Lee Ann Brown: Poetic Inspirations behind "In The Laurels, Caught."



listen you're okay well the cover image of the book is um a double bow not drawing of a coverlet that's sort of one of the icons patterns of the book it's not a quilt it's a woven coverlet and this is a graph drawing pattern that I'm i was using a lot of the words the names for these coverlets that were that were sort of recovered in Western North Carolina it's part of the Western crafts revival movement and there's a lot about naming in this book so there's a fetish about these names of these different kind of coverlets you know there's all there's all these different names for the same pattern like muscadine hulls is also another name of this same pattern and it was they were collected by Frances Louisa Louisa Goodrich who was the great-granddaughter of Noah Webster you know so she was already a cataloger and I'm so there's that's one of the tropes that kind of comes neck yeah what can you give us an overview of the book and it's about the Appalachian region right ish yes it's part of a larger project called NC owed or North Carolina owed or in code there's another play on that word and this is the first book-length section of this longer project in the second section is crowns of Charlotte which is about the Piedmont in my hometown of Charlotte North Carolina mostly going to talk about this book today and it's in the laurels cut alludes to you know the laurels of course a Laurel country down there at the call rhododendron laurels because it's so tangled and they called it laurel hills it was like hell to get out of you couldn't escape if you were hiking up in the mountains back in the pioneer days you would just be caught there forever and a lot of people perish know just getting tangled in these laurel hills and I was thinking of it as the south like I started like how do I got to deal with my love-hate relationship with the South I moved up to New York to find the artists but I felt this pull and approached middle life and having a child's like what do I really want the inheritance thing came into play what is the idea of hone origin what is my relationship to the south so I thought I should do a case study of my home state there of course a lot of great models for that that I was thinking of like Charles Olson doing the mex his poems about Gloucester and eleni sick Liana's doing here California poem and just a lot of amazing work in that area like ed Sanders doing what he called the saturation job on a on a certain subject where you would obsess if we can't log things and then right out of that there's also a values I have values to do with form so i was i was searching for a form so it was try to figure out how to write about something and trying to find the form to do that and i was hoping to come across some wonderful you know stanza that would unfurl like some kind of Terrence arima or some kind of quatrain that would be like this great owed but I couldn't arrive at that I was still casting about for these various forms and I realized as I was actually I was writing notes for this that one way to think about the book is um the form i arrived at is there's a lot of various poetic forms across the top of the page some are like in stanzas summer free verse summer found poetry summer letter collage and pastiche overheard poetry framed as a poem then along the bottom of the page there's this river poem that manifested i call it river codex and so it's like it's almost like the landscape of this epaulet in place where i go near asheville it's marshall madison county theres a river that runs below the mountains and we're up on the mountains and the mountains are like the poems looking down like there's lots of different ridges they all look different you know all these different poem forms it's almost like the Blue Ridge manifesting in the book I like okay that's the form but basically I think I've been owed as a love poem and there's definitely a part of this you know I guess said the ambivalence about how to praise something not quite sure of and like why did I leave you know why did I what I'm I feel like I want to come back and every time when I go to North Carolina and I say I'm just gonna write about North Carolina that after having these dreams about New York City like in all the people that I ever met here comes to my coming into my dreams and how do I deal with all these you know you know different um you know subject matters right um what else do I want to say just it's also about the laurels it's also a metaphor like you know for Brer Rabbit saying like please don't throw me back in the briar patch it's like you know what you know I don't want to go back there but then you do like you want to get reattached to that culture and that grounding um did you feel like through the act of writing the book you came you arrived somewhere I like some other kind of understanding or yeah I think I um it's definitely a ritual motion that I've been through it I feel like more piece to fit in a way like I feel like I've written a book that I hope people in New York well like because I have these dichotomies I guess too much but like that has interesting avant-garde techniques and like you know beautiful language play which of course is southern as well but like that that some of them are very humorous is straight forward in a certain way that I didn't do in the past that I was hoping that my southern family would enjoy and that they would get you know it's like not to be too dichotomous about that but like one of my favorite stories is when I was going down there just the summer this woman I'm said she just she just like said she was reading it while she was getting a pedicure and she's just laughing and I just like I love that image of the southern lady reading my poetry book it just didn't didn't ever occurred to me before that would happen it is I don't know just there's a certain kind of acceptance that it was very gratifying but I don't know making peace with that with a lot of shadow texts and aspirations I was dealing with as I went through it um like Joe Brainard's I remember I was really trying to figure out how to write about my life I had it right about autobiography that's not just about me like how do I make a larger form I'm Adrian Kennedy's about people who led to my plays it was very inspiring to me with different people in her life and how they made her who she was um I have one other question for you like with um you're from that area so the language that you use in the book it's not something that you had to say research and catalog and content with that way does it dis an