Poetry Takes Centerstage at The Country Bookshop
By Kimberly Daniels
Special to The Pilot
The Country Bookshop will be hosting authors Anthony "Tony" Abbott and Stephen Smith for a poetry reading at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 23.
The reading follows the Saturday meeting of the North Carolina Poets Society at Weymouth, of which Abbott is acting president.
Abbott, the Charles A. Dana Professor Emeritus of English at Davidson College, will read from "New & Selected Poems 1989-2009." This collection includes poetry from the four volumes he has published, including the Pulitzer Prize-nominated "The Girl in the Yellow Raincoat." He received the Novello Prize for "Leaving Maggie Hope," one of his two novels.
Stephen Smith is an award-winning writer for The Pilot and PineStraw. He will read from his recently published "A Short Report on the Fire at Woolworths: Selected New and Old Poems." This is his seventh book of poetry and prose.
"These two North Carolina poets will read from their bodies of work and should present an insightful contrast and comparison in subject and delivery," says a spokesman for the bookshop.
Anthony Abbott, the former head of the English department at Davidson, divides "New and Selected Poems 1989 to 2009" into selections from each of his four books of poetry.
His poems present a wide verity of style and substance. Although many of the poems deal with the loss of his many family -members, religion, nature and the process of grief, some poems such as "Growing Up" or "My Dog, the lover" capture the whimsy of children and pets.
Abbott explores a deep understanding of specific emotions. He describes love in "The Beginning." In "Mary's Dream," "Not Wisely But Too Well" and "A Small thing like a Breath," he presents the intensity of feeling possible when a child is born, coupled with the -connection and continuity of feeling between a parent and child.
Abbott's central focus in the collection is finding continuity within loss. This continuity is exemplified through connection seasonal consistency, continuation of conversations ("Out of Mourning") and the ability of nature to connect a person to both others and God.
Abbott examines the struggle to find the space to grieve in "Before Forty":
Then the crack up, the spinning edgeward of the top on the kitchen table and the Humpty Dumpty business of trying to make a jewel of the cracked pieces of the heart.
So you want a happy ending? I don't know
much about that. I cry a lot these days.
Not for broken shoelaces or spilled beer,
but for Bach and the Beatles and for beauty where I find it. I sleep later,
dream more, and write stuff like this."
The musings of the grieving process bring the reader to accompany the speaker in his mourning.
Stephen Smith's collection of poetry is divided into two distinct types of poetry. The poetry in part one, "A Short Report on the Fire at Woolworths," describes events in multiple perspectives, creating layers of observations that reveal a central meaning or description.
The poems layer one event though two or three generations of emotion. For example, in "Nothing" Smith explains a childhood scene - dreaming of girls while driving with his father - through the eyes of the speaker as a child. The speaker then observes the same scene 25 years later from the perspective of the father:
"I see on his face
the look I could not see on my own:
the eyes of a startled animal,
life bearing down with the instancy of light.
'What are you thinking?' I ask,
and he answers as we all must,
In this and other poems, such as "Most of What We Take Is Given," Smith contrasts the sentiment of passing generations responding the same event or contrasts a person's perspective and the changes in that perspective as the person moves from child to adult.
The section portion of Smith's book is North Carolina stories that can be read for pure laughter and enjoyment. "The Complete Bushnell Hamp Poems" won the then-titled Zoe Kincaid Brockman Award in 1992 (now called the Brockman-Campbell Book Award) for the best poetry published by a North Carolinian. The poems chronicle a lifetime of interactions and conflicts maintained by a vibrant cast of characters with names such as Baskin Cole, Leroy Pinrawes, Dixie Fennell, Spivey Bassett and Bushnell Hamp growing up against the backdrop of a changing Carolina. The poems also reveal life's honesty through the characters' adventures in a dialect particular to a lower class Carolina.
"Tony Abbot is really a shining light of North Carolina poetry, truly a master of his craft, and so is PineStraw's own Stephen Smith," says Jim Dodson, editor of PineStraw. "I can't think of a more engaging evening listening to these two read their works."
For more information about this event, call The Country Bookshop at (910) 692-3211.
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