Archives for category: Southern Authors

Adam parked bikes
Learning to ride
by Rose Mary Boehm

It was my mum’s.
Had been her mum’s.
I didn’t reach the saddle yet. It was black,
huge, heavy, cumbersome and solid.
When nobody was around
to prevent access,
I took to it
with severe stubbornness.

That was in 1947, and my wobbly
efforts were avidly observed
(or so I thought)
from the turrets
of patrolling Russian tanks.
We were used to them by then,
and found that, after all,
they had kids too.
Back in Moscow, Kaliningrad,
Novgorod, Glazov, Perm, or Novosibirsk.

Mum used honey on the wounds
and had no place to lock up
the bike.
No fractures.
I soon learned that increased
speed would keep me
on the straight and narrow.
I soon learned that the same recipe
was not useful for life.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The one with the rusty bell could have been mine.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: After the end of WWII we tried to get back to some “normality.” There was nothing new to be had, we invented our own games, and Mum’s bike was almost part of the family. Mum had used it to get us food, to deliver her sewing, to take us to the doctor… Russian tanks and military vehicles still patrolled the roads in our part of the already divided Germany. I made the best of it all.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A German-born U.K. national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of two novels and a full-length poetry collection (TANGENTS) published in 2011 in the U.K., her work has been widely published in U.S. poetry reviews as well as some print anthologies. One of her poems was chosen for Diane Lockward’s The Crafty Poet. She won third prize in the 2009 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse’ (US), was semi-finalist in the Naugatuck Poetry Contest 2012/13, and has been a finalist in several Goodreads poetry contests, winning it twice: in October 2014 and January 2016; a new poetry collection is earmarked for U.S. publication in May 2016.



by Truman Capote

…spring housecleaning…always preceded the Thanksgiving assembly…We polished the parlor furniture, the piano, the black curio cabinet…the formal walnut rockers and florid Biedermeier pieces — rubbed them with lemon-scented wax until the place was shining as lemon skin and smelled like a citrus grove. Curtains were laundered and rehung, pillows punched, rugs beaten; wherever one glanced, dust motes and tiny feathers drifted in the sparkling November light sifting through the tall rooms. Poor Queenie was relegated to the kitchen, for fear she might leave a stray hair, perhaps a flea, in the more dignified areas of the house.

The most delicate task was preparing the napkins and tablecloths that would decorate the dining room. The linen had belonged to my friend’s mother, who had received it as a wedding gift; though it had been used only once or twice a year, say two hundred times in the past eighty years, nevertheless it was eighty years old, and mended patches and freckled discolorations were apparent. Probably it had not been a fine material to begin with, but Miss Sook treated it as though it had been woven by golden hands on heavenly looms. “My mother said, ‘The day may come when all we can offer is well water and cold cornbread, but at least we’ll be able to serve it on a table set with proper linen.’”

…”Chrysanthemums,” my friend commented as we moved through our garden stalking flower-show blossoms with decapitating shears, “are like lions. Kingly characters. I always expect them to spring. To turn on me with a growl and a roar.”

…I always knew just what she meant, and in this instance the whole idea of it, the notion of lugging all those growling gorgeous roaring lions into the house and caging them in tacky vases (our final decorative act on Thanksgiving Eve) made us so giggly and giddy and stupid we were soon out of breath.

…A lively day, that Thanksgiving. Lively with on-and-off showers and abrupt sky clearings accompanied by thrusts of raw sun and sudden bandit winds snatching autumn’s leftover leaves…


“I have a one-volume Shakespeare that I have just about worn out carrying around with me.” WILLIAM FAULKNER

William Faulkner stated many times that William Shakespeare served as his single greatest influence. An article entitled A Casebook on Mankind: Faulkner’s Use of Shakespeare” by Robert W. Hamblin explores the connection between the two authors. An excerpt is included below.

Throughout his career William Faulkner acknowledged the influence of many writers upon his work — Twain, Dreiser, Anderson, Keats, Dickens, Conrad, Balzac, Bergson, and Cervantes, to name only a few — but the one writer that he consistently mentioned as a constant and continuing influence was William Shakespeare...In one of his last interviews shortly before his death in 1962, Faulkner said of all writers, ‘We yearn to be as good as Shakespeare.’ 

The parallels in the lives and careers of the two writers are remarkably striking.  Both were born in provincial small towns but found their eventual success in metropolitan cities, Shakespeare in London and Faulkner in New York and Hollywood…Neither received a great deal of formal education.  Both started out as poets but shortly turned to other narrative forms, Faulkner to fiction and Shakespeare to drama…

Each wrote both tragedies and comedies..A number of dominant themes and emphases are common to both writers, including the imaginative use of historical materials, the incorporation of both tragic and comic views of life, and the paradoxical tension between fate (in Faulkner’s case, determinism) and free will.”

Moreover, both writers exhibit a fascination for experimental form and language, flouting conventional rules to create new narrative structures and delighting in neologisms, puns, and other forms of word play.  Finally, both writers were acutely interested in the paradoxical relationship of life and art.”

Read the entire article at this link.


“A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others.” WILLIAM FAULKNER

Photo: William Faulkner working on a screenplay in Hollywood, early 1940s by Alfred Eriss.


When I first saw the photo at right a few weeks ago, I tried to borrow a copy of the book William Faulkner is reading — THE SILVER TREASURY OF LIGHT VERSE, Edited by Oscar Williams — from the Los Angeles Public Library, but only a reference copy was available (and I wasn’t about to spend a day downtown waiting to look at it).

