MC: I hope it’s a theme of resurrection — a theme of, "What comes next?" — keeping track of what was in the past, but also what’s in the future now, and what happens next with that culture and what’s on the back burner.
DTH: How many poems does the book feature?
MC: It’s broken into four sections. The first is called "Scenes from the Knee-High Gospel." That has 10 poems in it. The second section is called "Water Ways" and has three poems in it, and that’s where the "Search and Rescue" poem is.
The third section is actually a little different. It’s prose poems, or flash fiction. I don’t know exactly what to call it. It’s in prose, though. That section has seven pieces. The fourth section is called "Others’ Belongings." It’s kind of portraits of people, some of them are collages of people that either I knew there or I had met other places along the way. That section has 16 poems.
The final section is called "Strange and Flashing Lights," and that has seven poems, one of them about the Brown Mountain Lights in North Carolina, which are sort of mythological, spooky lights that are seen on this mountain and people have never been able to explain what they are.
DTH: What was the writing process like for this book?
MC: It was pretty much like all of my other books. I tried to get up and write in the morning when I had time. Sometimes if I was stuck, I would read other poets and try to get some inspiration from them, or some phrase or musicality that stuck with me. Other times, like with the centerpiece lake poem, I got started and then I realized it was going to be a longer sequence. It’s a 10-page poem in the book.
Then, I was just conjuring up memories of the event. I remember when the dam was filled and the lake started to fill in. You could still see in the middle of the lake where it was going to be really deep that they left trees. You could see the water starting to rise on the trees that would eventually be completely covered, and there were houses and barns and all kinds of other stuff that they left in the deep parts. I remember watching that happen, so I was going back to that while writing the centerpiece poem.
DTH: What messages are you conveying in the book?
MC: I don’t think that I ever tried to consciously convey messages. I don’t think that’s what you do when you’re writing poetry. I think that you are capturing a sound, a moment, a person or a person’s place in their culture.
I’m not a spokesman for any place or any thing that I know of, although I get categorized that way from time to time, which I don’t mind. I mean, I am a Southern writer because I grew up in the South. I’m an Appalachian writer because I grew up in the mountains. But I don’t consciously try to be the messenger of that. I just try to find the image that seems vivid to me.
DTH: How do you feel the outlet of poetry accomplishes capturing those moments?
MC: I think poetry is best-suited to do that in that it crystallizes, in very few lines, a moment or maybe even more than a moment. Maybe even an entire history. It actually can get that in that really short span. When you think of it, nobody reads a novel at a wedding or a funeral. They read poetry. It captures so much in that really quick moment.
DTH: How does this book relate to the UNC community as a whole?
MC: I hope that it relates in the way that I’m a member of that community and have been for a long time now. In the same way, I think everybody brings their background to this wonderful place that is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I think that’s one of the things that makes us so special is that we have such a blend of people here, and they come from all over the world. They bring all of their own communities that they left, here. I think it’s a wonderful thing that we have all of these different blends of people.