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.

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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.

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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: 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.

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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.

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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.

Peace Is a Flower: A Night of Poetry and Music

Peace is a flower – poetry and music

Tomorrow, 8:30 p.m. join James McKay, Laura Hope-Gill, Caleb Beissert, Pasckie Pascua, and Aaron Price at Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, 1 Page Avenue, Asheville on SEPT 11, 8:30 to 11PM. This event is free to the public. Read poet and musician bios as well as other information on the Facebook events page. Link.

Asheville Wordfest – a reflection and a video

Asheville Wordfest – Reading at The Altamont Theatre, May 4, 2012

It was truly an honor to be invited to read a few poems at this year’s Asheville Wordfest. When I received the invitation I thought it was a mistake. So, I direct messaged the director using Twitter saying: “my twitter acct is wonky today. i received something from you re: wordfest… how can i help?” Previously, I had helped with audio during a previous Wordfest featuring the poet Li-young Lee. She direct messaged me on Twitter with a note of confirmation. So, I began selecting poems for the event.

Since I haven’t read my poetry publicly in more than a year, I was a bit anxious about the invitation to read at this year’s Wordfest. Last year was a busy year of readings at bookstores, [1] a literary salon, [2] and a featured guest at the Mountain Xpress poetry show. [3] Then employment for me became tricky and I endured the challenges of a transition to a new job, lay off, unemployment, and another job transition with a three-hour round trip commute. I kept writing new poems, but the new out-of-state job prevented me from participating in the active literary scene here in Asheville.

There were more than a hundred new poems I wrote last year to consider for the Asheville Wordfest poetry reading. I selected four or five new poems, but I didn’t feel confident enough in their craftsmanship to read publicly. One manuscript I have been developing for awhile had the strongest work that best fit this year’s Wordfest theme, “HOME: Place and Planet.” I started it when I took a writing workshop taught by Ashveille Wordfest Director, Laura Hope-Gill, a few years ago.

Two practices help me decide what poems to read. First, it is my practice to put a poetry manuscript in a presentation book with sheet protectors. That way pages don’t fall to the floor during a reading. You can usually purchase presentation books of that nature at office supply stores. I select a variety of poems on various subjects or themes. Further, it is my practice at an actual poetry reading featuring multiple poets to listen closely to the other poets. While the reading takes place, I select poems that speak to other poets’ work as a way to have a literary conversation. So, I brought four working manuscripts hoping that I might find a poem that might play off a poem read by Ronald Reginald King, DeWayne Barton, and Katherine Soniat.

As I walked to the podium after a very generous introduction by Laura Hope-Gill, I still hadn’t decided what poem would complete my reading. I knew the poem I would lead off with and I knew the one to follow, but the third and final poems I hadn’t quite decided. Improvisation is something I am developing in public readings, because each night the audience is different, with individual needs, interests and mood. A bar room poem might work in one setting and audience, but not work another night with a different audience. So, after I clumsily introduced myself, I knew by the time I finished reading the second poem where the narrative of the poem selection would lead. For better or worse, the reading was videocast and a recording is available. Here’s a link to the video [link here].

When I sat down next to my wife after completing my reading, I noticed a couple mentions on Twitter regarding the live videocast. One person [4] tweeted, “Goosebumps: poem dedicated to Jenny.”

NOTES: [1] As a member of the Rooftop Poets, I read with Barbara Gravelle and Brian Sneeden at Accent on Books in February. Barbara Gravelle and I read at the May 2011 Poetrio at Malaprop’s Bookstore & Café. That was my last public reading until last Friday night, May 4, 2012. [2] After a very successful book launch and poetry event, the Rooftop Poets presented Poet’s on the Roof: A Literary Salon. [3] The Mountain Xpress invited Brian Sneeden and myself to read on behalf of the Rooftop poets as featured poets at the 2011 Mountain Xpress Poetry Show [4] @anorawrites

Asheville Wordfest 2012 – poems that open conversations

It’s true. There is only one article I read from the pages of O: The Oprah Magazine. It is the interview between Maria Shriver and the poet Mary Oliver. [1] “I consider myself kind of a reporter. . .” Mary Oliver says. I think that’s the same sentiment Wordfest director Laura Hope-Gill expresses in this week’s Mountain Xpress article where she describes poetry as “citizens’ journalism.” [2]

“Poetry is a short line between different cultures,” says Laura Hope-Gill. “It can heal the cultural divides that still plague our city. It opens conversations that we need to have.”

The invitation to read my poems at this year’s poetry festival is something I don’t take lightly. I spent the last few nights reviewing poems I’ve written during the last year as well as poems composed during the last decade. The PR/marketing side of me wants to chose poems to read that promote a certain manuscript I’m developing or maybe only read published poems. It’s a promotional game poets play when they read their work publicly. They casually mention that “the next poem I’m going to read was published in the Atlantic Monthly…” or the American Poetry Review or some other notable journal as away to promote their ascendancy of poet extraordinaire.

