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
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.
Warm birthday wishes to Michael Chitwood. The following poem was originally published in Poor-Mouth Jubilee (Tupelo Press).
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.
A drum head
beaten by the silver sticks
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.
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.”