WNC poet-activist Thomas Rain Crowe talks about his newest book, environmentalism & sense of place


Thomas Rain Crowe, of Tuckasegee, is a poet, translator, editor, publisher, anthologist and recording artist and author of 30 books of original and translated works. He talked to Tuckasegee Reader co-publisher Bill Graham about his latest collection of poetry, Crack Light, just published by Wind Publications. 

Below are excerpts from the interview. Catch the entire interview on TuckReader.com

Tuckasegee Reader: Where does Crack Light fit in terms of your body of work?
Thomas Rain Crowe: The poems in this collection cover a time span of more than 25 years. The first poem in the book was written in December of 1978, when I returned to western North Carolina from northern California. The rest of the poems in the book were written at various times since then and up to the present time.

In terms of subject matter, however, Crack Light has a distinct place on the ‘shelf’ of my published work. It is the only collection of poems that is definitively and specifically about these mountains where we live here in western North Carolina–the Great Smoky Mountains of the Blue Ridge chain of the Southern Appalachians. In this sense, it is something of a poetic sibling or sequel to my book of nonfiction Zoro’s Field–which is set down in Polk County along the Green River. Crack Light is my first book of what the literary world would call “regional poems.” I’ve always resisted the moniker of being a regional poet/writer, since my greater interests are global, really.


But this book is definitely a book dedicated to and grounded in our region. In that sense it is an homage to the land, the people, the cultures and histories of this place–the hills of western North Carolina. And considering that the book is dedicated to two of the patriarchs of the Southern Appalachian literary canon, James Stilll and Jim Wayne Miller, I guess people can now call me a “regional poet” if they want to. (laughs)

Also … this book is the first time that a book of poetry I’ve written is a collaboration with an artist of another discipline. In this case, it’s a nature photographer from Buncombe County named Simone Lipscomb. She did all the covers and chose some 20 photographic images from our region for the text of the book–adding a visual dimension to the poems. As a whole, this is probably the most beautiful book of my work that has been produced to date. I have Simone and my publisher in Kentucky, Wind Publications, to thank for that. I have to say that I’m very pleased with this book.

TR: From your list of publications to date you’ve written in almost every kind of genre, except fiction. Have you ever tried your hand at writing fiction?
TRC:Funny you should ask. (laughs)  I spent most of 2009 and 2010 writing and revising my first novel. Now, and for the last six months, I’ve been searching for an agent–which is proving to be every bit as daunting a task as was writing the book. The novel market has become very restricted and one cannot even hope to get one’s novel published with a large house these days without it being represented by an agent. But I digress … The novel I’ve just finished is titled Like Sweet Bells Jangled–which is something I’ve taken from Shakespeare and one of Ophelia’s soliloquies in Act III of Hamlet–and refers to the story line which is, essentially: “Romeo & Juliet set in a Shaker community in Kentucky in the mid-1800s.”

So, it’s a love story, but with a lot of 19th century Shaker and American history and a lot of literary references and nuances. It’s historical literary fiction …

Read the entire interview here on TuckReader.com

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