My friend, Navé, just delivered four heavy, delicious books of poetry to me. Now an international speaker, performer, and writer, Navé grew up in the little rural township next to mine and was part of the avant-garde blossoming of the Asheville poetry scene in the early to mid-90s, when downtown was still a bunch of boarded up storefronts. In addition to treasures like the Black Mountain College issue of the North Carolina Literary Review he is holding in the picture, and enough personally inscribed first editions from artists all over the world to make you think Navé is the long lost nephew of Gertrude Stein, there are also bill cards and programs from some of Asheville’s first poetry slams in the mid-90s. One is from a 1993 slam at the Green Door in Chicken Alley. Swoon all you old school Asheville folk, right? I feel like I have the beginnings of the Asheville Poetry Museum spread out on my dining room table. A few of the books belonged to Navé’s close friend, Julia Cameron. And one of my personal favorites is a tiny beautiful printed booklet from the 70s of Antonio Machado’s poems translated by Robert Bly.
We still have a lively, if informal, gift economy in our corner of Appalachia. I love that my students often come to class bearing herbal tinctures, elixirs, fresh eggs, homemade jars of wild plant jam, paintings, old books, or rootings off of some favorite garden plant. I leave a window open for trade most of the time when offering classes, simply because of the surprise and joy and pleasure it brings us to share with each other what we love most. And somehow it means we belong to each other in a familial way. Beholden in the best sense.