Friday, June 24, 2011

Poet Publishes Seven

Here is an article about my forthcoming book from Barbara Burns at Outlook

Poet Publishes Seven
(first published in Outlook, 23 June 2011)

“These poems are necessary,” writes former NC Poet Laureate Fred Chappell about Hickory poet Scott Owens’s soon-to-be-released new collection of poems, Something Knows the Moment.

According to Chappell, Owens’s seventh book is “about the nature of God, the nature of faith, of doubt, of trust and distrust, disillusion and resignation.” And he adds, “Occasionally the subject of hope is addressed.”

Joe Milford, host of the Joe Milford Poetry Show, says of Owens that he “stares steadfastly into the unrelenting zero as if trying to pierce the other side of being itself with laser-like intensity.” He states that Owens “forces the reader to ponder his own nature and humanity,” and Milford concludes “there is a tenderness in this book that might shame you.”

Scott Owens is the founder of Poetry Hickory, editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review, vice-president of the Poetry Council of NC, and an instructor of English and creative writing at CVCC.

His more than 800 published poems have received awards from the Academy of American Poets, the NC Writers Network, the Poetry Society of SC, the Pushcart Prize Anthology, and the NC Poetry Society.

Having read at hundreds of schools, libraries, bookstores and coffee shops, Owens describes himself as an activist for and through poetry. His articles on poetry can be read regularly in Outlook and on his blog at

Something Knows the Moment will be released by Main Street Rag Publishing Company on August 2. Copies can be ordered now at an advance order discount of just $9 through July 19 at

Sample poems from the book as well as three other recent books by Owens can also be found at this website.

A book launch party and reading will be held at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory on Tuesday, September 13, at 6:30.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Death of Poetry Revisited

The Death of Poetry Revisited

Not quite a year ago, I wrote a column titled “The Reports of Poetry’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated,” in which I suggested the vibrant poetic community in the small town of Lincolnton, NC, was evidence of poetry’s continued vitality. I’ve just wrapped up accepting submissions to the annual Oscar Arnold Young Contest for an outstanding book of poems written in the previous year by a NC poet. As a result I have new information to support my claim countering the common supposition that nobody reads, writes, buys, or cares about poetry anymore.

The Poetry Council of NC received 25 submissions to the contest. That means there were at least 25 books of poetry published by NC writers in 2010 alone. Actually, from subsequent conversations with other writers, I know of 5 others that weren’t submitted. So, at least 30 books of poetry were published by NC writers in 2010, and I suspect there were even more than that. Regardless of the exact number, that is a lot of poetry for something “no one is doing or reading anymore.” I doubt there were that many novels by NC writers published in the same year.

The books came from both well-established poets like David Rigsbee, Joseph Bathanti and Stephen Smith and first-time book publishers like Malaika King Albrecht and Jodi Barnes. There were a lot from the Raleigh area, 9 in fact, but they also came from Pinehurst, Gastonia, Wilmington, and even Hickory. And they came from established presses like Main Street Rag, Finishing Line and New South Books, as well as newer presses like Jacar and Big Table.

The selection of one of these books as the outstanding book of poetry from last year will not be an easy task. There is a great deal of quality work represented here. I have written favorable reviews of 10 of them myself, and 1 of them was published after my recommendation. If I were the judge, I think I would have to draw straws to choose among my half dozen favorites. Fortunately for my own sanity I’m not the judge who has to make that selection.

The results of the contest will be released later this summer. The winner, second place finisher, and a couple of honorable mentions will be given the opportunity to read from their winning works at Poetry Day to be held at Catawba College in Salisbury on October 1. The winner and second place finisher will also have a selection of their work published in the Poetry Council’s annual anthology of contest winners, Bay Leaves. For more information, visit or contact me at or by phone at 828-234-4266.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Poetic Response to "The Gravedigger's Roots"

A Poetic Response to “The Gravedigger’s Roots”
(first published in Wild Goose Poetry Review)

I don’t usually publish my own poems in my column, but a while back I did publish my poetic response to Jessie Carty’s book “Paper House” because the poem served as a sort of “review” of her book. I did the same thing after reading Tony Abbott’s “New and Selected Poems.”

