Interview: Laura Hope-Gill on Soul Tree Solstice

Soul Tree Solstice

Laura Hope-Gill is a poet, teacher and author of Look Up Asheville: An Architectural Journey and Look Up Asheville II. She is a NCArts Fellow, founding director of Asheville Wordfest and Coordinator of M.A. in Writing Program at Lenoir-Rhyne University Center for Graduate Studies in Asheville. Laura was named the first poet laureate of the Blue Ridge Parkway following the publication of The Soul Tree: Poems and Photographs of the Southern Appalachians. On December 20th she will perform selections from The Soul Tree with musicians at the “Living Room” above the Asheville Visitors Center at 36 Montford at 7 p.m. There is a $10.00/sliding scale admissions cost. Laura graciously agreed to a short interview regarding the book The Soul Tree and the event Thursday night, Soul Tree Solstice.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

You recently wrote on Facebook that The Soul Tree poems “were the poems I had been preparing (… being prepared?) to write since I first fell in love with the music of language as a child…” If you would, please explain that statement and then tell how they developed into the book The Soul Tree.

Laura Hope-Gill

I view the Soul Tree poems as a miracle in my life. They were the “finishing touch” on a years-long journey to understand something. That something has its stirrings in my childhood. I was a very nature-bound child. I could sit for hours out there just watching, absorbing the air, the sounds, the presences of animals. These poems took me back to that, only it was with the knowledge of what felt like all I’ve read and learned and wondered about since that time. I felt all that wonder we can hold as children but lose as we grow older. Somehow the music of language opened it up in me again. What a gift.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

The Soul Tree poems were (still are?) healing and transformative for you. Explain that process and how these poems have grown you (or are continuing growing you).

Laura Hope-Gill

Still, when I read them, they take me back to that space of awe and wonder. They unjade me, and they bring me back to nature, back to my soul, and that’s where all the medicine is. They grow me because we don’t live in a world where we can walk around with that wonder and awe, that innocence and still work at the good we need to bring into the world. We need to shelve our innocence. We can’t check out and still be effective. What we can do is catch a glimpse from time to time of our divine state, that nascence. I think that’s our awe, the way we feel when a view of the mountains takes our breath away, when something deep inside us connects with something deep inside the earth. It’s a sort of recognition. Writing the poems was a submersion in that recognition. It taught me a lot, much of which I’m still learning to hear when I read them.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

The upcoming Soul Tree Solstice event on December 20th will be the second time that you and Doug and Darcy Orr will perform together. Share about the first time you preformed with them and what people might expect of the upcoming event.

Laura Hope-Gill

Doug and Darcy have invited Joe and Karen Holbert to perform in their place due to a family sadness. We do have plans to continue collaborating, the five of us. A mutual friend gave Doug a copy of The Soul Tree a few years ago. He has since given it to his friends. Recently, he forwarded a note one of these friends had sent to him, thanking him for the book. I was so moved. Also, at that time, I had just given a reading at Lenoir-Rhyne University, and I realized while reading that I was finally “ready” to collaborate musically. I remembered playing with Doug and Darcy in a circle on the grounds of Warren Wilson College at Swannanoa Gathering. That night I was supposed to read on stage with Doug but due to some motherhood scheduling problems I arrived late. We ended up reading and playing together much later, in a much less intentional setting, and there was a magic to it. It was like the poems were home. It’s taken some time, though, for me to be able to read the poems whole. I mean I could get up in front of people and say them, but I was afraid to embody them, because they hold stuff that’s enormous to me. I have long believed that poet has a responsibility when performing to hold the audience in a safe place. The poet has to be solid, to be strong. I can do that with poems written in a voice people are more accustomed to. But the Soul Tree poems had their own voice, something more core. Maybe they were a promise of what I would one day be able to hold. Maybe they were a challenge inviting me to grow into them, that when I did I would be fully standing in myself. I can do that now,and I can read the poems. And I’m thrilled to read them with this extraordinary group of musicians.

Interview: Emöke B’Racz on Remember Me as a Time of Day

Remember Me Event

Emöke B’Racz, born in Budapest, Hungary, is a poet, translator, and owner of Malaprop’s Bookstore. She is the author of poetry books Raising Voices and Every Tree is the Forest and translator of collected poems by exile Katalin Ladik Stories of the Seven-Headed Sewing Machine. Her work is published in New York Quarterly, Asheville Poetry ReviewInternational Poetry Review, and many others.

The Women on Words poetry anthology Remember Me as a Time of Day was compiled by Emöke and will be featured this Sunday, December 16th at 5pm. The poetry reading features the Women on Words poets Alicia Valbuena, Barbara Gravelle, Eileen Walkenstein, Emoke B’Racz, Genie Joiner, Maryann Jennings, Nancy Sanders, Patricia Harvey, Piri B’Racz Gibson, Sena Rippel, Virginia Haynes Redfield, and Zoe Durga Harber.

