Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Nature Photo-Poems

Nature Photo-Poems: Photos 
by Brian Smith/ Poems by Larry Smith




Wednesday, November 26, 2014

 Here is my review of Diane di Prima's new book The Poetry Deal, City Lights Books...honoring her as Poet Laureate of San Francisco (2014).

 

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1116076358

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

Larry Smith review of Something Rich and Strange:  Selected Stories



Ron Rash is often billed as a “Southern” or an “Appalachian” writer, and it’s true that he writes from the heart of a place and its people, but this should not confine him, any more than Faulkner is confined by Mississippi or Hemingway by Upper Michigan. It’s not a box, then, but an open window into his work and world. True, he chooses to live in Western North Carolina where he grew up and now works, teaching at Western Carolina University, but he is very much a contemporary American writer.
He is a the author of five prizewinning novels, including Serena and One Foot in Eden, and four collections of poetry as well as five collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, Nothing Gold Can Stay, and Chemistry and Other Stories. This opus collection of his short fiction (his favorite form) is drawn from all of the short fiction.
He brings his poet’s eyes to the images of his people and place and his native ears to the language of that locale. One of the best tales, “Into the Gorge” opens with his description: “His great-aunt had been born on this land, lived on it eight decades, and knew it as well as she knew her husband and children. That was what she’d always claimed, and could tell you to the week when the first dogwood blossom would brighten the ridge, the first blackberry darken and swell enough to harvest.” This story moves from the aunt’s demise in the woods to a simple yet wild story of Jesse’s misfortune when hunting ginseng. It is one of the most plotted of his stories and one of the most troubling.
Typically, Ron Rash writes what we might term slice-of-life fiction, where the story seems to happen with the same absence of form as life itself. He has declared that he locates character and place and then tries to stay out of the way of the story. And so they often end as they start in the middle of circumstance. But the characters, the dialogue, and the images are so vivid they hold you close. It’s like stopping in a local dinner, sipping your coffee, and overhearing the talk and watching the faces of those sitting in the next booth.
The time frame ranges from depression times up to the most modern. “Hard Times” opens with Jacob and Edna on their farm surrounded by the poverty of neighbors. It’s a beautiful story and one of the most tender.
“Back of Beyond” leads us into a contemporary Appalachian town consumed by the use and abuse of methadone. But don’t expect themes or stances from Rash. There is suspense and there are moments of understanding, but he is there to record—what is seen and what is missed.
Ron Rash’s writing resonates with our lives.
- See more at: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/something-rich-and-strange#sthash.hou4ZY2N.dpuf
Ron Rash is often billed as a “Southern” or an “Appalachian” writer, and it’s true that he writes from the heart of a place and its people, but this should not confine him, any more than Faulkner is confined by Mississippi or Hemingway by Upper Michigan. It’s not a box, then, but an open window into his work and world. True, he chooses to live in Western North Carolina where he grew up and now works, teaching at Western Carolina University, but he is very much a contemporary American writer.
He is a the author of five prizewinning novels, including Serena and One Foot in Eden, and four collections of poetry as well as five collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, Nothing Gold Can Stay, and Chemistry and Other Stories. This opus collection of his short fiction (his favorite form) is drawn from all of the short fiction.
He brings his poet’s eyes to the images of his people and place and his native ears to the language of that locale. One of the best tales, “Into the Gorge” opens with his description: “His great-aunt had been born on this land, lived on it eight decades, and knew it as well as she knew her husband and children. That was what she’d always claimed, and could tell you to the week when the first dogwood blossom would brighten the ridge, the first blackberry darken and swell enough to harvest.” This story moves from the aunt’s demise in the woods to a simple yet wild story of Jesse’s misfortune when hunting ginseng. It is one of the most plotted of his stories and one of the most troubling.
Typically, Ron Rash writes what we might term slice-of-life fiction, where the story seems to happen with the same absence of form as life itself. He has declared that he locates character and place and then tries to stay out of the way of the story. And so they often end as they start in the middle of circumstance. But the characters, the dialogue, and the images are so vivid they hold you close. It’s like stopping in a local dinner, sipping your coffee, and overhearing the talk and watching the faces of those sitting in the next booth.
The time frame ranges from depression times up to the most modern. “Hard Times” opens with Jacob and Edna on their farm surrounded by the poverty of neighbors. It’s a beautiful story and one of the most tender.
“Back of Beyond” leads us into a contemporary Appalachian town consumed by the use and abuse of methadone. But don’t expect themes or stances from Rash. There is suspense and there are moments of understanding, but he is there to record—what is seen and what is missed.
