Tuckasegee poet Thomas Crowe won the George Scarborough Prize for Poetry during the recent Mountain Heritage Literary Festival at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn.
The winning poem was “Here With Who-Shot-John.” Judge Maurice Manning has this to say about the poem: “I love the language and the music of this poem; it’s funny and searching at once. As an ars poetica, it puts me in mind of similar poems by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.”
Crowe’s poem was selected from a small group of poems that Manning said paid careful attention to craft.
“This is a real honor, coming from a regional festival that honors those poets living in and being inspired by these Southern Appalachian mountains,” said Crowe. “And further that it is in the name of one of our region’s most accomplished poets, George Scarborough. I am especially gratified that my poem ‘Here With Who-Shot-John’ was the poem selected as the winner of this year’s prize, as it is a poem dense with what Jim Wayne Miller called ‘Southern Mountain Speech’ — referring to the dialect that is spoken here by longtime European native/immigrants. Was a bit of good luck, I think, that Maurice Manning, as someone who understands the musicality and metaphorical implications of our mountain language, was the judge for this year’s award, as he clearly understood what I was doing in this poem. I am honored to have received this award and will take great pride in this.”
Crowe is the author of 13 volumes of original poems, including most recently his collection of place-based poems Crack Light with photos by photographer Simone Lipscomb. His Thoreau-like nature memoir Zoro’s Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods has won several awards and has just been translated and published in France by Phebus Books based in Paris. Crowe is also the publisher of New Native Press, a small literary press focusing on the publication of poetry and translations of endangered languages around the world.
HERE WITH WHO-SHOT-JOHN*
for Jim Wayne Miller
Come here where the nary and the never minds
don’t give a shuck or a jive
‘bout the bees in the branch or
the billies in the blind that
come clear, come hell or high water
and dabble down at the spring house
where the ducks lay their eggs
and I write.
Here where the burnt-out dog lies
on the porch bull-raggin’ the bugs
til he is bit and bawls like a lunk-head
and lopes down the yard and
through the garden greens and taters
til he is out of sight.
Here where the beauty of the hills
holds sway over my pricey thoughts and
my puny pen makin’ its way across paper
like it was a goat in the grass
goin’ nigh into the new ground that
we cleared this week for more hay.
Here where the night in my noggin
names notions that no furriner ever knew
and no gabby gal ever let slip from
her sweet tongue that wouldn’t melt butter
or swaller no shine.
Here in this creekbed of moonlight whar
a wetrock won’t even sharpen my words,
woozy and wrangled from Who-Shot-John
and I wrastle with the devil in the winder
like an old windbag
who is pert-nigh petered out
and wild outen his eyes.
*colloquialism of Southern Mountain Speech for “moonshine”