Emöke took time out of her busy schedule for a brief interview about Remember Me as a Time of Day.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

First, share a short history of the group Women of Words.

Emöke B’Racz

Women on Words has been in existence practically since I opened the doors to Malaprop’s. The poetry selection in th store was more international then American because I was more familiar with poets from EU, but as time went by I learned. Women on Words was formalized about ten years ago or so. There has always been a performance group or a poetry writing group.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

As an anthology celebrating the 30th year anniversary of Malaprop’s, what can readers and poetry lovers who are not from the local region learn from Remember Me as a Time of Day?

Emöke B’Racz

Readers of the anthology Remember Me as a Time of Day will learn that the local poets’ voices are universal that poetry is within geography but borderless. It is also a nice mix of voices that support the body of the work as presented.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

Finally, I recall a verse from Alicia Valbuena, “this poem is why I can’t sleep at night why I can’t lay my head/to rest…” It reminds me of T.S. Eliot’s line “Do I dare Disturb the universe?” How might readers be affected after reading Remember Me as a Time of Day?

Emöke B’Racz

A feeling of joy and sorrow that is the essence of life and balances our soul’ s path into ourselves. A stronger self at that.

Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry)

“Christmas Night,” a limited edition woodblock print/greeting card

It is so difficult for me to locate well-written Advent poems. A couple years ago I began collecting and posting some of my favorites. The list includes some well known poets as well as some lesser known individuals. As a way to celebrate the season, I offer the 12 days of Christmas poetry:

  1. December 14 - “Annunciation” by Denise Levertov
  2. December 15, Third Sunday of Advent  “Advent Calendar” by Rowan Williams
  3. December 16 - “Advent” by Donald Hall
  4. December 17 - “Mosaic of the Nativity (Serbia, Winter 1993)” by Jane Kenyon
  5. December 18 - “The God We Hardly Knew” by Óscar Romero
  6. December 19 – “The House of Christmas” by GK Chesterton
  7. December 20 - “Into The Darkest Hour” by Madeleine L’Engle
  8. December 21 - “The Winter Is Cold, Is Cold” by Madeleine L’Engle
  9. December 22, Fourth Sunday of Advent - “Nativity” by John Donne
  10. December 23 - “A Christmas Carol” by Christina Georgina Rossetti
  11. December 24 - “Mighty Mercy” by John Piper
  12. December 25 - “For Christmas Day” by Charles Wesley

Hope you enjoy the list. Let me know of Advent poems that are not listed here.

Interview: Barbie Angell on Roasting Questions

Roasting Questions Flyer

Barbie Angell is Asheville’s “poetess extraordinaire.” She has performed her poetry before audiences at bars, coffee shops and this Friday she’ll be at The Hop West promoting her new book Roasting Questions, a collection of children’s poems. The Hop West book release event is free and runs from 7 – 9 p.m. Visit Barbie’s web site for more details or visit The Hop West for directions.

Her previous self-published volumes of poetry have sold over 500 copies, according to her publisher, and she has earned a loyal audience from people who don’t know they like poetry to celebrated artists like Rosanne Cash and David LaMotte. Barbie kindly agreed to an interview to discuss the release of her first book Roasting Questions.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

For those who don’t know a thing about you, tell a little about yourself and how you came to poetry.

Barbie Angell

As a child, I loved reading Shel Silverstein. I was sick a lot & often alone and Shel’s poetry really grabs hold of loneliness and pushes the reader into a new world with quite tilted perspectives. My first Christmas in Mooseheart, a sort of orphanage, I was given a diary. Knowing I didn’t have the privacy required to keep an actual diary, I chose to hide my thoughts in poems. When I was in college I realized that, while poets didn’t appreciate my rhyming style, people who didn’t normally go to poetry events really loved my work. I was able to tap into an entirely new audience who had previously been ignored. In 1997 I was offered a children’s poetry gig which paid $75 for a half hour of performing. I didn’t write children’s poetry, but I needed the money, so I chose some of my rhyming pieces that were G-rated and the event was so successful that they gave me the job the next 2 years.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

Roasting Questions has been in the works for a little more than a year. Tell how the Roasting Questions developed as a collection of poems for children of all ages.

Barbie Angell

The book has changed a great deal since its inception. Originally it was going to have poems with blank sections for the children to draw a picture and also pictures with blank sections to write a poem. I still plan to do that book, most likely as a black and white supplemental to Roasting Questions. The pieces that ended up in this book were all given final approval by my seven year-old son. About half of them are also ones which I perform when I do bar shows and get the same incredible response from adults as they do at my children’s performances.

