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1000 Black Lines

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The Lost Sea: part 2

The Great Smokies Writing Program series, Writers at Home, began around three o'clock on a beautiful August afternoon with the suggestion of a breeze. I anticipated hearing Keith Flynn read his poems, so I arrived early and found a seat near the middle of the café and sipped the hot chai I had purchased. Since I had some time to kill, worked on editing one of my recent poems. Soon, the café began to fill with those attending the reading.

After an introduction by the emcee/promoter, Mr. Flynn introduced himself and discussed a 56-university tour (done in 65 days) and the 10th anniversary of the literary journal he edits. Then he began his segment with a Keb' Mo cover of Momma, Where's My Daddy, followed by a poem from his first book and several newer poems from his forth coming collection. What struck me about Keith Flynn's performance was his powerful baritone voice as he read his poems and the smooth whiskey burn of his blues vocals as he sang. He is as big and bold as the words his poems. I refer to both his stature and his presence for I look up to him both figuratively and literally. He concluded his segment with a tribute to Ray Charles by singing the first verse of "America, the Beautiful". Independent bookstores are not typically known for their patriotic sentimentality, but the way Mr. Flynn belted out that tribute drew a small crowd from off the street and into the café.

He was followed by a new writer, Mindy Friddle (the author of The Garden Angel. She read from the first chapter of her novel and that concluded the afternoons events.

I retrieved my copy of The Lost Sea from my messenger bag and waited with a half dozen other fans for the opportunity to shake hands with the Keith Flynn and Mindy Friddle. Small talk with the emcee (who is the director of local writing classes) and Mindy Friddle (I had once lived in the city she calls home) bridged the moments before I was able to approach Mr. Flynn. I thanked him for his performance and asked about his "2-ply poems" and commented how that particular format resembled some of William Matthews' work. We briefly discussed that and also Sebastian Matthews' reading of his memoir In My Father's Footsteps (which also took place at this bookstore and which I also attended). As he signed my copy of his book, he invited me to another event where he would be performing. Interestingly, I was scheduled to perform poetry at the very same place but 30 days earlier. He expressed his interest in visiting that event as he signed my copy: "For Matt, a brother in the dark art of making poems."

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