So, I searched and found a used copy of this out-of-print paperback for $7.95 (pricey for me — I usually spend a dollar for a hardcover!), but thought I might be able to include some of the “light” poems on this blog. And, besides, how can SILVER BIRCH PRESS not own a copy of the Silver Treasury of Light Verse — one of the books that William Faulkner was caught reading?


I received the book in the mail yesterday — and this copy is old (an original 1957 edition), with brown-edged pages, and so fragile that it has broken into two pieces. This wasn’t mentioned on the Amazon page where the vendor lists the book’s condition.

But who knows? Perhaps the book spit at the exact spot (page 129), where Faulkner was reading in the above photo. If so, here is a poem from the page (and it’s a poem about, among other things, reading).

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,

A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou

     Beside me singing in the Wilderness —

Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

 Verse XI From the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyyam, translated by Edward FitzGerald


Today, we celebrate “Get Caught Reading” month with a tribute to one of the world’s most renowned readers — and writers — Nobel-prize-winning writer William Faulkner (1897-1963).

According to an article by Susan Reichert at the Southern Writers Magazine blog: The University of Mississippi once invited William Faulkner to the English department to address one class per day for a week. Faulkner devoted the entire time  to answering the students’ questions. When asked what is the best training one should have for writing he said:

Read, read, read. Read everything – classics, good or bad, trash; see how they do it. When a carpenter learns his trade, he does so by observing. Read! You’ll absorb it. Write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”


April 24, 2013 marks the 108th anniversary of the birth of multi-hyphenate Robert Penn Warren — a poet-novelist-essayist-editor-critic — the only person to win a Pulitzer Prize for both fiction and poetry, and likely the most decorated American author of all time.

Warren (1905-1989) received the 1947 Pulitzer Prize for his novel All the King’s Men and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1958 and 1979. From 1944-1945, Warren served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. His other honors and awards include Presidential Medal of Freedom (1980), MacArthur Fellowship (1981), designation as first U.S. Poet Laureate (1986), and National Medal of Arts (1987).

Photo: Robert Penn Warren working on the revisions of a book in a barn near his home (April 1956 by Leonard McCombe, Time/Life, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED).

Let’s celebrate this remarkable writer’s birthday with one of his most beautiful poems.


by Robert Penn Warren

Long ago, in Kentucky, I, a boy, stood
By a dirt road, in first dark, and heard
The great geese hoot northward.

I could not see them, there being no moon
And the stars sparse. I heard them.

I did not know what was happening in my heart.

It was the season before the elderberry blooms,
Therefore they were going north.

The sound was passing northward. 


“I must tell you how I work. I don’t have my novel outlined and I have to write to discover what I am doing…I don’t know so well what I think until I see what I say; then I have to say it over again.”


Photo: Flannery O’Connor’s desk and typewriter in her bedroom at Andalusia, her farm near Milledgeville, Georgia. Photo by Susana Raab for the New York Times, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The photo appears in an article by Lawrence Downes in the New York Times travel section (“In Search of Flannery O’Connor,” February 4, 2007.  Find the article at this link. Here is an excerpt, where Downes describes visiting O’Connor’s writing room:

There is no slow buildup on this tour; the final destination is the first doorway on your left: O’Connor’s bedroom and study, converted from a sitting room because she couldn’t climb the stairs [O’Connor was suffering from lupus]. Mr. Amason stood back, politely granting me silence as I gathered my thoughts and drank in every detail.

This is where O’Connor wrote, for three hours every day. Her bed had a faded blue-and-white coverlet. The blue drapes, in a 1950’s pattern, were dingy, and the paint was flaking off the walls. There was a portable typewriter, a hi-fi with classical LPs, a few bookcases. Leaning against an armoire were the aluminum crutches that O’Connor used, with her rashy swollen legs and crumbling bones, to get from bedroom to kitchen to porch.

There are few opportunities for so intimate and unguarded a glimpse into the private life of a great American writer. Mr. Amason told me that visitors sometimes wept on the bedroom threshold.


Today we celebrate the birth of one of the all-time greatest of the great writers — Flannery O’Connor, born in Savannah, Georgia, on March 25, 1925. Author of two novels — Wise Blood (1952), which she holds on her lap in the photo at right, and The Violent Bear It Away (1960) — and 32 short stories, O’Connor created a lasting body of work in her short life (she died in 1964 at age 39).

Kurt Vonnegut said of her, The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor. She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.” (For the record, Vonnegut’s first rule of writing is:Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.” Read the complete list at this link.)

Here’s one of our favorite Flannery O’Connor quotes: “I often ask myself what makes a story work, and what makes it hold up as a story, and I have decided that it is probably some action, some gesture of a character that is unlike any other in the story, one which indicates where the real heart of the story lies. This would have to be an action or a gesture which was both totally right and totally unexpected; it would have to be one that was both in character and beyond character; it would have to suggest both time and eternity.”



by Wendell Berry

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here. 

Photo: White Buffalo BK, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wendell Berry (born August 5, 1934) describes himself as  “an American man of letters, academic, cultural and economic critic, and farmer.” He is a prolific author of novels, short stories, poems, and essays. He is also an elected member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, a recipient of The National Humanities Medal, and the Jefferson Lecturer for 2012.