I’m unbelievably proud of Roasting Questions. Laura Hope-Gill assisted in the editing of the pieces and Michele Scheve and I brainstormed about the layout. With each “problem” that arose, I ended up finding a solution that made the book even more rich and quirky. Those two ladies from Grateful Steps Publishing House taught me a great deal and because of them the book is everything I could have hoped for.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

This is your first published book. Years from now, and hopefully many published books down the road, when you look back at Roasting Questions what do you hope readers will remember as the enduring idea of the book?

Barbie Angell

I absolutely hope you’re right and that this is the first of many books. The main philosophies behind Roasting Questions are fairly simple. I try to speak to the reader the way that Shel did, not over their heads or talking down to them, but speaking directly to them. Letting them know that we are all confused at times, all struggling with who we are and who we want to be. In the end, even though we’re all different, we want to connect with each other and be the best “us” we can be.

Anatomy of a children’s book

Updated - Anatomy of a Children's Book

Updated – Anatomy of a Children’s Book

UPDATE: A new image of the anatomy of a children’s book replaced the smartphone photo.

This crude sketch was quite popular at a recent meet-up of illustrators and comic book artists. Basically, the topic of children’s books came up and I got the impression that the idea of creating a children’s book was intimidating to artists. As well it should be. But it is not a path of labyrinthian impossibility. The big question is how to do it.

So, to encourage these artists, I showed them this dissection of a children’s book: 22 illustrations (five spreads), 18 pages of text (51 lines to be specific) an 32 pages (including title pages, front matter and back matter), intro story and character on page four, intro dilemma on page 14, how to solve problem (pages 15 to 23), problem solved on page 24 and resolution on page 28. It didn’t take long before a several artists were asking to take a photo of this anatomy of a children’s book with their smart phones.

Like all recipes, what you do with the ingredients (i.e. text, words and pages) is up to the artist and writer. And, like any good disclaimer, results do very.

Interview: Luke Hankins on Poems of Devotion

Poems of Devotion

Luke Hankins is Senior Editor at Asheville Poetry Review and the author of a collection of poems, Weak Devotions, a chapbook of translations of French poems by Stella Vinitchi Radulescu, I Was Afraid of Vowels…Their Paleness and editor of Poems of Devotion: An Anthology of Recent Poets. This Sunday, December 9 at 5 p.m., at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Luke will read selections from Poems of Devotion: An Anthology of Recent Poets along with other featured contributors: Malaika King Albrecht, Richard Chess, Morri Creech, Richard Jackson, Suzanne Underwood Rhodes, and Daniel Westover. Luke agreed to a quick interview to discuss the recently published Poems of Devotion.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

Tell me how the anthology, Poems of Devotion, developed from concept to final printed book.

Luke Hankins

In my final year of graduate school, I took an independent study course with the superb poet and teacher Maurice Manning, which essentially meant that I chose an academic/creative project and he offered input on and evaluation of it. I have had a strong interest in spiritual poetry for many years, so it was natural that I would choose a topic that reflected this passion. The essay I wrote for that class was an examination of a particular set of qualities that characterized many of my favorite spiritual poems, qualities which, in my mind, constituted a distinct mode of composition. The essay was an early form of what is now the introductory essay of the anthology, examining what I call the devotional mode in poetry. When I first wrote it, the idea of editing an anthology hadn’t occurred to me, but as I continued to revisit and revise the essay after graduate school, I felt increasingly that the compiling “poems of devotion” would make for a superb collection of poems. As an experiment, I began gathering poems that I would include in a theoretical anthology, and that’s when I began to feel a real impulse — a “call,” if you will — to bring these poems together in an anthology. I sent out a proposal to several publishers, and I eventually signed a contract with Wipf & Stock Publishers.

What followed was — well, let’s just say a year of very hard work! Gathering the poems I wanted to include was one aspect: reading widely, taking recommendations, spending long days in the library or in coffee shops with large stacks of books. But all of that, though difficult, was full of pleasure and felt deeply rewarding. The other aspect was obtaining — and paying for! — permission from copyright holders to reprint the poems. That process was often labyrinthine, frustrating, and, not least of all, expensive. But it was worth it. I’m very excited about the finished anthology, and am moved and challenged anew each time I read it. Truly.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

Maurice Manning is becoming one of my favorite living poets. At the public library, I discovered his book Bucolics and then had an opportunity to attend one of his lectures at Warren Wilson. But I digress. You beat me to the second question which is what did you learn most? Seems like the whole publishing side of the anthology was quite a classroom of experience. If you will, highlight one moment during that year long process that “felt deeply rewarding” for you.

