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WHITE TRASH
An Anthology of Contemporary Southern Poets

edited by

Nancy C. McAllister
and
Robert Waters Grey


 
Don't Try and Sell Me No Pink F1amingos:
AN INTRODUCTION


Naturally I would a whole lot rather be back there among the pages of this book, paid up and in good standing, instead of up here in the front talking about it.

That, my friends, is the truth but it is also (even though phonetics are not indicated by spelling) a genuine trashy sentence. Not tacky, mind you. There is a big difference. Some southern writers would rather die slowly and badly than admit to a touch of trash. They will go to great lengths to deny there's any such (of a) thing as a Cracker in their gene pool or a Redneck in the woodpile. But the truth is every southerner has a streak of trash just as every selfsame southerner has a drop (just a tad) of Plantagenet blood. Some have the strength of character and well-developed mixed feelings (what the editors fairly enough call "irony") to admit it and even enjoy it. Those who don't are just tacky, no matter how elegant and refined and aesthetic they may seem to outsiders--Yankees and such. There are some celebrated southern public stances which are, really, the literary equivalent of planting pink flamingos in the front yard. Point is, all southerners equally have deep roots and plenty of an-cestors. Mostly we are kin to each other. And we have always had mixed feelings about that and the South. People, including a lot of tacky southerners, keep telling us that the southern literary "renais-sance" is all over and done with, long gone. Read the poets here, good poets and true (and praise be, more various in voice than any anthology I've seen for a good long while), and you'll agree that the negative critics, the doubters and scoffers, are as wrong as wrong can be. I am familiar with the work of some of these poets. Some are old friends and friends of friends, and several are, I'm pleased to say, former students. Others like the talented student writers, Timothy Hamm and Doris Hardie, are new to me. These are all worthy folks. Of course there's a gracious plenty of other eligible southern poets, of all ages and stages, who are not here and are every bit as good as anybody who is. That is always the way it is and has to be. But in this case you can honestly say they are well served and represented by what is here. (That is not always or even often the case with anthologies.) What's here is good enough for anybody. I feel like having some bumper stickers printed up—HONK IF YOU LOVE FRED CHAPPELL, BLINK YOUR LIGHTS IF YOU BELIEVE IN COLEMAN BARKS; CAUTION I BRAKE FOR ARMADILLOS AND JOHN CARR. And so on. Or maybe to stand up at some session of literary Holy Rollers and holler: "Everybody who loves poetry say after me—James Seay and Kelly Cherry and Rosemary Daniell!" All the poets, and the editors, are to be thanked and congratulated.

As a Southerner my (own) self, now living in Maine, I'm very happy to have this book to pass around to my friends up here. The climate is a lot different and so is the accent, but the people who live here are a lot like us. Also for other kinds of Americans, from the high-priced spread of the Northeast, from the Middlewest and West, all those who may be trying to solve the mystery of our next President from Plains, Georgia, these poems will tell you all as much as you need and deserve to know. I imagine Jimmy would be in the book, too, if he know how to write poems. Matter of fact, just in case (it's been known to happen) he moves into the White House and starts to get the Big-head and forget his real roots, he'd be well advised to keep a copy of this book handy. And so would you and I.


George Garrett
York Harbor, Maine
July 1976

CONTENTS


BETTY ADCOCK
Twentieth Anniversary 18
Surviving the Wreck 19
Topsail Island 21

JAMES APPLEWHITE
Discardings 22
Driving Through a Country That is Vanishing 23
Combat Station 24
Drinking Music 25

COLEMAN BARKS
from New Words 26
from Body Poems 29
The Finger of Necessity 31

D. C. BERRY
Covey 32
Setter 33
Annie Afternoon 34
Annie April 35

DAVID BOTTOMS
The Copperhead 36
Watching Gators at Ray Boone's Reptile Farm 37
Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump 38
Writing on Napkins at the Sunshine Club 39

EDGAR BOWERS
The Astronomers of Mont Blanc 40
Variations on an Elizabethan Theme 41

TURNER CASSITY
A Dialogue with the Bride of Godzilla 42
WW II in the City of Homes 43

FRED CHAPPELL
February 44
Cleaning the Well 47

KELLY CHERRY
Phylogenesis 50
Natural Theology 51
The Rose 52
Where Fire Went 53

ROSEMARY DANIELL
The Operation 54
A Week in February 56

WILLIAM VIRGIL DAVIS
One Way to Reconstruct the Scene 58
Driving Alone in Winter 59

