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drawing by Charles Dyer
"Apprehension and Alchemy"
apprehension [L. apprehendere, to take hold of] 1. capture or arrest 2. mental grasp; perception or understanding 3. a judgment or opinion 4. an anxious feeling of foreboding; dread

alchemy [Gr. cheein, pour; L. fundere, to melt (metal)] 1. an early form of chemistry, with philosophical and magical associations, studied in the Middle Ages: its chief aims were to change baser metals into gold and to discover the elixir of perpetual youth 2. a method or power of transmutation; esp. the seemingly miraculous change of a thing into something better

The AWA held its annual conference July 13-15, in the Culp Center of ETSU. As is the custom for many similar arts and sciences events, workshops are held concurrently, so -- like a menu at a good restaurant -- one is forced to choose reluctantly between, say, a poetry workshop moderated by Rita Quillen and songwriting by Rob Russell.

Being constitutionally incapable of choosing poetry, much as I love it, over music, which at its best incorporates poetry, you'll know which door I chose. Meeting Room #1 soldiered the usual ranks of metal chairs although, participants being artists not scientists or engineers, they were somewhat askew.

Now it occurs to me that, if we had good live music at G-8 summit meetings for leaders and their entourage and for protestors, we might understand and resolve our differences more peaceably. At least we'd have more fun in the process (unless like little boys we really like fighting and war toys. And there my mind comes to a deadend, just like the road I lived beside for nearly 20 years).

Four well-loved regional performers played, sang, and answered questions about the creative process that resulted in: "If I Could Find A Way" and "The Hero" (Roger Rasnick); "Doggone" and "Basketfull of Singing Birds" (Ed Snodderly); "Wild Boys On The Corner" and "What About My Heart?" (Andrena Belcher); and "She's Gone" (Rob Russell).

Ed and Andrena had performed together just a few weeks earlier, kind of next door at the Reece Museum’s quarterly “Cabaret” -- musical events set amidst collections of traditional Appalachian handcraft (including wagons, pianos, and backcountry stringed instruments) and more current art.

Workshop musicians noted that, as in stories and poetry, their songs were a mixture of other peoples’ experiences, imaginings and expressions and the songwriter’s own, so the result is a melding rather than reflection of the separate individual. Perhaps that is what creates the best of art in any form -- that it speaks to an inclusive expanse of human and divine apprehension.

If it does this well, it appeals universally to a wide audience. Which leads to the bridge between creation and ... getting it out there where people may relate and, hopefully, find reinforcement in the realities of their lives, comforted in sorrow and/or inspired in joy. To that end, and for financial upkeep of course, these four workshop musicians had tapes and CDs for sale alongside books by authors leading or mentioned in other workshops.

There have been many articles and news stories about governmental cuts in funding the arts, both for the general public and in our school systems. Artists -- including writers, musicians, painters, and sculptors -- travel conferences, fairs and concerts to promote their work. They also donate time to educational and civic institutions.

You can help support and continue the tradition in Appalachia of “grassroots” creativity, of soul work, by attending a poetry reading, an open air performance, a gallery show. And, if you’re able, by buying a sample to save for yourself and your home. It will be a memory of treasures, a hint of the artists’ whole work, a gift of love and pleasure. Alchemy turning sorrow and terror to beauty a body can bear and a mind can stand to know.

To be aware, to truly see time’s holograph of horror and transform it with hard work and talent is the closest to divine on earth we’ll know and, at its best, the holiest offering and heritage to our “fellow man.”

-- jh
(Drawing above by Charles Dyer)

Counting the Sums. . .

I used to be a teacup 

bone and gold-rimmed 

thin-lipped and light 


easy to hold.

Then I became a mug 

heavy and practical 

people warmed their hands on me 

warm steam rising 

scented the air 

with home and good.

If I live I'll grow to be 

a gravy boat 

sailing around 

smug and self-satisfied 

filled with an imperfect, lumpy mixture 

comforting and familiar 

only brought out on special occasions. --

-- Rita Sims Quillen (Adjunct Instructor of English/Developmental English, Mountain Empire Community College, Big Stone Gap VA)
The Holston Conference Native American Ministries Team has organized The Gathering, September 22-23, 2001, on the grounds of Coker Creek Village, Tellico Plains TN. The music of featured Nammy Award winning artist Bill Miller explores his faith and strength of spirit expressed through songwriting, singing, playing guitar, harmonica and Native American flute. Following two days of workshops on Native American beadwork, healing plants, music, pottery and fry bread, The Gathering closes with a Pow Wow that includes drumming, Navajo hoop dancing, inter-tribal and friendship dances.

