ASHEVILLE—Keith Flynn, whose book The Rhythm Method, Razzamatazz, and Memory: How to Make Your Poetry Swing was recently re-released by Press 53, will lead the poetry session "Capturing the Persona Poem" at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2019 Fall Conference, November 8-10, at the Doubletree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore.
Conference registration is open.
Keith Flynn (www.keithflynn.net) is the award-winning author of seven books, including six collections of poetry: most recently Colony Collapse Disorder (Wings Press, 2013) and forthcoming The Skin of Meaning (Red Hen Press, 2020). He is the Executive Director and producer of the TV show, “LIVE at White Rock Hall,” and Animal Sounds Productions, both which create collaborations between writers and musicians in video and audio formats. His award-winning poetry and essays have appeared in many journals and anthologies around the world, including The American Literary Review, The Colorado Review, Poetry Wales, Five Points, Poetry East, The Southern Poetry Anthology, The Poetics of American Song Lyrics, Writer’s Chronicle, The Cimarron Review, Rattle, Shenandoah, Word, and Witness: 100 Years of NC Poetry, Crazyhorse, and many others. He has been awarded the Sandburg Prize for poetry, a 2013 NC Literary Fellowship, the ASCAP Emerging Songwriter Prize, the Paumanok Poetry Award, and was twice named the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for NC. Flynn is founder and managing editor of The Asheville Poetry Review, which began publishing in 1994.
This year, NCWN has been celebrating libraries, so we asked Keith to give us his best library memory. He generously shared two!
"Two library anecdotes stand out for me. The first was when I was in the 5th grade and my teacher, Ms. Redmon was about 5'2" inches tall, as round as a fire hydrant, with a sweet smile that seemed to cover her entire face, that was always flushed, with the tiniest purple veins like a spider's web on her neck. I was a straight-A student, driven, but bored, and my boredom caused Ms. Redmon much consternation after I had thrown another spitball or pulled another pigtail or got into another fight.
"Finally, her patience bested, she took me aside, and staring hard into my eyes, she took off the key that she kept on a chain around her neck and said, 'Look little Flynn, the next time you want to cause me some trouble, or you're bored and not being challenged, you take this key and go to the library and you start reading a book. Then you make a one paragraph report about what you've read and I'll give you extra credit, starting right now.'
"When she put the chain around my neck, I felt entirely special, as if knighted, and took to my task with a wild ambition. I would read every book in that small room, with shelves from floor to ceiling, and started with a biography of the Apache chief Cochise. I didn't get to every book that year, but that faith in me compelled a love of the written word that has never abated, and I owe that kind woman a debt that can never be repaid. Every writer has a story of some teacher whose faith in them inspired their dogged creative impulse. I'm lucky in the fact that I have had more than one of those teachers, but the lovely moon face of Ms. Redmon still occupies a place in my memory as the first in that lineage.
"The second incident occurred when I was a freshman at Mars Hill College, attending on a basketball scholarship, and starting to be called to become a poet, which for me seemed like a religious conversion, I know no other way to describe it, and everywhere I was confronted with signs and signifiers. My first foray into the library I found a book of poetry, The Far Field, by the great Saginaw poet, Theodore Roethke, and was so moved by the music and methods of these poems that I had to have the book as my own. Impetuously, I tossed the small collection from the second floor window into the bushes below and ran to my dorm room to dissect those amazing lines. It was the first thing I had ever stolen in my life; and I have carried that book with me for forty years. I imagine the library fees might pay for a new wing on that building should they ever come due."
Persona, from the Latin, means mask, and "Capturing the Persona Poem" will focus on the perspective of first person narration in composing poetry from behind the mask and the development of the poet speaking in the voice of historical figures, incorporating the poet's own personal experience into the presentation. The dramatic monologues of Robert Browning will be examined. The figures speaking through the poems of Frank Bidart, Ai, Margaret Atwood, John Berryman, Terrance Hayes, Anne Sexton, and others will be discussed, illustrating how authenticity is captured through the accumulation of specific detail and intimacy between the audience and the author. The theatrical vagaries of detachment and the manipulation of identity will be viewed as strategies in the construction of the poem's narrative.
Each participant should submit two poems in first person, prior to the workshop, for group discussion and any poems deemed exemplary will considered for publication in Asheville Poetry Review.
Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities that include lunch and dinner banquets with readings, keynotes, tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and the opportunity for one-on-one manuscript critiques with editors or agents. Jeremy B. Jones will lead the Master Class in Creative Nonfiction. Ron Rash will give the Keynote Address.
The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers, in all genres, at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.