Monday, February 2, 2009

Irene Honeycutt, November 6, 2008

Irene Honeycutt is one of the nicest people and one of the best poets I know. She is one of those people who seem to spontaneously generate superlatives like “best” and “nicest” among all those who meet her. Two of her former students, Steven Sherrill and Henrietta Goodman, both renowned writers in their own right today, told me she was the best teacher they ever had.
I’m not sure how long Honeycutt taught at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, but I know that she founded and then coordinated the college’s Annual Spring Literary Festival for 14 years. I know that she was awarded Teacher of the Year by the school. And I know that because of the many superlatives she earned, the college established, upon her retirement in 2006, the Irene Blair Honeycutt Distinguished Lectureship. This award, no doubt, came as a result of her years of selfless dedication to the development of the talent she perceived in others. It echoes the sentiment of other arts community service awards she has received from Creative Loafing and the Charlotte Writers Club.
Irene’s gifts, however, consist not only of the assistance, instruction and support she has provided others, but also of the impressive and substantial poetry she has herself created. Her own creative work includes It Comes as a Dark Surprise, winner of Sandstone Press’s Southeastern Poetry Contest in 1992, Waiting for the Trout to Speak (Novello Press, 2002), and most recently Before the Light Changes (Main Street Rag), a book I liked well enough to write a review of for the next issue of Wild Goose Poetry Review.
Best of all, Irene Honeycutt is coming to Hickory to give a reading from her new book on November 11. She’ll participate in Poetry Hickory that evening with local writer Tammy Wilson. The reading will begin at 6:30, and I won’t be surprised afterwards to hear the comment, “That was the best reading I’ve ever been to.”
I’m very pleased to share with you the poem, “The Radio with the Green Eye,” from Honeycutt’s collection Before the Light Changes.

The Radio with the Green Eye

The radio with the green eye is playing
“I’m so lonesome I could cry.”
Dad turns the knob, and Gabriel Heater’s
voice blasts the living room. Dad folds
the Labor Union News, hunches towards
the radio’s mouth. It is covered
with brown cloth. When no one’s around,
I poke it, wondering what goes on inside.
Tonight the mouth thunders with bombs.
I get up from the sofa.
My fear is like the egg I drop
on the kitchen floor.
Mama keeps washing dishes,
pretends not to notice.
Ronnie’s in bed, wants me to play checkers.
Yesterday, he stepped on the iron rake,
sat screaming in the garage while Dad poured
kerosene over the hole in his foot.
His blood soaked the towel.
I’ve learned that if I turn a dial in my head,
it all goes away. Even the static
of machine guns becomes a blanket
of snow, covering the war.

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