But my thoughts returned to the idea Laura mentioned in the Mountain Xpress article. I looked through pages of my poems last night searching for material that addresses the idea of healing cultural divides or opening conversations. Selecting poems that fit the general theme presented a bit of a challenge, but there are subtle threads of those ideas in several of the poems I’ve written during the last few years.

Tonight, however, I’ll put aside the task of poem selection and venture to the Vanuatu Kava Bar for Poem-ing the 28801 [3] featuring Barbie Angell, Ten Cent Poetry, Jonathan Santos and Jadwiga McKay.

NOTES: [1] Dear Oprah, you stole my idea, but I’m not filing charges [2] A short line between different cultures [3] Wordfest 2012: Poem-ing the 28801

It’s here… Asheville Wordfest 2012 begins tomorrow

“It’s a good time to come together at the table of poetry,” says Laura Hope-Gill, the director of Asheville Wordfest, in a recent article in the Asheville Citizen-Times.[1] I’m very excited to be part of the local Asheville poets who will be reading during the festival. I’m also excited to listen to the guest poets attending this year’s poetry festival. Some of the guests include Arthur Sze [2] (author of The Ginkgo LightArchipelago and other books) and Matthew Shenoda (author of Somewhere Else and Seasons of Lotus, Seasons of Bone of which A. Van Jordan writes, the poet “uses a quiet language to bring some of the most striking lyrical intensity.”).[3]

This year’s Wordfest includes a memorial reading for poet Carol Novack. On a rainy evening last summer at the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar was the last time I saw her. She was with friends and admirers reading selections from Giraffes in Hiding.

This morning I received an email from the director of Asheville Wordfest with the official schedule for the Asheville Wordfest 2012. It is listed below for those who have not received the schedule:

Wednesday

• 9-11 p.m.

Open mic hosted by Caleb Beissert. Vanuatu Kava Bar, 15 Eagle St.

Thursday


• 7 p.m. “Poem-ing the 28801,”

with Barbie Angell, Ten Cent Poetry, Jonathan Santos and Jadwiga McKay at Vanuatu Kava Bar.

Friday

• Noon, informational luncheon with Lenoir Rhyne University graduate studies program director Paul Knott, who will talk about the Masters in Writing program. Chamber of Commerce building, 2nd floor, 36 Montford Ave. RSVP required to Sara Landry at 258-6136 or Sara.Landry@lr.edu.

• 5-7 p.m., MadHat Reception honoring Carol Novack. Refreshments.

• 7 p.m. “Voices of the City,”

Katherine Soniat, DeWayne Barton, Ronald Reginald King, Matt Mulder, Ekua Adisa and Roberto Hess.

• 9 p.m. “An Evening of Translation,”

with Erik Bendix, Caleb Beissert, Thomas Rain Crowe, Nan Watkins and Luke Hankins.

Saturday


 • 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., “The Poets of Press 53,”

with Terri Kirby Erickson, Joseph Mills and Kathryn Kirkpatrick.

• 1-2 p.m. The Carol Novack Memorial Reading,

with Terese Svoboda, Marc Vincenz and Jeff Davis, Asheville Wordfest co-founder and host of Wordplay.

• 3 p.m. “Fixing to Tell About Jack,”

a celebration and benefit for Ray and Rosa Hicks Fund, featuring storytellers Sheila Kay Adams, Gwenda Ledbetter, Vixi Jil Glen, David Novak, Connie Regan-Blake and Ted Hicks. $12; additional donations welcomed.

• 5:30-6:30 p.m.The Poets of the Asheville-Buncombe County Schools Poetry Slam.

• 7-9 p.m. “Our Honored Guests,”

with Sara Day Evans, LeAnne Howe, Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, Arthur Sze and Matthew Shenoda

• 10 p.m. until late. “Late Night Open Mic.”

Sunday

• 10:30-11:30 p.m. “Children’s Poetry and Children’s Poems,” hosted by Barbie Angell..

• Noon-1 p.m. “Morning of Spirit,” with Tracey Schmidt and James Davis of Logosophia Books, Michael Ivey on guitar and Matthew Cox from Shantavaani on tablas and hand drums. An open mic will invite people to share their own spiritual poems.

• 1:30-2:30 p.m. “Voices of the City,” with April Fox, Eric Steineger, Lisa Sarasohn and Meta Commerce.

• 3 p.m., “Poetrio,” with Maureen Sherbody, Mark DeFoe and Jessie Carty. Malaprops Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St.

