died in 1881, just outside Tryon, justly claims kin with poetry and staged the festival to underscore its poetic legacy and history. I was

Mark Doty

Mark Doty

also the final judge in the sixth annual 2014 Sidney Lanier Poetry Competition, in both Adult and High School Student competitions. As always, the field I looked at was terrifically competitive, and settling on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place and an Honorable Mention in each level of competition involved a good bit of hand-wringing. All the poems were wonderful. I was especially taken with how the student poems approached “adult” themes with such clear-eyed courage, without a lick of sentimentality, and a candor that I simply did not possess and would have never attempted at those young poets’ ages.

Mark Doty, winner of the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008, was the keynote speaker. Here’s his poem, “Brian Age Seven.”

Also on the bill was Cathy Smith Bowers, my predecessor, from 2010 to 2012, as North Carolina Poet Laureate. “Peace Lilies” is from Cathy’s A Book of Minutes (Iris Press, Oak Ridge, TN).

Other North Carolina writers teaching at the workshop were Kat AckermanMalaika King Albrecht, and Rhett Iseman Trull.

Warm birthday wishes to Michael Chitwood. The following poem was originally  published in Poor-Mouth Jubilee (Tupelo Press).

Michael Chitwood

Michael Chitwood

Here I Am, Lord

The ribbed black of the umbrella
is an argument for the existence of God,

that little shelter
we carry with us

and may forget
beside a chair

in a committee meeting
we did not especially want to attend.

What a beautiful word, umbrella.
A shade to be opened.

Like a bat’s wing, scalloped.
It shivers.

A drum head
beaten by the silver sticks

of rain
and I do not have mine

and so the rain showers me.

Michael Chitwood lives in Chapel Hill and teaches at UNC-Chapel Hill.  His new book, Living Wages, will be published this year by Tupelo Press.

Nina Simone

Nina Simone

The incomparable Nina Simone was born in Tryon in 1933. There’s a magnificent statue of her in Nina Simone Plaza in the middle of downtown. And here she is, “The High Priestess of Soul,” performing “Ain’t Got No…I’ve Got Life.”


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