The Southern Festival of Books returns with a virtual festival this year. I will miss the live event in Nashville, which I attended in 2007, to read my prize-winning poem, Glen Falls Trail, which appears below. It was just ten days after my Coronary Bypass Surgery, and the neighbor who drove to the festival thought the trip ill-advised. Still medicated, I delivered an "unusual" performance. The pace of my reading was irregular at best.
My reading took place under a canopy on Legislative Plaza as part of the Tennessee Writer's Alliance awards ceremony. It was less well attended than the indoor presentations by notable authors. Still, I will never forget the experience, and I am grateful for the doors opening to opportunities. I have attended several times since, reading on two of those occasions, and I have always enjoyed reconnecting with authors from across Tennessee and beyond.
One year, I heard local Nashville poets perform on one of the outdoor stages. That evening I read with some of them at Poetry in the Brew, an open mic at Portland Brew East, a coffee shop on Nashville's East side. They went on with their regularly scheduled program despite the festival. Covid-19 has brought a change to Poetry in the Brew, and I have reconnected with some creative poets through their weekly virtual open mic. I had hoped to read with them again, but I did not suspect it would happen this way.
This year, I will be content to participate in the Southern Festival of Books as a member of the online audience. Some old friends are on the program, as well as a few famous authors. I will, no doubt, offer thanks and congratulations to those with whom I am acquainted and enjoy the presentations of the rest. On Saturday evenings, my internet connection will be tuned to an open mic still hosted by a Nashville poet but now with an international array of presenters.
Festival and event information
Humanities Tennessee is the moving force behind the Southern Festival of Books. Their website has a schedule of events, author biographies, and information on how to access the streaming events from your computer or through the app on your mobile device. https://www.humanitiestennessee.org/sfb2020-main/
Parnassus Books is the official book vendor of the Southern Festival of Books. Historically they have created a popup bookstore on the plaza. This year, they offer sales at their store. They also have a preview of the event on their web page. https://parnassusmusing.net/2020/09/30/southern-festival-of-books-2020-preview-its-almost-here/
Poetry in the Brew streams the open mic through their Facebook Page.
The Poem I read at the Festival
Glen Falls Trail
I climb the limestone stairs
through an arch in rock,
into the earth’s womb,
pass through to a surprise:
George loves Lisa painted on a wall.
I wonder, did he ever tell her?
Did she ever know or think of him,
raise a brood of screaming children?
Did they kiss near wild ginger above the stony apse?
Did lady’s slipper orchids
adorn their meeting place
where deer drink from rocky cisterns?
Did their love wither
like maidenhair fern,
delicate as English Lace?
The symbols have outlived the moment.
There is only today,
only the murmur of water underground,
my finding one trickle into a pool.
I never knew this George or Lisa.
The rock bears their names in silence,
names the stream forgot long ago.