AWA's Appalachian Book of the Year Award for 2001 was presented to Sylva NC's author and storyteller Gary N. Carden for Mason Jars in the Flood and Other Stories (Parkway Publications, May 2000; ISBN 1887905227)

In addition to Main Meal Cafeteria get-togethers, signings in the Bookdealers' Room, and a keynote address by Lee Smith, other 2001 AWA Conference forums and workshops included:
Writing and the Internet, Steve and Barbara Eberly;
The Flavour of Home: A southern Appalachian Family Remembers, Earlene O'Dell;
A Mountain Riddle (One-woman play), Betty N. Smith;
Readings, Garly Trent and Mary O'Dell;
Writing Outdoor Guidebooks, Johnny Molloy;
A Most Unexpected Welcome: Starting from Ground Zero, Jennifer Laughlin;
Readings, Gary Carden and Silas House;
Appalachian Christian Fiction, Ed Price;
Hicks, Hellraisers, and Heroes: Some Archetypes and Stereotypes in Appalachian Literature and Culture, Jack Higgs;

Reprise: Saints at the Table: Appalachian Writers Association Conference 2000; Appalachian Studies Association Conferences 2000 and 1999, and Appalachian Writers Association Conference 1999

Poetry Workshop Susanne Clark;
Poetry Workshop, Rita Quillen;
Fiction Workshop, John Morefield;
The Conversational Column, Tom Hodge;
The Ever-Present Past of Appalachia in Sharyn McCrumb's Synchronic Ballad Novels, Mary Alice Money;
Examination of the Silvaney Letters in Lee Smith's Fair and Tender Ladies, Laura Caton-David; Overmountain Press Presentation, Beth Wright;
Giving Character to Your Characters, David Hunter;
How They Shine: Melungeons in Appalachian Fiction, Katie VandeBrake;
Learning the Craft: How to Get a Publisher, Joan Medlicott;
Readings, Harry Dean and Janice Kasten;
The Performing Arts, Pat Cronin;
Emerging Poets: The Teen Writer, Jane Hicks.

Go to Page 2 (Specific Events Listings)

Amazement by Barbara Yale-Read, Boone NC "Get involved. Make things work. And, above all, said retiring English professor Charles Wilson Roberts III, 'give them hell.' ... A much-loved professor, who not only shared his love of folklore with hundreds of students, Roberts was and is — as his comments yesterday afternoon made clear — an advocate for social justice, protest and 'civic responsibility.' Concerned about how Americans have grown 'jaded and cynical,' Roberts said, 'No one protested when President Bush said that Americans can use their tax returns to pay their soaring fuel bills.' He also had a few things to say about the lack of 'public outcry when migrant workers die of heat and thirst in our orchards.' Roberts also lamented the 'gutting of social programs,' and what he said is a drop in the numbers of people willing to run for office and 'a (withdrawal) from civic engagement.' And while Roberts did encourage this year's graduates to strive for their own personal success, he also reminded them that 'success comes in a moral context.' But the real indication of Roberts' politics was his ode to folk musician Woody Guthrie, complete with guitar and a brief rendition of 'This Land is Your Land,' which got the audience of 400 graduates, their families, friends, the faculty and staff clapping along...." -- D.L. Stephenson, Union News-Sunday Republican

(Graphic: Amazement, watercolor gouache gold leaf and pencil by Barbara Yale-Read, Appalachian State University, Boone NC; from an exhibit at Johnson City Arts Council)

* * * "...When it's over, I want to say: all my life/ I was a bride married to amazement./ I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms. ...." *** When Death Comes *** New and Selected Poems *** Mary Oliver ***
Green Party of Tennessee "On behalf of all Americans who seek a new direction, who yearn for a new birth of freedom to build the just society, who see justice as the great work of human beings on Earth, who understand that community and human fulfillment are mutually reinforcing, who respect the urgent necessity to wage peace, to protect the environment, to end poverty and to preserve values of the spirit for future generations, who wish to build a deep democracy by working hard for a regenerative progressive politics, as if people matter...." Nader excerpt, Green Pages
"Unless we change direction we are likely to end up where we are headed." -- Chinese proverb, quoted in Cosmic Telegram

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Original material © A Country Rag April, 1996, 2001. All rights reserved.
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