Friday, February 20, 2009

Mountain Voices Writers Group

My writers' group, "Mountain Voices" met last night at a little local cafe, Soul Infusion. Since we eat, the owner is happy to "host" our little gathering (six members) and has indicated that he might give us a room upstairs which would be quieter. I'm tickled. Last night, we had a reading of a piece that exuded atmosphere, a dream fantasy about Doc Holiday. Another piece, a chapter from a novel in progress, presented an encounter between a child and his parents and a group of behaviorist psychologists intent on cure the child of his "feminine traits." Nice orchestration of dialogue. A third reading is a sequence from a historical fiction novel (now completed but in need of editing) that deals with Scot-Irish settlers along the Tuckaseegee River in the 18th century. We ended up with a poem that dealt with Barbie dolls and serial murderers. One member had a collection of hiaku poems which we all took home, so we can read them at our leisure and send comments to the poet. I am very pleased with this group and I am looking forward to the next meeting.


  1. Yes, I feel we are fortunate to have such a wonderful group. There isn't a weak link in the chain among the regular attendees. Many anthologys from writer's group I peruse seem rather homogenous but the diversity of styles and literary forms represented by Mountain Voices makes the group unique. As one of our members said "it's a great opportunity to charge my batteries." Mucho thanks to Gary for his efforts in arranging & scheduling the meetings.

  2. James Cox said --
    I'm honored to be part of this fine group of creative writers. At the last meeting, Steve thrilled us with a tale as surreal and chilling as any dream (or nightmare). Betty took us back to a different time in the mountains with a chapter from her superb novel and Ben opened the doors to the halls of academia where all is not what it seems. Everyone was good-natured and solid feedback was offered. Gary presided with dignity and humor. A good time was had by all.
    --- Rogue Master of the Four Winds, James Cox

  3. It's a rare treat to gather with the Mountain voices. The individual works are impressive enough but - taken together - what a RANGE of approaches to story-telling! My humble thanks to all involved. Om.

  4. What a talented group! One of those rare times when a number of individuals gather, dine, read, critiuqe and just have fun. Can't wait for the next meeting.


    Ben F. Eller

  5. Oops ... I mispelled critique.

    Ben F. Eller

  6. Ditto all of the above.

    Plus, what I like about the members of our writing group is that we are so diverse in our interests, our writing styles, our motivation, our diversity of genre, and our expressive sharing of ideas. All in all, we come away from our meetings refreshed by having talked with other writers who have Mountain Voices, all grounded in a common denominator of creativity and love of the written word.

    Who was the writer who said that the way to write was to sit down at your typewriter (computer) and "open a vein"? Well, that's what we do at our Mountain Voices meetings. We open a vein, and the Mountain Voices flow, pure and sweet.

  7. I have been hanging out with Mountain Voices for
    a couple of decades. It's always been an eclectic group, but the six writers who comprize
    the present constellation of writers could not be
    more so. I absolutely celebrate that kind of
    creative diversity. I was blown away at our last
    meeting at Soul Infusion (the cafe we met at in
    Sylva with a most appropriate name) by Ben, Jim,
    Steve, and Betty's readings. Gary and Perry did
    not read on this occasion, but read and write they can - and will blow your socks off every time. Like Jim, I feel honored to be a part of such a vibrant, interesting group of writers.
    Although we're all off on our own literary trips, I think we feed off each others' energy when we meet, monthly usually. I know I do.
    And what I write is really different. Well, Gary, my hat's off to youj. For all these years you have kept this little band of fools together, and last week was a real highlight. I want to say as well, that if one looks around at the members of the group you see a number of pusblished writers. And those few that aren't, should be and will be. Of that I'm quite certain. Now, let's see if I can figure out how to get this comment posted.


  8. The Birds

    Rising from the cornfield as one,
    a flock of red-winged blackbirds,

    the sudden flutter of their wings
    like paper tatters slapped by wind,

    shining black rejecting light,
    synchronized like schools of fish.

