November 20, 2018

A poem from the North Carolina Music Issue.

My burnt body hangs crisscross over Carolina beach dunes below where 
family gathers children’s ringing sand splash toys tangled in teenage lust 
the skin consciousness potential of everyone eyeing one another 
in sunbursted bottoms there is nothing here but the bliss of this day 
& so I think on death hanging out over the Atlantic so many dead 

November 20, 2018

A feature essay from the North Carolina Music Issue. 

I wanted to start with the wild weeds and the creaking wood on the front porch, walking up to Nina Simone’s childhood home in Tryon, North Carolina. I wanted to start where she started, imagining her daddy playing jazz standards on the piano, her mama cooking something good and greasy in the cramped kitchen with siblings zooming around. I envisioned myself, like Alice Walker looking for Zora Neale Hurston’s unmarked grave, shouting Nina in the derelict home, hoping somehow she would appear, gloriously phantasmagoric, and answer all of my incessant probing questions.

September 04, 2018

A poem from the Fall 2018 issue.

The girl born at the edge 
                  of a copper-colored river 
returns, prefers her wrists 
                                                      cuffed 
                  by swift currents 
rather than caution-stilled 
                                  by the many sister-gazes.
September 04, 2018

A poem from the Fall 2018 issue.

Heading east on Route 6, 
A young couple scutters by 
On a motorbike. Harley, I think. 
On their way to the beach. I can 
See his feet are bare, resting inches 
From the muffler’s burning heat—oh 
The recklessness of young men 
That makes them so exciting 
To fuck, and sends them off 
To war, whistling and marching. 
September 04, 2018

A poem from the Fall 2018 issue.

None of this surprises you now, 
does it? I’m not sure I can know that, 
I responded to myself. 
Or I think I did. 
I should have. 

A friend told me to embrace 
my disorientation here, to attend 
to it and dwell in that state, make it 
a daily practice, like walking, 
like drinking coffee. 

October 15, 2018

A poem from the Fall 2018 issue.

It is such a tragedy, all this 
Working. The vacation 
I need is on your mark, 
Get set, go. It’s been years 
Since I’ve seen the light
October 08, 2018

Anne Spencer’s ecosystem of art and activism

As I read, I fell in love with Anne Spencer’s fierceness and wit. In some ways, she reminded me of my own grandmother—a voluble woman, gardener, and scrawler of notes on the back of lists. Finding Spencer’s scraps, I felt the same sort of matriarchal literary presence amid the dailiness of domestic life: glimpses of how an ambitious, literary-minded woman might manage a house.

March 05, 2013

A conversation with Miller Williams. 

I do believe that poetry is more satisfying when it has a pattern similar to those of songs. I wish that I could sing well, as I’m sure you know my daughter Lucinda does, and writes her own songs. Hank Williams (no kinship there) told me that since he often wrote his lyrics months before he set them to music, they spent those months as sort-of poems. I think the kinship is real.

June 12, 2018

Poems from the Summer 2018 issue.

How convenient when the brain
starts to glow.  You can help
an injured peacock out of the road
without being pecked to death.

March 13, 2018

An introduction to a previously unpublished James Dickey essay, from the 100th issue. 

In “The Kingdom of the Other,” an essay adapted from a manuscript titled “Under the Social Surface,” written in the 1950s, Dickey says that our written words, meaning our take on everything from abstractions to the glint of a new pocketknife’s blade, are formed from our memories, those shape-shifting resources that turn into people and forests, train stations and the ruminations of characters. (I was very young—twenty-one—when I took Dickey’s class, and I needed to hear that something inside me could be fascinating to a reader.)