A Florida-born poet who now resides in Nashville and a fifth-generation farmer from South Carolina have been chosen the first-ever recipients of the Kemp Writer’s Residency offered by Great Smoky Mountains Association.
This year’s selection committee chose not one but two residents to spend six weeks in the Smokies—March 3 through April 13—focusing on their craft in a retreat-like setting.
Elise Anderson was the 2017 artist-in-residence at the Austin Cary Memorial Forest in Gainesville, Florida, where she studied the history and inhabitants of the University of Florida's longleaf pine forest through a blend of research and poetry.
Latria Graham is a fifth-generation farmer whose writing has been featured in the New York Times, Southern Living, and Garden & Gun. They introduce themselves in their own words here and we’ve chosen one work by each to share with you. In the next Cub Report, they’ll treat us to some of their newly created Smokies-inspired work.
I'm a Florida-born poet, artist and musician living in Nashville. I studied English and French literature at Davidson in North Carolina and earned a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Florida. I've spent summers and Christmas holidays for as long as I can remember here in the Smokies.
My grandparents had a cabin in Gatlinburg where they gathered our whole extended family together whenever they could find an excuse. I remember being fascinated seeing black bears poking around their backyard. But it was only as an adult that I realized the vast beauty and ecological importance of the park that lies just outside the city.
I applied to the Steve Kemp Residency because this place means a lot to me, and I want to learn more about what was here before, what is here now, and how to protect the future of this area. I am thrilled and extremely grateful for this opportunity to spend time in the park working with the brilliant mentors available to me through this residency.
My goals for the next six weeks are to find creative ways to invite and involve new people in the park, develop new ways to spread awareness about protecting the biodiversity here, and reach out to those tourists in the area who, like me, may not have immediately realized the wilderness just beyond the city.
PINE by Elise Anderson
In fine, strong lines the longleaf pines once
formed the bones of ships and railroads.
Now the lean trunks lift black-needled fists
skyward down I-75, unnoticed. Backlit
in bright blue air, they barely shudder
at a passing semi, still as handfuls of unburned
incense or locks of auburn, petrified hair.
I am a Spartanburg, S.C.-based writer and a fifth-generation farmer. As a child I was fascinated by the flora and fauna I read about in books. When I was nine and we were searching for the house that would become our home place, I was taken with a big tree in the front yard. When the car stopped, I jumped out of the car and ran towards it screaming, "Mommy, mommy, there is a Mongolian tree!"
I would later find out it was pronounced magnolia.
When I grew up, I got as far away as I could from that magnolia tree and landed in Hanover, NH, where I majored in English and minored in theater. After graduation I made my way to New York City, where I earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from The New School.
During my second year, my father, the best woodsman I knew, was diagnosed with cancer, and I came home to start cataloging all of the stories and folkways that were passed to him through our family, and I realized there was so much I didn’t know about my backyard, which is why I applied for the Steve Kemp residency. I am interested in learning more about the plants and animals in our region so that I can better convey to the general public what is at stake—and why we should continue the conservation efforts put in place by our forefathers.
A Moment in the Smokies: The Steve Kemp Writer’s Residency is a new Great Smoky Mountains Association offering designed to help writers connect with the park in meaningful ways that will inspire some of their best work. The program is named for 30-year GSMA veteran Steve Kemp, who retired in September 2017 after directing the publication of hundreds of interpretive materials that continue to support the preservation of GSMNP.