Luke Hankins

I think approaching the copyright aspect of the anthology with a certain level of naivety in many instances worked to my advantage. People were more inclined to take mercy on me and my minuscule budget! But there were a few publishing houses who were absolutely unmovable, and I had to pay out my teeth, so to speak, to include poems I felt were necessary to the anthology. So I learned to rejoice in small mercies where they came, and to practice stoicism about what I saw as exorbitant pricing from some of the major publishing houses.

Regarding your second question, I wouldn’t want to try to single out one moment that felt rewarding. I’ll just say that the process of discovering poets I came to love, whose work I had never read or had only read cursorily, was one of the most rewarding aspects. Re-reading poets whose work has been very impactful for me was another aspect. Also, there was an overall sense of being blessed to be able to dedicate myself to an undertaking that felt like an important fulfillment of who I am. I felt that I was working with real purpose. I felt that I was doing what I was meant to do.

Coffeehouse Junkie Blog

One final question, what’s the biggest thing you hope readers take away from Poems of Devotion?

Luke Hankins

I hope that readers — whether religious or non-religious, theistic or non-theistic — come away with a conviction that the devotional mode is a powerful, ongoing, vital mode in literature. I believe in these poems and their ability to do just that.

How long does it take to write a haiku?

It is twilight. A meager meal of potatoes and cheese provides a father and his children sustenance. As they eat he tells them about a son who lived a long time ago in a far, distant land. He was the son of a samurai and is famously know for his poetry…. [read more]

UPDATE: This blog post is available as part of an audio podcast.

Listen here:

Or listen on:
PodOmatic: coffeehousejunkie.podomatic.com
SoundCloud: soundcloud.com/coffeehousejunkie

E-book: How long does it take to write a haiku?: and other stories

Purchase the e-book Kindle Edition for $0.99!

What do you think about when you see a stack of books? In this short collection of stories you will also learn what a creative director thinks of when he sees a stack of books. Who is the audience for your poems? Is possible to write in your sleep, or not?

Rebecca Baggett, Joseph Mills & Nan Watkins

Poetry, December 2, 2012

Poetrio, December 2, 2012, 3 P.M.

Join poets Rebecca Baggett, Joseph Mills, and Nan Watkins for Malaprop’s monthly reading series Poetrio, Sunday, December 2, 2012, 3:00 p.m.

From Malaprop’s Bookstore’s Virginia McKinley news release:

Rebecca Baggett…. earned a bachelor’s degree in classical languages at Salem College and is the author of two previous chapbook collections…. GOD PUTS ON THE BODY OF A DEER, the poetry collection Rebecca Baggett will present on December 2, won the 2010 Main Street Rag chapbook contest.  Sarah Gordon has this praise for GOD PUTS ON THE BODY OF A DEER: “Rebecca Baggett’s strong collection…. The voice in these lyrics is original, the imagery fresh and vital, the subject matter compelling….  Throughout these poems the poet emerges as a soul leaning, leaning toward the light.”

Joseph Mills has…. has published fiction, drama, and criticism, as well as four books of poetry from Press 53…. Poet Anthony S. Abbot offered this enthusiastic response to Joseph Mills’ most recent book: “SENDING CHRISTMAS CARDS TO HUCK & HAMLET… is one of the most original collections of poetry I have ever encountered — original because it treats the whole world of books, poems, stories, fairy tales not only as being somehow more real than reality itself but as our most important lifelines to reality itself. There is about this book a sense of everything happening for the first time, even those literary events that seem to happen over and over.  What a pleasure this book gives the reader.”

Nan Watkins is a writer, translator, and musician who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. She holds degrees in German from Oberlin College and Johns Hopkins University, with further study at the University of Munich and the Academy of Music in Vienna…. Nan Watkins’ DREAMWOOD is the first English translation of Traumkraut, the final (and posthumously published) poems of Yvan Goll (1891-1950).  Goll is considered one of the finest European poets of the twentieth century.  He was born in Alsace-Lorraine and was bilingual in French and German.  In addition to writing as a poet, he became known as a novelist, playwright, translator and publisher who produced collaborations with Chagall, Dali, Picasso, Leger, Weill, Joyce, and others. Among those he published during his exile years in New York were W.C. Williams, Breton, Patchen, and Henry Miller.  In New York he also published his own book in English, Fruit From Saturn.  Poet Neeli Cherkovski has written of DREAMWEED, “This collection not only brings forth… a great poet’s voice, but also stands as a remarkable achievement in the art of translation.”

Hope to see you there.

For more info, contact: Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, 55 Haywood Street, Asheville, NC 28801 (828) 254-6734

www.malaprops.com