interesting case because I'm from Charlotte which is the mill estates or the big city and this is like a North the mountains are like this to me the represent this magical hideout place i used to go in my childhood for a few weeks out of the summer we get a church camp or like you know montreat this place in your Black Mountain College these you like to go for a few weeks out of the summer it was like this sort of magical nature place to go suddenly when I was older my husband I got a little cabin there to hide out you know actually after 911 happened to I was written bed sort of paralyzed with some kind of nerve thing about being stressed out about 911 and I'd read prodigal summer by barbara kingsolver I was like I've got to go to the mountains I've just gotta go but I couldn't totally divorce myself from my beloved New York City and I didn't want to but so I sort of had started this double life mhmmm would you be it just it's just not my um yes it's you know when I go up to the mountains I'm also writing as an outsider because I know the mount is very well was a different part of the mountains and as that this is a cut this is the place where you know they they say if I if a cat has a kitten in the oven you don't call them biscuits you know it's like it's like these kind of sayings is like you know these people there's a artists that have moved there in the 60s and there you know they move them in their 20s and 30s to get away and go up into the mountains and they still are known as newcomers you know it's like so like I'm like from a way yes I so it's like this weird doubleness of being from there and very familiar but it's also totally an outsider so and so did you mine outside resources and things is a lot of research that I that I wrote from it originally was going to write sort of poetry and then prose essays back and forth but they ended up being woven into the poetry right would you read a couple arms I'd love to is one of the earlier pieces I wrote in the book called double southern register here in the Appalachian the phrase I don't care gives consent form follows function form mirrors function the mace family chair is said to make the sitter quote forget about chairs meaning chairs are ruined for you once you've sat in one you can sit in no other up north it's forget about it forget about it after tasting tomatoes picked fresh from a heart garden and once wrote Tomatoes like warm bleeding hearts and keep it could eat no other after that ghosts like grocery store hothouse varietals did nothing for me but songs are made from a rarefied material language gives them a different nature an antique that cannot be constrained stroked or sold a coverlet that will not rot nor unravel I said actually read the very last poem in the book just to go to the short one of the short coverlet poems there's a longer coverlet honking look at that would take long time to read but um is it okay coverlet I'm glad for worship houses people build around the world but the garden is my church the woods my sanctuary to do a little dance on a screened-in porch while no one is looking in my own dimension each find her own motif a shady place ants filter and timed array a start and stop coverlet and I'm don't worry there's so many this is a kind of a strange when I haven't read out loud yet um it's a one of the last ones i added to the book when I was talk about that that dream life that kept erupting and trying to figure out what to do with that saying though what about me are these like nighttime messages like other sort of excess that comes up so it's called Browns dream which is also the name of an old-time song there's a lot of double meanings and a lot of these these languages I mean these terms like them like they just tell you one moment that was just it's in here of them I was watching us like a square dance kind of you know set of four couples doing the square dance it was a quilt pattern on the wall this stage and then they were playing this Appalachian music and it was all going around and it all became the sin aesthetic experience it's like it all sort of came together it's like the folk culture there is like the most wild avant-garde you know hallucinogenic stuff is just like all sort of um comes back around the other side like you're seen Harry Smith's Smithsonian poet poetry anthology that means a folk song anthology it alludes to that revolution in the sixties when everybody was listening to that um you know this folk music from the past and then making it a new so that that all these always ballad singers up there in the mountains and musicians that have this amazing culture that sort of revolving around still but this is called Browns dream just now there were these women or people telling me about the habit of bees to be collected they were massing around some flour and you must let them go afterwards to find their hive or queen we are on the very mountaintop and I'm afraid that they too are too far from the Queen to reunite there in a cup or stocking with their stingers sticking through the mesh they must be released the sooner the better or their powers will amass to sting breaking out of the container what does this have to do with the new kitten who wants affection so strongly she breaks down the door to get to us I woke with the phrase a habit like kissing or was it a habit such as kissing which turned into the kissing custom what does this have to do with the yellowjacket nest i asked michael redd foxx to destroy tomorrow or the artwork of the beehive collective i just received in p.o.box 13 what is the form of writing down a dream should this dream be in line breaks I must say it was extraordinary finding Alyssa talking about eating apples and honey in the different ways sweetness comes and into them before i drive home and the poet is ecstatic I said that poetry could go anywhere do anything even practice law she then said I am glad that is your mission dreams continue into the day seeing that miniature al the way home flash it's round golden eyes up at us from the road good thing I was going slow and then it flying and landing on a branch almost made up for the horrible thing that happened to the box turtle who's shell could not protect her from the wheel of a car on the road before us I am sorry to report that turtle meat is red is not a good way to end but let me just say one of the main aspects of the book is just seeing signs as poetry and I'll just leave you with a three word poem it was actually on a sign I saw driving down the road in Madison County just an angel food suspended thank you you

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