    At a certain height they shift west,
    showing red shields in sequence,

    insignias on sides in flight,
    then rise again, higher, and fly

    to the oak canopy flanking
    the green river, settling, flattened

    into shadows next to the black
    branches, those bare and bleak rivulets

    like silhouettes cut from paper
    pasted on the late winter sky --

    their squeals and squeaks the complaints
    of ten dozen ungreased hubs and

    axles turned by wind-driven vanes,
    backed by discordant tempos played

    by a hundred tiny hammers
    madly hitting tin. Behind these sounds

    the low rush of a waterfall,
    the steady hush toned from their throats.

    Something in their flight and crowded
    gabble exhilarates; yet something

    ominous comes away, for they
    watch us; silent within their noise.

    As the maker must have understood,
    danger resides not in fury,

    nor does it lie in planned attack,
    but festers deep and malignant

    in the malevolent nature
    of the clandestine gathering,

    their dark and hidden brotherhood
    with the gnarled and knotted branches.

  9. Comment On "The Birds"


    Some terrific images in this- reminded me of the lyrics to “Green Green, Rocky Road”:

    See that crow up in the sky,
    He can’t crow nor can he fly,
    He can’t walk nor can he run,
    He’s black paint splattered on the sun.

    Literally, the animal kingdom has a legitimate grievance against us, and it takes very little imagination to envision the red-winged blackbirds of the poem hatching a plot ala Hitchcock’s birds. Metaphorically, the natural distrust of the crows is comparable to the alarming growth of clandestine groups worldwide who view us with a similar distrust and plot our downfall. The 911 attacks for example were a symptom of a deeper and more widespread resentment which is festering and will have a greater and more widespread long term impact than any single physical attack. Hope I’m not to far off the mark Jim. But as they say, a good poem is open to interpretation from multiple perspectives. If I’m anywhere close I think the imagery, language, and mood of this poem complements the message perfectly.

  10. Jim,

    I don't know how to cut and paste or do other than read your poem as it appears here. For my tastes, by far the best poem of yours that I've
    read. The images are so descriptively accurate,
    and for the first many lines I kept thinking of
    William Carlos Williams' work. What was it he
    famously said: "No ideas, but in things." No
    need for figurative language, yet I think "ungreased hubs and axles" is brilliant.
    Where you start with the maker is where you begin to lose me. Myself, I do not like much
    explanation in poetry and prefer to let the images suggest the meanings. That way the reader
    is given an opportunity to participate by completing the poem in his/her head. I know,
    that sounds like what Asian verse does. Anyway,
    I think you end this piece powerfully with the line "for the watch us, silent in their noise." I'll want to read it again and again. I really like this one.


  11. You have some lovely images here, Jim, even the dark ones, and especially those in which the reader is called upon to imagine a multitude of separate birds being of one mind. This reminded me, too, of Hitchcock's birds and the term "a murder of crows."

    Actually, I like red-wing blackbirds and named one of the main characters in TUCKASEEGEE Redwing Blackbird, or Redwing for short.

    Your poem also reminded me a bit of my own novel when the MacNeills are traveling along the Tanasee River with a trader named Cheatham they have just met (in 1750):

    Cheatham rode in the lead with Ruary, while Mairy followed closely as they wound their way through humid swampland dotted with clumps of spiky marsh grasses, cattails, and red-flowered sumac forking upward like stags’ antlers.

    Stands of leafy canes along the riverbanks served as rookeries for millions of pigeons and crows and colorful songbirds, and the noisy birdcall was unceasing. Pigeons sometimes fluttered up in a huge cloud as if they were of a single mind, making an awful racket until the unfathomable single mind decided where they would fly next, and then they would swoop away over a ridge.

    “Passenger pigeons,” Cheatham said. “You don’t want to be underneath them when they’re flocking. That pigeon shit’s so steamy it’ll burn holes in your shirt and canker your skin.”

  12. Thanks for the feedback folks,
    Poems in progress need it and I will use it. I don't seem to ever stop revising. You are on the mark with your thoughts. I wanted to say "Hitchcock" instead of the maker to keep the reference to the movie going, but maybe it should end where John suggests. Keep on thinkin'