Ron Rash’s writing resonates with our lives.
- See more at: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/something-rich-and-strange#sthash.hou4ZY2N.dpuf
“Ron Rash’s writing resonates with our lives.”
Ron Rash is often billed as a “Southern” or an “Appalachian” writer, and it’s true that he writes from the heart of a place and its people, but this should not confine him, any more than Faulkner is confined by Mississippi or Hemingway by Upper Michigan. It’s not a box, then, but an open window into his work and world. True, he chooses to live in Western North Carolina where he grew up and now works, teaching at Western Carolina University, but he is very much a contemporary American writer.
He is a the author of five prizewinning novels, including Serena and One Foot in Eden, and four collections of poetry as well as five collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, Nothing Gold Can Stay, and Chemistry and Other Stories. This opus collection of his short fiction (his favorite form) is drawn from all of the short fiction.
He brings his poet’s eyes to the images of his people and place and his native ears to the language of that locale. One of the best tales, “Into the Gorge” opens with his description: “His great-aunt had been born on this land, lived on it eight decades, and knew it as well as she knew her husband and children. That was what she’d always claimed, and could tell you to the week when the first dogwood blossom would brighten the ridge, the first blackberry darken and swell enough to harvest.” This story moves from the aunt’s demise in the woods to a simple yet wild story of Jesse’s misfortune when hunting ginseng. It is one of the most plotted of his stories and one of the most troubling.
Typically, Ron Rash writes what we might term slice-of-life fiction, where the story seems to happen with the same absence of form as life itself. He has declared that he locates character and place and then tries to stay out of the way of the story. And so they often end as they start in the middle of circumstance. But the characters, the dialogue, and the images are so vivid they hold you close. It’s like stopping in a local dinner, sipping your coffee, and overhearing the talk and watching the faces of those sitting in the next booth.
The time frame ranges from depression times up to the most modern. “Hard Times” opens with Jacob and Edna on their farm surrounded by the poverty of neighbors. It’s a beautiful story and one of the most tender.
“Back of Beyond” leads us into a contemporary Appalachian town consumed by the use and abuse of methadone. But don’t expect themes or stances from Rash. There is suspense and there are moments of understanding, but he is there to record—what is seen and what is missed.
Ron Rash’s writing resonates with our lives.
- See more at: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/something-rich-and-strange#sthash.gepGdAF0.wKWfjhhI.dpuf
“Ron Rash’s writing resonates with our lives.”
Ron Rash is often billed as a “Southern” or an “Appalachian” writer, and it’s true that he writes from the heart of a place and its people, but this should not confine him, any more than Faulkner is confined by Mississippi or Hemingway by Upper Michigan. It’s not a box, then, but an open window into his work and world. True, he chooses to live in Western North Carolina where he grew up and now works, teaching at Western Carolina University, but he is very much a contemporary American writer.
He is a the author of five prizewinning novels, including Serena and One Foot in Eden, and four collections of poetry as well as five collections of stories, among them Burning Bright, Nothing Gold Can Stay, and Chemistry and Other Stories. This opus collection of his short fiction (his favorite form) is drawn from all of the short fiction.
He brings his poet’s eyes to the images of his people and place and his native ears to the language of that locale. One of the best tales, “Into the Gorge” opens with his description: “His great-aunt had been born on this land, lived on it eight decades, and knew it as well as she knew her husband and children. That was what she’d always claimed, and could tell you to the week when the first dogwood blossom would brighten the ridge, the first blackberry darken and swell enough to harvest.” This story moves from the aunt’s demise in the woods to a simple yet wild story of Jesse’s misfortune when hunting ginseng. It is one of the most plotted of his stories and one of the most troubling.
Typically, Ron Rash writes what we might term slice-of-life fiction, where the story seems to happen with the same absence of form as life itself. He has declared that he locates character and place and then tries to stay out of the way of the story. And so they often end as they start in the middle of circumstance. But the characters, the dialogue, and the images are so vivid they hold you close. It’s like stopping in a local dinner, sipping your coffee, and overhearing the talk and watching the faces of those sitting in the next booth.
The time frame ranges from depression times up to the most modern. “Hard Times” opens with Jacob and Edna on their farm surrounded by the poverty of neighbors. It’s a beautiful story and one of the most tender.
“Back of Beyond” leads us into a contemporary Appalachian town consumed by the use and abuse of methadone. But don’t expect themes or stances from Rash. There is suspense and there are moments of understanding, but he is there to record—what is seen and what is missed.
Ron Rash’s writing resonates with our lives.
- See more at: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/something-rich-and-strange#sthash.gepGdAF0.wKWfjhhI.dpuf

