Monday, June 5, 2017

Kathryn Stripling Byer 1944-2017

Kathryn Stripling Byer, first woman to be named North Carolina poet laureate, died peacefully this afternoon after a struggle with cancer. Her friends have kept vigil on her Facebook page by posting favorites of her beautiful poems. 

Kay was been a tireless advocate for the arts and for social justice and she worked to bring poetry -- the reading and the writing of it -- into the schools.

I met Kay some years ago when we were both teaching at a writing retreat and was instantly drawn to her, partly because we seemed to share a love/hate relationship with our Southern upbringing and a delight in our adopted home in the mountains of North Carolina. 

 For several years we followed and commented on each other's blogs and Kay reawakened my love of poetry as she shared her own beautiful, sly, singing verse, as well as that of other poets. 

 Her generosity as a friend and a teacher is legendary and her going -- too soon -- leaves an empty space in the hearts of those who were privileged to have known her.

But we have her beautiful poetry . . . Read this following poem aloud and imagine Kay's wonderful smile lighting up the room and her body swaying to the music of the words.

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 were 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?

                                                    Kathryn Stripling Byer

Into the Light, dear Kay.


Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

What a beautiful poem. And what an inspiring reminder that when one has lived fully and poured out one's soul in writing, the writing lives on afterward.

Stella Jones said...

How lovely to be able to leave such treasures behind when you leave. When the curtain closes the light of her poems will still come shiining through.

Barbara Rogers said...

This is a lovely tribute to a talented women. Because friends are posting her work, I checked her web site/FB page, and enjoyed reading some of her work. Your last photo is certainly moving, and you've mastered some kind of photography that makes me awestruck.

NCmountainwoman said...

I have loved her poems and admired her so much. How wonderful that you got to know her in person. She left a wonderful legacy.

Bernie said...

Tears in my eyes, sorry for the loss of your friend, also sorry for America's loss. She has left all with such a beautiful legacy. xx

Glenda Beall said...

A beautiful tribute, Vicki, and I just watched a video of Kay reading this poem. For those who don't know her work, go to YouTube and type in her full name. Quite a few videos of her giving readings are found there,. My favorite is the one at St. Francis college. We have lost a dear friend not only to us personally, but a friend to many.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful poem--beautiful, loving creative--Kay!

Jime said...

Thank you Vicki for introducing Ms Byer to me. What a lovely poem of life movement and light. Also what fine photography. You certainly nailed full the dynamic range of light.

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting this.