The hardest part of any endeavor is the beginning, says poet Thomas Rain Crowe.
“It’s that way with writing,” Crowe tells Xpress via e-mail. “Getting started is the hardest part of writing. Once you’re ‘into’ the story, or the poem, or the piece for the newspaper, it’s easy.”
And so it is with the fight for your cause, he says. Realize that one person can make a difference, and get started.
“Start with something small and of a scale that you can manage,” Crowe advises. “Don’t try and solve all the world’s problems by yourself. You can’t. But you can solve some of the problems that are right around you. Start with a letter to the editor. Start talking to your friends and neighbors. Get started.”
Crowe has been struggling of late to preserve Tuckasegee, his Jackson County home. Gated communities are changing both the physical landscape and the communal values of the area, he says.
He and artist Robert Johnson are witnessing similar environmental destruction where they live (Johnson resides in Yancey County’s Celo community). Their new book, The End of Eden (Wind Publications), is a collection of essays and illustrations that show “a vision of what we have and what we stand to lose,” as Crowe puts it.
Asheville’s Blue Spiral 1 gallery will hold an event Thursday marking the book’s launch. Crowe and Johnson will be there, along with New York poet Richard Lewis, whose book of “Zen-like” poems, Shaking the Grass for Dew (published by Crowe’s New Native Press), also will be released that night.
Crowe describes The End of Eden as a kind of “activist’s handbook.”
“This book is an attempt at a rallying cry and to give folks a model to emulate … in their own struggles to protect and preserve the natural aspects of the places in which they live,” Crowe says. “I try and do this by offering examples of the things I’ve written and published … hoping that what I’ve written will encourage others to do the same.”
Crowe, one of the so-called “Baby Beat” poets, lived self-sufficiently in the Western North Carolina forest and published a book about that experience called Zoro’s Field: My Life In The Appalachian Woods (University of Georgia Press, 2005).
“I think that the idea of living close to and in harmony with the natural world and living somewhat self-sufficiently is appealing to most people,” Crowe offers. That connection to the natural world makes activism even more important.
Around the same time Zoro’s Field came out, Xpress printed an essay from Crowe (also titled The End of Eden) in which he described his feelings of depression watching what was unfolding around him.
“It’s the end of October as I write this, and I’ve still got tomatoes on the vine. Native, June-blooming rhododendrons are flowering again. Hummingbirds are still here and coming to the feeders,” Crowe wrote. “Generally an early riser, I find I’m getting up later these days… I’m usually a hopeful person, searching the darkness for some sign of light. These days, however, my mood is much more often one of resignation.”
Having overcome what he calls a “momentary bout of depression,” Crowe says the situation around him has actually gotten worse.
“More developers have bought up huge parcels of land, environmental disasters have occurred as a result of these developments and the global warming crisis has accelerated. Weather is more severe and extreme, which has brought all kinds of logistical problems for people—to the most fundamental aspects of their lives,” he says.
Asked what he’d say to others feeling similarly resigned, Crowe stresses that one person can make a difference—he’s experienced it, and he knows it to be true.
“My suggestion to people is not to let themselves be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issues that surround them. But to choose a local issue that is important to them and to simply get up out of bed, or out of the chair in the living room, and get to work,” Crowe says.
who: Poet Thomas Rain Crowe and artist Robert Johnson
what: Event launching the publication of The End of Eden including a reading and book signing
where: Blue Spiral 1
when: Thursday, Oct. 2. Event begins at 5:30 p.m. Reading at 6:15 p.m. (Free. Books available for $16. www.bluespiral1.com/gnews.htm)