Saturday, June 7, 2008


While traveling the road to Fayetteville, TN yesterday, I marveled at the piles of red dirt created by road machines along the way. I was taken back to my origins in southeast Louisiana where the red soil always made me wonder why my Greenlaw ancestors settled in a bed of rusty clay after living in the green hills of Virginia and, earlier, Scotland. Maybe they were iron deprived… the ingredient that makes the deep orange color in red dirt is iron oxide–abundant iron oxide. A few summers ago, I traveled to Sedona, Arizona and found great ridges of red rock in a place that claims to be a thin site “near to the heart of God.” However, red dirt is more indigenous to the South, and a form of Red Dirt music has sprung up in Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, and other southern states. It’s a mix of country, rock, Texas honky tonk, and echoing Mexican music. My good friend, Janet Faulk, who is originally from Alabama, confesses to a deep affinity for red dirt and put a picture of a red dirt road on the cover of her book, THE ROAD HOME, a collection of stories about growing up in Alabama during the 60’s. You can see the cover that features the red dirt road on Border Press book site.

In a former blog, I talked about the charm of Fayetteville, TN and the welcome I received from Pam Howell, owner of The Book Inn located on the square in Fayetteville. Recently, I placed copies of FLOOD ON THE RIO TECHE, GRANDMA’S GOOD WAR, THE KAJUN KWEEN, and SOPHIE’S SOJOURN IN PERSIA at the shop, and Pam offered to sponsor a book signing for me in the Fall. She also told me that there were several poets in the area. On the way out of the book shop I picked up a copy of “The Elk Valley Times” and found an article about another poet named Tom Springer who has just released his second book of poetry, SEASONS OF MY LIFE. Like GRANDMA’S GOOD WAR, the poetry contains a medley of humorous and poignant verse; e.g., Springer’s opening poem is “Biscuits in the Oven,” a poem focusing on the early years of his marriage to his deceased first wife. Springer, a native of Lawrence County, TN, retired from the State Department of Human Services, fertile ground for studying people and storing up fodder for poetry. Pam Howell says she’ll feature Springer and several other area writers at my book signing in the Fall.

A snippet excerpted from poetry written about Tennessee last summer during a spell of homesickness for Teche country is taken from JUST PASSING THROUGH, which can be ordered from Border Press:

I am called to the ocean,
unmoving here on the mountain,
the lack of water and motion of wave,
nearness to Gulf, river, lake,
and, yes, ocean, favor stillness;
here, a sea of limestone,
rock and bluff beggaring attention
from craggy, monolithic inhabitants.
I remember standing at the edge
of cliffs overlooking the Pacific,
gulls soaring in the cliff wind
over that cold sea of green light,
its belly lapping wildly
like a savage storm,
that day passed, lived out,
wished for again
and the sight of sea lions flapping,
bathing in the sea,
basking on promontories of rock.
Nothing has equaled my feeling of ecstasy
watching all of this, nothing moves here,
and I am unmoving, enervated
by the sight of motionless rock,
ancient frozen oceans…
a callous geology.
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