Thursday, April 1, 2010
kathryn stripling byer
Did you know April is National Poetry Month? It was initiated by the Academy of American poets in 1996. Publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets around the country band together every April to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture, through readings, festivals, book displays, and workshops.
I'm celebrating today, by profiling my bloggy friend, the very talented Kathryn Stripling Byer. Most of her poetry is set in the mountains of North Carolina, where she was named Poet Laureate from 2005-2009. Her books of poetry include Catching Light (Louisiana State University Press, 2002); Black Shawl (1998); Wildwood Flower (1992), which was the 1992 Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets; and The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest (1986), which was published in the Associated Writing Programs award series.
I am particularly fond of this piece, published in Aretha's Hat: Inauguration Day, 2009, a collaboration with Penelope Scambly Schott.
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.
I am very flattered that Kathryn has recently shared some wonderful pieces in my new creative writing blog, Magpie Tales. And guess who she happened to feature today on her own blog, kicking off National Poetry Month? ME! My woolly socks are completely blown away. Thank you, Kathryn. It's such an honor. Pop over to her blog, [Here, Where I Am] and say hello.