Saturday, August 16, 2014

What You Are: A Contemplation -- Larry Smith



Most of us can recall these universal lyrics from John Lennon’s song, “Imagine”:
Imagine there's no heaven/ It's easy if you try
No hell below us/ Above us only sky
Imagine all the people/ Living for today...
Imagine there's no countries/ It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion too.
Imagine all the people/ living life in peace…

For all of these years, what I have missed is that Lennon is not finding fault with all of these aspects of living, but that he is questioning our identifying with them—telling ourselves that our religion, our country, our story is who we are. And what he is envisioning here is our living free and in the moment at peace with others and, most essentially, with ourselves. One thing I know is that hearing this gentle song has always lifted me and others.
   
This awareness was brought home to me recently by teacher Ezra Bayda who writes that what John Lennon is actually describing is “…the freedom of giving up our fixed views, even on the things we take most for granted, such as our patriotism or our religious views. Or our most cherished facades and self-images. Or the stories we cling to as ‘our truth’—such as the story ‘I need someone to take care of me,’ or ‘Life is too hard,’ or ‘I’m worthless.’” Bayda targets this screen of self-deception, then offers a way out: “An excellent question to ask ourselves is ‘Who would I be without this story? This belief? This identity? This fear?’ The question takes courage, because we have to look beyond the safety of the familiar.” (“No One Special to Be” in Tricycle Aug. 2014).  

This is the key then, to living authentically--not clinging to self-images that in reality confine or box us in. There is no need, there is no box. The deeper call is to let go and allow. Release the self to be open and free. I do believe that we all seek this deep and authentic self--our true nature. And I sense that acknowledging this self-deception, this identification with a subjective “me,” is the first step to freedom, breathing it in releases us and connects us. Bayda points to the lasting value of “honesty in looking at one’s life; not settling for complacency; living with presence, inner quiet, and inner strength; and living with appreciation and kindness—all of which contribute to true contentment.” Living this realization connects us and makes us whole again.  
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I remember as a young man running track and falling into the rhythm of the run, the step-pull-step, the breath in and out and in again and out. In this I would look down at the ground moving under my body. I was running. I was the run. I’ve found that same inner connection in an abiding meditation that allows me to just be. To welcome this and achieve inner authenticity we let go of our mind’s insistence on our small self, what Bayda calls, “preserving our narrow world of being special, of needing to look and feel in a particular way.” Releasing ourselves from this subjective illusion of self as a “me,” rather than an “I.” Taking off the mask, allows us to breathe freely. How do we know the mask from the self? The masks are multiple—depending on the mood or the story we are telling ourselves. The self is lasting and basic.

Abandoning our need to be “special,” or unique and independent from the world around us, frees and opens us to a vast connectedness. We are one with our world. In doing meditation, whether sitting and breathing or walking slowly with each breath, my whispered mantra has become: “Nowhere to go….Nothing to do….No one to be…Just living this moment.” When we let go of our many views of ourselves, along with our stories of who or what we think we are, we arrive at a simple presence of just being—a clear sense of our most authentic self and our basic connectedness. We are free to imagine and to know ourselves as whole.
In her song, “What You Are,” singer, song writer Patty Griffin, invites us into this letting go to be, and a coming through to our true selves when she asks:
What do you wish you were?/  Do you wish you were
The light of every star?/ Nobody knows but/
maybe that's just what you are.
Imagine it. It’s already here.