Episode 021: Alabama Field Holla
Present at the Editorial Table:
Kathleen Volk Miller
PBQ Box Score: 2=0
In reaction to the events of November 8, this week’s episode begins with local Philly poet Cynthia Dewi Oka reading “Post-Election Song of Myself.” We first heard it at our Reading at the Black Sheep Pub on Monday, November 12, and we were so moved we had to ask her to share it with you.
In Episode 21 of Slush Pile, we discuss two poems by Harold Whit Williams.
Harold Whit Williams goes by the name Whit to family, friends, and acquaintances, but thinks that using his full name for poetry gives him that much-needed literary gravitas to get his “little scribblings” published. He catalogs maps, atlases, and journals for UT Austin Libraries. His guitar heroics have been much lauded around the world. He and his wife enjoy birdwatching, wine tastings, modern art exhibits, monster truck rallies (mostly for the cuisine), and trying to find a place to park. Once he dreamt a poem in its entirety, then awakened and wrote it down verbatim. That poem, “The Best of Intentions,” was published in The Great American Wise Ass Poetry Anthology 2016. The poem is not very good, but it is most definitely wise-ass.
Our small group of three begin the episode with “Hawk Pride Mountain Nocturne,” a piece that Marion feels, “breaks [her] heart from line one.” With an incantatory and rhythmic tone, we are swept back in time to a liminal spot of dreams and melodrama. Our vote was unanimous, but we are requesting a few “gentle” edits.
We were not as quick to love the next poem, “Alabama Field Holler.” However, after discussing the historical significance of the field holler and the musicality of phrases, we started to change our minds…
Of course, let us know what you think about these poems, and Cotton Mather’s “Lily Dreams On” with the hashtag #lampshadesofdesire!
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Harold Whit Williams
The deceased leave behind their voices.
Some in shoeboxes
Stacked in the back closet of the mind,
Others under creaking steps,
In leafwhisper, water murmur, highway hum.
Most, middle of the night, seek us out
With their quick-and-dead singsong.
Off the pine-sided hill.
An uncle’s high tenor; an aunt’s thick alto.
A whole ragtag church choir from beyond the beyond.
Voices pure as light, Light as breath.
We breathe in these voices In our sleep,
Taste these voices in the bittersweet
Draught of dreams. Voices
In the shapes of clouds, voices raining
Down the old mudtrodden hymns. Horse-and-buggy us
Back to that little white church In the woods.
Lay roses on those headstones carved with our names.
Sing out, brethren, in voices
Long-silenced, but still heard, harried
By a north wind from the past.
Let your praises pillow our slumber
And greet us like morning mist.
Hearken us back from our dreams, brethren,
And forward into the light.
Harold Whit Williams
I have decided to blame no one for my life.
– Robert Bly
Winter morning all hollowed-out,
Whistling its one-note ballad.
Morning bark-stripped, sanded-down,
Held over a flame. A woodsmoke
Morning piping clear across
back pastures of my childhood.
Let me wake early to cop the riffs
Of this bygone morning song.
Let me stomp out with snare drum
Past granddaddy’s electric fence.
I’ll get in tune with morning, root
Myself down into the hard red clay.
I’ll call a blues to myself in 4/4 time,
Stand back and await the response.