While it is difficult to write objectively yet critically about someone whom you know personally or about a book whose subject matter and/or authors are familiar, sometimes necessity is more than the mother of invention and you have to do things you normally or ethically wouldn’t do. Such is the case for me in writing a review about the recent publication Jonathan Williams: The Lord of Orchards about the life and legacy of the poet-publisher Jonathan William, whom I knew and was a relative neighbor of mine who lived just up the mountain from my home in Tuckasegee, on Scaly Mountain near the town of Highlands.
Editor’s note: This Back Then column by George Ellison first appeared in the Feb. 15, 2012, edition of The Smoky Mountain News.
Olive Tilford Dargan is fairly well known in literary circles as the author of From My Highest Hill (1941), a delightful collection of autobiographical stories set in Swain County, originally published as Highland Annals in 1925. But she is also one of the finest poets the Smokies region has as yet produced.
He is a welcomed voice of reason in a planet seemingly gone mad.
For the last four decades, Henry Rollins has remained a thorn in the side of pop culture and world politics. Though he remains elusive in definition, he’s accessible to those in need of some truth in an era where the battle of appearance versus reality is hitting a crucial tipping point.
If the saying “timing is everything” is true, then John Lane’s new collection of poems by Mercer University Press is right on time.
In his Preface to Love Songs For A Country Lane, country music icon Chris Gantry writes: “Grant King was a thoughtful dreamer, a ponderer, like the statue of The Thinker. Now here he is a zillion light years later, still the dreamer with a love for the process that’s never left him, an elder statesman of the world with a collection of his poetry and poetic songs.”
It was immediately familiar.
Stepping into the Canton Middle School last Friday morning, the sights, sounds and smells of the building transported my mind back to when I was 13 years old some two decades ago. There was the sights of teachers and administrators meandering up and down long corridors, sounds of young teenage boys and girls playfully teasing and laughing with each other, smells of an old gymnasium and predictable cafeteria food.
Recently, I attended “Coffee With the Poets” at City Lights Bookstore and heard the poet, Newton Smith, read and discuss his new collection, Camino Poems: Reflections on the Way. Smith told his audience that he and his wife, June, had completed the famous 500-mile pilgrimage which runs from the village of St. Jean-Ped-Port in France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
One moment, please. To ward off the brickbats, cudgels, stones, dirt clods, and rotten tomatoes sure to come my way, I must clap on my armor: breastplate and plackart, gorget and pauldrons, greaves, fan plates, visored helmet, and other bits and pieces of metal protection.
One day recently as I was walking through the parking lot at Waynesville Middle School, a car slowly pulled up beside me. I turned, and when the driver rolled down his window, I saw that it was an elderly gentleman in a World War II uniform.
He got to me before I could get to him.
Turning into the large parking lot of the Canton Ingles last week, Paul Willis was already stepping out of his car to greet me. At 95, he’s as spry and vibrant as someone a third of his age. And before I could exit my vehicle and properly introduce myself, Willis had his hand extended into my open window.