• 5 p.m. until whenever, “Poetic Wine-Down,” Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, Grove Arcade.[4]

NOTES: [1] “Asheville Wordfest celebrates poetry of all stripes, May 2-6” [2] The Poetry Foundations bio of Arthur Sze [3] Matthew Shenoda’s web site [4] Asheville Wordfest 2012

Asheville Wordfest Kickstarter campaign begins

Mark Doty, Asheville Wordfest 2010

The Asheville Wordfest Director, Laura Hope-Gill, announced last weekend that the Asheville Wordfest 2012 began a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the poetry festival. Wordfest celebrates its fifth year of providing a space for poets of various cultures and contexts to share their work with enthusiastic supporters of poetry.

This year’s poetry festival features many local poetry luminaries as well as notable national and international poets. Various events are scheduled at the Grateful Steps Foundation Bookshop, the Altamont Theater and other locations in Asheville, NC  between May 2-6, 2012.

Here’s an excerpt from an e-newsletter that was sent last Friday night regarding the Asheville Wordfest 2012 Kickstarter campaign:

Please kindly help Wordfest by donating to the Kickstarter campaign through Poetry Month: Asheville Wordfest 2012 Kickstarter campaign.

Asheville Wordfest 2012: HOME: Place and Planet takes place from Wednesday May 2 through Saturday May 5, 2012. North Carolina Humanities Council generously funds the festival in part, and we need your help to really bring it to life.

Along with our stellar guest poets, Wordfest 2012 aims to present as many local voices as is possible within the scope of a few days. Because our local voices resonate with the global whole, we welcome the following guest poets: Choctaw scholar, author and poet LeAnne Howe, Guggenheim and NEA Fellow Arthur Sze; Egyptian-American poet Matthew Shenoda; American Book Award Winner Allison Adelle Hedge Coke of Cherokee and Huron Nations. Learn about these stellar poets at www.ashevillewordfest.com. Thank you for your help in promoting multiculturalism and community through poetry.

Book Launch for Look Up Asheville Collection II

Look Up Asheville II by Michael Oppenheim and Laura Hope-Gill

Tonight at 6:30 p.m. the Look Up Asheville II book launch begins at the Battery Park Champagne Bar/Book Exchange. Join the festivities for the launch of Look Up Asheville II featuring photography by Michael Oppenheim and essays by Laura Hope-Gill. Poet Robert Morgan writes: “Look Up Asheville II takes us into the heart of the city’s diverse and colorful history, scene of its current flourishing culture.”

From the event invitation: “Look Up Asheville II features more architectural details captured by local photographer, Michael Oppenheim, accompanied by historical essays by Laura Hope-Gill, with a Foreword by premier author and poet Robert Morgan (Gap Creek, Lions of the West, Terroir). Designed by Michele Scheve, Look Up Asheville II does more than inform readers and viewers of the architectural, social and creative history of Asheville; it celebrates all these with stories and luminous images. The new book contains Asheville’s grand Bed and Breakfasts and more of the exquisitely built churches, inns, museums and downtown treasures.”

Poetry at the Altamont

Poet Laura Hope-Gill

Tonight from 7:00 p.m. until 8:30 p.m., Poetry at the Altamont continues with this month’s featured poet, Laura Hope-Gill.

It’s been awhile since I visited the The Altamont Theatre. I believe it was during last year’s Wordfest. It’s a gorgeous setting to hear poets read their work. I’m looking forward to tonight’s event.

Here’s more details about the event Poetry at the Altamont from their Facebook invite page:

Poetry at the Altamont is a reading series for poets and poetry lovers commencing on the third Monday of each month at seven o’clock in the evening at The Altamont Theatre in downtown Asheville. The event consists of a reading by the feature poet followed by an open microphone, for which readers may sign up and recite one or two short pieces. During the open portion of the event, we encourage new voices and accomplished poets alike to share what they have been working on, a space where writers have the opportunity to try out new works in front of an audience on a regular basis. Please join us for consistent, fine poetry in a setting that is equally fine.

Hosted by Jeff Davis and Laura Hope-Gill
Produced by Caleb Beissert and Aaron Price

$5 at door
Beer and wine served

(link)

Big week for poetry shows in Asheville

Poetry at The Altamont

Today at 7:00 p.m. Poetry at The Altamont is a NEW monthly series. Hosted by Laura Hope-Gill and Jeff Davis. $5 Cash at the door. The event consists of a full reading by a featured published poet followed by an open mic for new voices and accomplished poets alike.

Open Mic at the Vanuatu Kava Bar

Every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. Hosted by poet and translator, Caleb Beissert. Poetry, comedy, spoken word and music. This is a poetry open mic, but we welcome all forms of artistic self expression.

Barbie Angell’s Bar Poetry Show & Benefit.

Saturday, February 25, 2012, 8:00 p.m. at Tressa’s Downtown Jazz and Blues. Event features Asheville Poet, Barbie Angell performing her charming, audacious “bar poetry” with special guest Asheville singer/songwriter Chelsea LaBate, known as Ten Cent Poetry. The evening is a benefit performance for Grateful Steps Foundation, a local nonprofit publishing house, bookshop and community space.