Les Brown took first place in the both The Mary Ruffin Poole American Heritage Award and the Thomas H. McDill Award for 2019. He is Professor Emeritus of Biology, a graduate of Appalachian State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. Les’s poetry and prose has appeared in such journals as Pinesong, Kakalak and Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel. He is also a visual artist, focusing in photography, which has appeared in regional journals including, Moon Shine Review and Broad River Review.
He shares this poem with us, published in Kakalak, 2019:
Nights at the Farmhouse
The rough-hewn plank door
to the Cat Room above
Grandfather’s study with its iron
latch, stayed closed, unlike others,
polished satin brown with white
porcelain knobs and raised panels.
They warned us, never
go through that door,
Rawhead and Bloodybones
lived inside, waiting for us.
We passed it every night, creeping
to our feather beds across the long
upstairs hall where we covered
our heads, listening under nine-patch
and Dutch Doll quilts stitched on a frame
hanging under the porch ceiling.
Now, the door stands wide open,
I hear their skeletons clattering,
laughing, among the debris inside.
On dealing with a dried up well of creativity, Les offers these thoughts:
Certainly, one of the most effective methods of awakening the writing muse for me is to attend workshops and critiquing sessions. We only have to look at many of the great poets, musicians and artists who emerged from collectives of like-minded people. There is nothing like being with others of like interests to stimulate creativity and generate new ideas for writing. At times, however, I can’t find that community, or a place where writing feels natural. I am fortunate to have many interests including painting, drawing, photography and pottery that I can turn to as outlets for creativity. I am deeply connected to nature, being born and raised in the North Carolina Mountains where my wife, Joyce, and I still have a retreat on my family’s land. I love walks in the woods, watching and photographing wildlife, mostly birds. I turn to nature to put everything in perspective and re-mesh the grating gears of my mind.