Poetry painted on the Southern landscape is what organizers say are in store for any who attend the “Poetry on the Porch” event on April 18 at 5:30 p.m, hosted by the Center for the Study of the American South and Southern Cultures magazine.
On the lawn of the “Love House,” home to the Center for the Study of the American South, poets Tiana Clark and Emilia Phillips will bring their messages and emotions to Chapel Hill through their poetry on topics surrounding the Southern living experience.
Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Southern Cultures’ poetry editor, said these poets will be a powerhouse together. Both poets discuss pain and violence associated with the South in their poetry.
“I’m not really interested in having people in the magazine and reading for us who aren't deeply engaged with the contemporary moment,” Calvocoressi said.
“I absolutely wanted poets who students could hear but students could also, within those poems, feel heard by,” Calvocoressi said.
Clark recently published her book “I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood” discussing her experiences and reflections on violence in the South.
“I can’t look at the landscape of the South without thinking about the history, without thinking about lynchings and blood on the trees, as Billie Holiday sang,” Clark said.
Growing up in Nashville, Tenn., Clark said she’s seen a lot of pain and violence regarding the Southern landscape.
“I’m really interested in, kind of, intersections between the personal and the political,” Clark said. “And kind of weaving and braiding and smashing together, kind of, those landscapes not only within the body but within history.”
Clark teaches creative writing as an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. She says her art and poetry serves as a way of persistence and survival for herself and she said poetry saved her life.
Phillips, who is a creative writing professor at UNC Greensboro, said she urges people to look at themselves and their complicity in their own social cultures.
“In what ways am I feeding into this violence or witness to this violence?” Phillips said. “Those are two very different questions but I hope by doing those sorts of things with my own poetry that it encourages others to do the same.”
For Phillips, poetry is a creative outlet that she said she uses to shine a light on things that are omnipresent. She will be reading selections from her book “Empty Clip” that discusses subjects surrounding violence, especially against women.
Phillips, who grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn., wants her poetry to help people realize that poetry is more than just old poets from the 17th century.
“What’s amazing about events like these is that we reinvigorate this idea that poetry is a living breathing art and not just something that is done by dead guys,” Phillips said.
Calvocoressi said the goal for these events is to continue to serve as a space for students and community members to feel welcome and discuss poetry in the Southern landscape.
“One of the things I wanted to do was particularly broaden and deepen the vision of what poetry from the South was,” Calvocoressi said. “And I wanted to do that because there is a need for that in the world and there’s a need for that in the country and on the campus.”
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