Like many schools, East Carolina University, where I now teach, has been severely affected by the economic woes of our time. Culture—where the true history and heart of a people resides—is usually the first area to be gutted in tough financial times, and so it has been for us in some ways. One victim of the shortfall here has been the departmental reading series. Our budget for literary readings, not more than a token to begin with, has been lost, and so faculty members have done the best we can to find ways to bring literary writers to campus for our students. It hasn’t been easy, and I often feel tawdry to ask, but my students deserve what I had—access to writers and their work. When my colleague, Margaret Bauer (Rives Chair of Southern Literature and editor of the North Carolina Literary Review) contacted me to ask if I’d be interested in having Jim Applewhite visit my advanced poetry class, I was thrilled and grateful.
In preparation, I bought several volumes of Jim Applewhite’s poetry and began to read. I’m sorry now that it’s taken me so long to discover his work in earnest. As someone who now lives in eastern North Carolina, the very landscape of which Applewhite’s poetry sings, these poems are proving of great value to me as I continue to acclimate myself to my surroundings. As Dave Smith points out in his appreciation of Applewhite’s poetry below, Jim’s poetry gives voice and meaning to this very special and unique place. The last stanza of his poem “The Language of Space and Time” I’ve taken to heart, and it tells me that it’s good to be here in this place where I still feel like a foreigner, that the landscape and the poetry can be transformative. What more can we ask of poetry?I’d like to thank Jim Applewhite for his kindness. I’d like to thank, as well, Dave Smith for responding to my plea for a piece on Applewhite at the last minute with graciousness and with care. At ECU, I wish to thank Margaret Bauer for making it happen, as well as Diane Rodman, Donna Kain, Jeffrey Gilbert, Susan Howard, Kevin Dublin, and anyone else I may have forgotten for their roles.