“Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not startle or amaze it with itself, but with its subject.”
In Asheville, there seems to be an almost slavish devotion to poetry. Perhaps it’s the mountains, with their mystery of shadow and fog, that inspire this freest form of expression. Or perhaps for so many around here who have drums for hearts, Asheville is the perfect forum for poets — this throwback of a city that seems to resist most efforts to completely make her over into something fully modern.
Sometimes the poetry is merely whispered into a microphone — sometimes it’s a hard raining coming down. T.S. Eliot professed that poetry is not an expression of personality and emotion, but an escape from those things. Ezra Pound believed that poetry begins to atrophy when it gets too far from music. And Shelley pronounced it a record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.
A seminal force behind our local scene is Keith Flynn, managing editor of the Asheville Poetry Review, whose latest volume is titled 10 Great Neglected Poets of the 20th Century.
One of the chosen is Mina Loy, whose works are at once lovely and startling, given the time in which she lived and wrote (1882-1966): Consider this: “To you / I bring my nascent virginity of / Myself for the moment / No love or the other thing / Only the impact of lighted bodies / Knocking sparks off each other / In chaos.”
One of my personal favorites is Frank Stanford, a young man who didn’t live long (1948-1978) — and, perhaps prophetically, seems somewhat obsessed with death in many of his poems. “Memory Is Like a Shotgun Kicking You Near Your Heart” begins with: “I get up, walk around the weeds / By the side of the road with a flashlight / Looking for the run-over cat /I hear crying.”
But Amon Liner, who also died too soon (1940-1976), seemed to view life from a bright window and not the darkness of the heart, as did Stanford. Perhaps it was because the young Carolinian was born with a congenital heart defect — as opposed to a congenital soul defect. His “Within the Interval” reflects, in part, his view of life knowing his lease was a short one: “It is a kind of comfort / To write at the end of the world / A place where all of grey / Have their Just Harmony.”
Other poets recognized include Yvan Goll, Bob Kaufman, Lorine Niedecker, Kenneth Patchen, Pierre Reverdy, George Scarbrough and Jack Spicer. From this wonderful collection of work, it’s easy to see why the Asheville Poetry Review is exclusively Asheville’s in name alone: Currently, the book is available throughout the country and in Europe.
And if I haven’t yet made my point about Asheville being one of the main cauldrons of poetry today, Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate of the United States, will speak in UNCA’s Lipinsky Auditorium on Thursday, Oct. 5, beginning at 8 p.m.
Pinsky is the author of five books of poetry, including his latest, The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems 1965-1995 (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996), which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry and also received the Lenore Marshall Award and the Ambassador Book Award of the English Speaking Union.
This highly public poet edits the on-line journal Slate and is a frequent contributor to The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, on PBS. But the Boston University professor may ultimately go down in the books for “The Favorite Poem Project,” a Library of Congress audio archive that immortalizes 1,000 Americans reading their most-loved poems.
General-admission tickets cost $10. For more info, call the UNCA Cultural Events line at 251-6584.
The Evil in Asheville is the debut novel of young area resident Joshua Warren, who gained local fame with the publication of the nonfiction work Haunted Asheville in 1995. His newest book, scheduled for imminent release, is a supernatural story that follows the quest of “a mysterious stranger obsessed with exploring a haunted castle in Asheville.” Warren, a lifelong resident of Asheville, owns his own publishing and multimedia company (Shadowbox Enterprises) and has published articles all over the world. Considered an expert on paranormal research, he was the first person hired by the Grove Park Inn to officially investigate the notorious Pink Lady apparition, in 1995.
• Wednesday, Oct. 4, 7 p.m. at Malaprop’s: Poet Laureate of North Carolina Fred Chappell will read from his new collection, Family Gathering.
• Wednesday, Oct. 4, 3 p.m. at Books-A-Million: Joseph Gregory will sign copies of his book, Queen of Diamonds.
• Thursday, Oct. 5, 7 p.m. at Malaprop’s: Richard Grinker will discuss his new book, In the Arms of Africa: The Life of Colin Turnbull
• Thursday, Oct. 5, 8 p.m. at UNCA’s Lipinsky Auditorium: Poet Laureate of the United States Robert Pinsky will read from his new collection of poetry.
• Friday, Oct. 6, 12 p.m. at Malaprop’s: Wilford Corbin will sign copies of his book, A World Apart: My Life Among the Eskimos of Alaska.
• Friday, Oct. 6, 5:30 p.m. at Mountain Lore Books in Hendersonville: Ralph Grizzle will sign copies of his book, Remembering Charles Kuralt.
• Friday, Oct. 6, 7 p.m. at Malaprop’s: Editor Michael McFee and contributors P.B. Parris and Peter Turchi will discuss and read from the new anthology, This is Where We Live: Short Stories by 25 Contemporary North Carolina Writers.
• Saturday, Oct. 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Swannanoa Branch Library: The Friends of the Swannanoa Library present their third annual fund-raising festival, The Swannanoa Book Jam 2000, including a giant book sale, games and crafts for kids, food, a parade (12 p.m.) and live entertainment with Blues Fiddler Dave Foraker, the Greasy Beans, Poetry Alive!, magician Matt Fore and a special appearance by WWNC’s Wiley Carpenter.
Admission is free; food and raffle-ticket sales (more than $1,500 worth of prizes will be given away) will benefit special projects, programs and improvements at the Swannanoa Library. This year’s event is centered around the grand opening of a new playground at Grovemont Community Square. For more information or directions, call (828) 686-5516.
• Saturday, Oct. 7, 12 p.m. at Malaprop’s: Mary Hattan Bogart will sign copies of her book, Conquering the Appalachians.
• Sunday, Oct. 8, 3 p.m. at Malaprop’s: Poet Mary Kratt will read from her new collection of poetry, Valley: Poems of Eva’s Line.
• Thursday, Oct. 12, 4 p.m. at Spruce Pine’s Blue Moon Books: Scott Nicholson will sign copies of his new short-story collection, Thank You for the Flowers.
• Friday, Oct. 13, 7 p.m. at Malaprop’s: Poet Al Maginnes will read from his collection of poetry, The Light in our Houses.
• Sunday, Oct. 15, 3 p.m. at Malaprop’s: Robert Inman will read from his new collection of essays, Coming Home: Life, Love, and All Things Southern.
• Sunday, Oct. 15, 1 p.m. at Books-A-Million: Mary Ann Myers will sign copies of her book, Favored to Win.
• Saturday, Oct. 28, 7 p.m. at Malaprop’s: Daniel Patterson will discuss his new book, A Tree Accurst: Bobby McMillon and Stories of Frankie Silver.