The fact that a book prompts me to write a poem of my own says a great deal about the impact the book has on me. Writing a poem, after all, is not an easy thing to do. It would be easier just to move on to the next book. Some books, however, “move in” once you read them. They take up residence in your psyche -- the place where most poems are born.

Such was the case with both Carty’s and Abbott’s books and now with Robert King’s “The Gravedigger’s Roots.” This 2009 collection from Shared Roads Press consists of 51 poems written from the perspective of a persona whose significant role in the world is that of a gravedigger. While such a perspective might lead some to assume the poems are inherently macabre, what the reader finds instead is poetry with a wide range of emotional and philosophical contexts all connected by the ever-looming presence and awareness of that ultimate human reality, mortality. I personally found the poems to be refreshingly Romantic in their dealing with that common inevitability. The underlying message of these poems certainly echoes the work of both Whitman and Emerson, but the styles, language and imagery have all been updated to make the reading more immediately relevant and enjoyable.

Readers interested in ordering their own copy of “The Gravedigger’s Roots” can do so at Now here is my poetic response to the book. The italicized line is stolen from one of Kings’ poems.

The Keeper
after Robert S. King

Heel on shoulder,
hands gripping the shaft,
shift weight forward,
press down,
thin roots popping as the blade moves through,
lean back,

A hole the only thing it makes,
absence, empty space,
and yet without it, nothing grows,
necessity the smallest understand.

Most come here not to die
but simply to be dead.
Precious few come to live
and do the work
of keeping things going.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Annual Issue of Catawba Released

Celebrating Catawba’s 2nd (or 14th) Year

Depending on your perspective, the new issue of Catawba, CVCC’s annual literary and arts journal released May 27, is either the 2nd or 14th issue of the journal. Not many magazines can claim such an uncertain history, but such is the fate of many things dependent upon changing annual budgets and the work of volunteers.

What is now Catawba began as Synaesthesia in 1987 as the brainchild of CVCC instructors Tim Peeler and Tricia Hayes. For four years Synaesthesia published art and literature by both CVCC students and artists and writers from around the country. When Hayes left CVCC, the magazine went into dormancy, only to be revived 7 years later by Peeler and Nancy Risch with the title Sanctuary.

Sanctuary, which focused more on student work, was published for 7 years before falling victim to budgetary belt-tightening. One more issue entitled Sanctuary was published as an online journal in 2009 under the guidance of Peeler, Jerry Sain, and CVCC photography instructor, Clayton Joe Young.

Then, in 2010, the format was once again changed to a print journal focusing exclusively on CVCC student work. The journal was renamed Catawba, and edited by CVCC instructors Peeler, Young, Scott Owens, Brian Morris, Kevin Keck, and Robert Canipe. The second issue in this format was released at a launch party at CVCC on May 27 with the assistance of Anne Williams and Linda Lutz.

At the launch party students whose photos had been selected were displayed while those whose poems and stories had been chosen read from their work. Featured student photographers included Weston Bethancourt, Joy Barr, Amy Frady, Micah Harshbarger, Todd Money, Ashley Mosteller, Tennille Mullery, Jessica Prieto, Lana Ruffini, Stephanie Turner, Tiffany Ward (Student Editor), and Chris Wood. Student poets were Bethea Buchanan, Jeni Conklin (Student Editor), Carol Howard, Spencer Huffman, Kaitlin Leathers, Dennis Lovelace, and Kim Teague. Short stories were published by Stephanie Jo Young and Micah Harshbarger.

Copies of this year’s Catawba can be picked up in the CVCC library or by contacting Tim Peeler at Here is a poem by Dennis Lovelace to serve as a sample of the journal’s contents.

Fatherhood by Proxy
by Dennis Lovelace

Standing at the bottom of the staircase,
“Girls, I’m going to work. Come and give
me a hug and a kiss.”
A herd of elephants descending
with you in the lead,
raven tresses surrounding your features,
head down, brown eyes peeking
up at me, “Can I have one too?”
Leaning down, your tiny arms encircle my neck
tightly squeezing, a peck on my cheek.
I feel the chink in my armor
as you slip past into my heart.