“Whether he’s talking poems or possums, Shelby Stephenson is a fine choice for poet laureate.”

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My Journey Down South

It’s February 3rd, I’m headed east of Raleigh,
Raleigh, North Carolina, and a fine day it is.
I’ve been on the road from New Jersey to Front Royale, VA.,
stopped in on a poet friend, had a good night.
Then I drove most of the way and stopped in Greensboro
for a poetry gathering, at a residence, and then we did dinner.
Afterwards we went to another poet’s house and did a fireside
chat and read more poetry. Wonderful! And my kind of visits.
The night before I attended an induction ceremony,
for the new Poet Laureate of that southern state
I went further down to Charlotte, family visit, then
back up.
Shelby Stephenson, is one of Red Dashboard’s book authors.
His two books The Hunger of Freedom and Shub’s Cooking are
available on Amazon. Wonderful books, his work is fantastic.

I drove back up to Raleigh and attended the ceremony with
the four ladies I met in Greensboro, fun times; we also had dinner.
The next day I went to Shelby’s home outside of the city. He
took me to his brother’s BBQ place, we drove, and all the while
talking life in poetry. I couldn’t have asked for a better visit
with the new Poet Laureate of North Carolina, 2015-17 (up to Governor).

The road has given me so much material for writing; it gives up
asphalt, white and yellow lines, shoulders- soft and hard, rocks,
stones, rusty nails,
the smells of the land, pollution,
strangers faces in motor vehicles, children in the rear window, animals,
signs, all color skies, sunrise, sunsets, and all sorts of shadows
that lead us to our thoughts, leading to words, leading to poetry and song.

Oh, and did I mention I sold a few books along the way, promote baby, promote!

(above photo taken during induction ceremony; bottom- at lunch, Stephenson’s BBQ, Benson, NC)



What a gathering. Stan Galloway brought in poets from France, Japan, Egypt, other places, and all over the United States. What each brought to the poetry mic and table was so worth the $30 for reading fee, was worth it.

Thursday: Registration, setting up publisher tables, introduction from the English department head, Stan spoke, and then readers began. Dinner break, and then a few things in the evening. Dinner out with Red Dashboard authors and old friends from NJ, and a few new ones made.

Friday: Same as Thursday, with me reading at 2:30, and let’s just say my books sold well, as did Joshua Gray’s, a RedD author. Dinner break after other fabulous readings, some workshops, and then I was down for the count. I had been driving Wednesday, all day yesterday, I am trying to get used to my new body and eating plan.

Saturday: As I said fabulous fabulous fabulous! More of the same. Our book table did well, but the authors are fabulous. I love being surrounded by so many talented writers, not to mention the new friends you make!

Sunday: A few readers this morning, and then they selected 12 poets to do a command performance. I was selected as one of the twelve, Cowtown, Texas, 1975 was chosen as my reading, I can live with that, it was published in The Texas Observer last April, 2014! I just felt the others read such prolific pieces, mine was a humorous look at young love with cowboys(girls). It was all good, then I drove all the way back to Jersey, can you say tired!

I’d do it all over again, and looking forward to 2017, yes, the next Bridgewater International Poetry Festival and Conference. Get your poetry on!


I haven’t been on too much, outside of looking for links to books, but I found this gem of a review for my own book. And how wonderful this one is. I am going to seek these people out and hire them to write reviews for Red Dashboard Publishing…

Before you go to Texas, do yourself a f(l)avor and read Stelling’s debut poetry collection, My South by Southwest. In this book she doesn’t mince words but barbecues them till they’re glazed and bubbling off the page.

On the surface, this is a poetry collection about Texas but it’s only the backdrop in which Stelling paints her portraits. She takes the landscape and brings it to life with her unparalleled voice for capturing the world around her. She employs the landscapes tastes, music, history, and language and weaves it into her poems. Her skies are denim-blue; her barbecue is cooking up ribs, steaks, pulled pork and shrimp, and her men have six shooters and tin stars.

She takes the simple and not so simple joys of the human experience and spins it like a coin leaving you wondering if you’re going to land on you A$$ or fall on your face.

The collection is an intimate look at her upbringing, recollecting emotional moments in unusual ways. She retells the stories of her youth, her family, and how the landscape connects and changes her into the woman she is today. In “Cowtown, Texas, 1975” she writes a poem about first love that ends with:

Does she know you plan to break others like us –
leading each one out to pasture
to chew on your words?

“Hearing the N Word in 1966” is a powerful poem about a girl bringing home a colored friend to play and her momma stopping it from happening. The poem ends with the child growing up and finding out her paternal grandparents were Native and African American and had fallen in love in the Alabama tobacco fields. The poem ends perfectly with:

Now that was something calling, many
years back from the dead,
their own kettle black.

Stelling is able to take something as simple as finger sucking as a toddler and turn it into “There’s a New Sherriff In Town”. Her finger sucking becomes the barrel of a smoking gun that her family tries to break with hot sauce and other ‘gross’ stuff. In the end the toddler wins with:

I packed up my rocking-horse and
Its shiny new black saddle
And headed into deep
(under the) cover.

Stelling writes openly in a witty and intelligent style. Her poems are narrative driven and confessional. She lets us see, feel, hear, smell and taste the landscape and even lets us laugh at it. Stelling shows us that poetry is from every place: the heart, the head, the hand, and by God–from Texas too!

Another one mentions ‘Not exactly Cowboy Poetry, but definitely cowboy culture.’, and I know that. But most who’ve met me in the past have actually asked if I ride a horse and where are your boots and hat? Just like I assumed everyone in New York weren’t friend, and New Jersey people were all ganstas, it’s all good, right?

I was talking with another poet friend, “you know reviews”, they are poetry. I might have to publish a book of reviews just to prove that point!