Mostly Southern, more recently Langston Hughes

I was fortunate during my academic career to not have a literary specialty; instead, as a creative nonfiction professor, I was given fair credit for articles and essays published on a variety of subjects. 

Those literary interests often also involved music and vernacular cultures, especially Southern ones: an interest in Kerouac leads to jazz and African-American culture and writing on rolls of paper, and to Archie Ammons’ own scroll poems and East Carolina roots, his Southernness, a thing that also fascinated Kerouac, and to Black writers as different as Ishmael Reed and Langston Hughes, who first saw the South in 1931, as he embarked on a reading / lecture tour to support a defense  fund for the Scottsboro Boys..

Living in New Orleans, 1980-81, helped get rid of fast food and pop music. Since then I’ve had the great good luck to live in a region with a deep and rich history, to have found several stories within that history worth telling, and to have enjoyed both the research and the fruition of it. Without that year in New Orleans, most of it spent living on the Esplanade end of Bourbon St., I’m not sure I’d have noticed much of it.

Editing the North Carolina Literary Review afforded me a staff of smart folks: Bertie Fearing, John Patterson, Jane Ashford, Tim Hampton, Trish Evans and many others who’d gladly research contexts and backgrounds for our issues–and fact check & railroad edit!– and working with such brilliant designers as Eva Roberts and Stanton Blakeslee showed how much fun it could be to make footnotes matter. That work also re-connected me to Fred Chappell and the garden of excellence that had become identified collectively as North Carolina Writers, A.R. Ammons foremost among them.

. . . 

Special Collections, Joyner Library, ECU

Noel Sullivan Papers, Bancroft Library, UC-Berkeley

Archie wrote “Sight Seed” on this scrap of paper that’s came to Greenville via Stuart Wright. 

when the jay caught
the cicada, midair, a fluffy,
rustling beakful, the
burr-song flooded dull: but
held low: the jay perched and
the prey to the branch
as if to halt it
indeocorous song pecked
once, a plink that did it
but in the noticeable silence
proceeded at ease
and expertly to
take this, then that eye. 




I overheard someone in the Nevada Museum of History mention that Langston Hughes had once stayed in Reno for a while and soon found out that not much else was known about this period of his life, in late 1934, when he lived under an assumed name with several other boarders in Mrs. Helen Hubbard’s home on Elko Street. I’m currently working with the Nevada Museum of Art on preparing an exhibit based on some of this research.