Wednesday, May 14, 2014

DESCENT -- Kathryn Stripling Byer

The latest collection of poems from North Carolina's past Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer is a delight to savor.  Rather than go on at length about the luminosity and emotional impact of her verse, not to mention its sly wit, I'm going to give you a sample (with Kay's kind permission.) 

These two excerpts hint at the struggle some of us Southerners of a certain age still have in coming to terms with our beautiful/terrible/flawed heritage.

from Gone Again
. . . 
after sixty-two years, Scarlett makes me feel
tired -- all those hours I wasted, enraptured
by someone whose skin was sheer
celluloid, whose voice, when the reel came
loose, gibbered like mine when I tried
to pretend I lived just down the road
from that movie set, cotton fields painted
on canvas, the loyal slaves hoisting
up sacks full of nothing
but chaff for the wind, that old
Hollywood hack, to keep blowing away.

from Shadow Sister
. . .
Sometimes I still want what you want,
The keys to a red-hot convertible,
top down, and who the hell cares
if a hard rain comes,
we're headed north, east,
west, we are out of here, girl.
. . . 

I had the devil of a time deciding which complete poem to share here, but this one is just perfect for mid-May.

Big Tease

Little by little, the earth sheds
 her veils. Lets her white blossoms 
tremble. The river shakes out her blue

shimmy and scrubs it to smithereens
over the singing rocks, leaving her
sunny side up, such a tease
that I sway to her music

as if I am Salome's sister,
and not an old woman who knows
that the inkblot of sky on this page
of my daybook will soon begin fading,

because how can anyone, even Great
Grandaddy Death stay asleep
amid so much awakening?

 If you want more, look for Descent HERE.

(I think that the lovely picture of KSB was taken by her daughter.)



katy gilmore said...

A Poet Laureate to be proud of - I loved these words. Thanks Vicki!

Brian Miller said...

nice poems....i have a few of her books i picked up at the used bookstore here....have not read this one...

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

What a lovely start of the psyche is humming now!

Frances said...

Thank you for the intro to Kathryn Stripling Byer. I'd not previously been aware of her poetry, but oh my, I do recognize what she has written about.


NCmountainwoman said...

Beautiful, lyrical, and true.

glenda beall said...

Kay's poetry would be among my favs even if she were not my dear friend.
She truly lives and breathes poetry.

Carol Crump Bryner said...

And you gave us a big and enticing tease with these poetic selections. As a New Englander, I've always been fascinated with the south, so I enjoyed Kathryn's take on what it's like to BE from there. Thanks for introducing her to us, Vicki.