Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dannye Romine-Powell, January 1, 2009

In a recent review of Dannye Romine Powell’s new book of poems A Necklace of Bees, I wrote that “the poems masterfully achieve what should be the ultimate goal of poetry, to help us experience our own lives a bit more deeply, a bit more consciously, and a bit more honestly.” In a previous “Musings,” I implied that the best reasons to attend a poetry reading were to experience catharsis and to remember a more clearly what it is to be human.
My review of Romine Powell’s work makes it clear that I think she is one of those poets who help us remember our humanity, and now, she is coming to Hickory to read from her new book, an experience which promises to be cathartic for all those who attend.
I have been a fan of Dannye Romine Powell’s work for nearly two decades. I first met her at the home of the greatest teacher I’ve ever had, Ann Carver, in Charlotte. I knew she was the Book Page Editor for the Charlotte Observer. I had seen her on television several times. I had read a number of her poems already. And I knew she had just published a very successful book of interviews with Southern writers, Parting the Curtains. What I didn’t know was how kind, humble, gracious, and easy to talk to she was.
We hit it off right away. As a young poet, I was, of course, eager to hear anything she had to say about writing, poetry, and the world of writers. What amazed me was that she also seemed anxious to know what I had to say.
I’ve never forgotten her kindness, and I’ve never stopped being impressed with her work. I reviewed A Necklace of Bees because I think it is one of the best books of the past year, and the poem I’m reprinting below, the one from which the collection draws its title, is one of the best poems of the year.

Everyone Is Afraid of Something

Once I was afraid of ghosts, of the dark,
of climbing down from the highest
limb of the backyard oak. Now I’m afraid

my son will die alone in his apartment.
I’m afraid when I break down the door,
I’ll find him among the empties--bloated,
discolored, his face a stranger’s face.

My granddaughter is afraid of blood
and spider webs and of messing up.
Also bees. Especially bees. Everyone,
she says, is afraid of something.

Another fear of mine: that it will fall to me
to tell this child her father is dead.

Perhaps I should begin today stringing
her a necklace of bees. When they sting
and welts quilt her face, when her lips
whiten and swell, I’ll take her
by the shoulders. child, listen to me.
One day, you’ll see. These stings
are nothing. Nothing at all.

(first published in Tar River Poetry Review)

Dannye Romine Powell is the author of three collections of poetry, each from the University of Arkansas Press. She has won fellowships in poetry from the NEA and the NC Arts Council. She will appear at Poetry Hickory with Chuck Sullivan at 6:30 on January, 13, at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse.

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