CHARLES EDWARD EATON
The Blood Paintings 60
Sleeping Nude 61
The Circular Staircase 62
The Courtship 63

DORIS HARDIE
All night the trains have passed 64
Rowing 64
Song for Susannah: A Lullaby 65
The Moon, a clipped thumbnail 65

WILLIAM HARMON
from Treasury Holiday 66

THOMAS HEFFERNAN
Mount Mitchell in North Carolina at Dusk in October 72
On the Dock at Oak Bluffs 73

RODNEY JONES
Extensions of Watts Bar Dam 74
Debris 75

DONALD JUSTICE
Childhood 76

BARBARA LOVELL
The Fern 82
The Pireaus Apollo 83

ADRIANNE MARCUS
The Woman in the Next Room 84
A Formality of Love 85
She Calls from Shore 85

HEATHER McHUGH
Spring 86
Leaving 86
Sayings 87

HEATHER ROSS MILLER
The Vinegar Jug 88
Lumbee Children 89

JIM WAYNE MILLER
The Brier Breathing 90
He Sings Ballads 92
A Legal 55 93

ROBERT MORGAN
Baptism of Fire 94
Bean Money 96
Blackberries 97
Tear Bottle 98
Mendicant Rose 98
Resin 99
White Pines 99

P. B. NEWMAN
At Withers' Swash 100
Washington, Diseased 101
from Paula 102
from The Light of the Red Horse 104

PAUL RUFFIN
Deep-Sea Fishing 106
The Practice Is Over, Tom Hardy 107

JESSIE SCHELL
The Blessing 108
Delta Summer 109

JAMES SEAY
The Majorette on the Self-Rising Flour Sign 110
Water I Thought Sweet and Deep 111
No Man's Good Bull 112
Grabbling in Yokna Bottom 113

R. T. SMITH
Waking Under Sun 114


JOHN STONE
Double-Header 116
Looking Down Into a Ditch 118
Losing a Voice in Summer 119

DABNEY STUART
Arrival 120
Major Work 121
The Trial 122
New Year's 123

JULIE SUK
Saving the Barn 124
Rabid 125
We Lie Here Itching 126
Birmingham Liberated 127

JONATHAN WILLIAMS
The Autochthon 128
Dealer's Choice and the Dealer Shuffles 130
Dear Reverend Carl C. Mclntire: 131
Who is Little Enis? 132

CHARLES WRIGHT
January 134
Equation 134
At Zero 135
Indian Summer 135
Next 136
Morandi 136
Clear Night 137
Sentences 137
Stone Canyon Nocturne 138
Snow 138
Reunion 139
Noon 139

NANCY C. MCALLISTER
Marthy 140
Quest 141


Rosemary Daniell


The Operation


Sparse-haired, crumbling
teeth, your old mon
droops from the heat,
the pull on her teats
of a hundred infants.
A worn-out cat,
humped half to death,
she breathes decay
so Ruth
we did it--
you wandered the house,
licked your neat nylon
stitches, your belly
shaved to velvet--

an early spinster
a young old maid


as I recalled
an operation
in a glass-walled
room at a fair:
a doped dog, carried
in on a tray,
her womb removed,
the strange V shape
held up for the crowd,
knotted with pods
that were puppies . . .

and dreamed of
tiny paws & nails
pink underbellies
scraped-out bodies



Heather McHugh


Sayings


Islands don't sink. They are not spirits
and they are not ships. They do not
try to float: it is this accomplishment
of indifference which comforts
the lonely man in a Tidewater town, unlike
what misery loves, that family
of resemblances, brood
of sympathies. I'd rather
have you, says the lonely man,
who have given up your likenesses, your mooring.

Here the flat-bottomed boats rub up
on shoals and women shapes,
phrases and friction
of tongues, growl
of gravel and spit. In the distance,

small and fat and striped-boy,
low, lub, bob, bell--
the independent
syllables are floating.
But with effort. Meaning
deeper risk.



Robert Morgan


Blackberries


Among the bloodfilled eyes
and towering vegetation,
invisible
traffic of chiggers.
Leaves bear ticks like hungry berries.
You dive in trampling mole runs
and spilling birdnests,
brush the fanged stems
to gather a few
with the bluejays and yellowjackets.
Wade into the snaky weeds as into a minefield.
Leaves have caught in the briars
and piled up a hive for rats
and spiders.
Quail leave in a snort.
The arching longnecked thickets
weigh with loads of shot
bright as caviar.


 

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