The Cult of Pertty

Category: Tailgate Musings (Page 1 of 4)

Random thoughts about the poetry I write, how I write it, and why I write it.

My New Book of Hillbilly Haiku is Out!

Hillbilly Haiku in my new book!

I’ve just launched my new book entitled, TJKY: The Kentucky in the Boy: Volume I. From the introduction,

A book of haiku poetry, stories, and vignettes from a Kentucky boyhood. This slender volume is comprised of things that needed to escape me. They are almost exclusively about my life in Kentucky, although I have not lived there for thirty years. The title is evocative of the old saying, “You can take the boy out of Kentucky, but you can’t take the Kentucky out of the boy.” I find this to be wholly true. I have written these little poems, vignettes, and stories over the years, but largely kept them to myself. Even the most recently written have been living in my head or heart for years. I finally decided to set them free and see if they touched anyone else the way they touched me. This book is predominantly a collection of poems, specifically haiku. However, as much as I love poetry, I have always been a little disappointed with poetry books. One can dip in and out, but, in my experience, it is hard to read one from front to back. My goal with this book is to provide a vehicle for my poems by interspersing them with other short stories and opinion on modern haiku that I have written. My hope is that this illuminates some of the poems and gives a little background to my thinking. Although many have influenced me, this work is my own and any flaws are mine alone.

If you have enjoyed this website, I would truly appreciate it if you would consider buying a copy. If you like it, I would really appreciate you buying some more and giving them out for Christmas.

I’ve truly enjoyed making and publishing this book. It is the culmination of a goal I set myself several years ago. It has now finally come to fruition. It is not all Hillbilly Haiku. I have included some vignettes and short stories interspersed with the haiku. It contains one story that I have not published anywhere else.

As of right now, TJKY is selling very well in Amazon’s haiku poetry section. thanks to all who have already purchased it. It is right up there with some of my haiku favorites, including The Heart of Haiku by Jane Hirshfield , one of my recent favorites. One that I have not read yet, but I am looking forward to is They Gave Us Life: Celebrating Mothers, Fathers & Others in Haiku by Robert Epstein.

Tobacco Barns

One of my fondest memories of my western Kentucky upbringing is the smell of a tobacco barn in the autumn. Those barns anchored the landscape of my rural Kentucky childhood and imprinted themselves in my memory. The thought of the smell of tobacco being fired in those old barns brings to my mind a delightful, then innocent, pleasure. That memory occupies the same portion of my mind as hog killings and sorghum mills.

My father, mother, brother, and I would travel to my grandparents every other Sunday. We drove through the Black Patch tobacco area of western Kentucky on those clear mornings. I know we did the same in other seasons as we did in the autumn, but I remember this ritual in cool weather more vividly, because of the smoking tobacco barns and their sweet, earthy scent. Leaves on the trees would be turning vibrant shades of red, orange and purple and falling while the tobacco leaves would grow darker and sweeter in the barns. The tobacco barns would smoke as if they would erupt in flames at any moment. The sun rays that streaked in long, straight lines over the frosted grass would profile the smoke seeping from the barns like some farming spectre. The smell emanating from the barns was deep, full, and ancient as if people had been doing it for millennia. One could imagine the smoke from ancient fires as the long dead Cahokians, Chickasaws and Shawnee of this area would rise and build the morning fire to warm their bodies and prepare their food. How could something so strong be unnatural or new?

The drive ‘down home’, as my parents called it, was special as well. As a token gesture to my mother, my father, who normally controlled the radio, would allow my mother to find the Princeton radio station, WPKY-AM that played gospel music. This was our church on these Sundays that Momma, brother, and I didn’t go to church. The show began with the chorus of “You Gotta Live Your Religion Every Day.” Dad was never one to go to Church in those early days. He took to church later in life, but in his own way. He never was a fan of organized church gatherings. My mother, on the other hand, was filled with Holy Spirit and loved listening to the gospel in word and song.

On these cold mornings, our red and white Ford Maverick’s heater would heat the front of the car, but leave the back chilly, so brother and I had an Aunt-made quilt to share in the back. The only thing I ever found to be as warm ever again was my Army “green girl”. I still have both of them. To find my girls curled up on the sofa with them gives me a feeling that cannot be translated. Moist eyes are all that it produces.

Once we arrived, my grandmother would add another distinctive smell for me to carry through my life, a country breakfast. Ma’amaw’s kitchen had its own special smells, mostly from a wood fired stove. The meal would consist of country ham fried in cast iron skillet, homemade biscuits that were so light they needed molasses to keep them from floating away. The butter was a large pat on a saucer dish. It had been churned by hand by Ma’amaw on the front porch while reading a book, normally the Bible, in the other hand. The ham came from the smokehouse out back and the molasses were from the mule driven sorghum mill, both of which were my grandfather’s doings. The coffee was made in an old iron percolator, but that was for the adults. Brother and I got milk from the pale. At the end of the meal, Dad would rise and pat his stomach. My grandmother must have lived for those unspoken compliments, because she worked herself to death in preparing meals from scratch on that old stove. Or maybe, it was just her own pride in pleasing, because my father wasn’t one for verbal compliments to his mother or my mother. It just wasn’t his nature, but I still remember how fondly he called his mother “Momma” just as I lovingly addressed his wife.  This feeling of family warmed me then, largely unconsciously. Today, it positively radiates through my soul like that old stove when it enters my mind.

I also loved these visits, because it gave me the chance to run wild in the backwoods with my country cousins, including one who would die much too young in an accident a few years later. I was a bit of a city slicker as I lived in a town of about 25,000 people, but I was transformed into a true woodsman on those days. My cousins would teach me how to track animals, build log houses, ride go-karts, and dam up streams like beavers. The land was all owned by relatives, so we had acre upon acre to roam. These lands would also contain the barns with the heavenly smells. We would fish, hunt and swing from giant grapevines. Daniel Boone had nothing on us. By dusk, I would come dragging in with soiled outtards and clean innards. By that time, Mom and Dad would be through ‘visiting’ and we would get in the car and go home with Ma’amaw and Pa’apaw waving us off.

Dad got the radio on Sunday night and we listened to his “hillbilly” music. Brother and I would recline head to foot in the back seat with our quilt and drift off to the sound of Bill Monroe’s mandolin on WSM’s AM station from Nashville and the smell of the barns again.

Momma and Dad, Ma’amaw and Pa’apaw, and too many aunts and uncles and cousins are gone now. I live in a big city in far-away land. I don’t smoke anymore, they say country ham raises my cholesterol, and surely too many molasses and biscuits have made me top heavy, but I still love bluegrass and gospel music and home. Growing and firing tobacco is pretty rare these modern, healthy days, so are those smells. But when I do catch a whiff, I am taken back, as if God’s hand has done it personally, to a time when loved ones long gone are still present. And on cold autumn mornings when I’m driving, I’ll crack a window and pretend I am back home in Kentucky. Almost… just almost… I can smell home.


Cool image and explanation at this site. –

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