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North Carolina Miscellany

HOW MEMORY HEALS a review by Grace C. Ocasio Irene Blair Honeycutt. Beneath the Bamboo Sky. Charlotte, NC: Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2017.

GRACE C. OCASIO, a Pushcart Prize nominee, was a finalist in the 2016 Aesthetica Creative Writing Award in Poetry. She is also a recipient of a 2014 North Carolina Arts Council Regional Artist Project Grant. She won honorable mention in the 2012 James Applewhite Poetry Prize, first prize in the 2011 Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka Poetry Prize, and a 2011 Napa Valley Writers’ Conference scholarship. Her first full-length collection, The Speed of Our Lives (reviewed in NCLR Online 2016) was published by BlazeVOX Books in 2014. Her poetry has appeared in Black Renaissance Noire, Rattle, Cour t Green, Poetr y South, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Two Hawks Quarterly, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Hollerin from This Shack, was published by Ahadada Books in 2009. She is a Soul Mountain Fellow and an alumna of the Fine Arts Work Center, The Watering Hole Retreat, and Frost Place. She is also a member of the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective and teaches creative writing at UNC Charlotte. IRENE BLAIR HONEYCUTT, born in Jacksonville, FL, is the author of three poetry collections: It Comes as a Dark Surprise (Sandstone Publishing, 1992), winner of the New South Poetry Book Series; Waiting for the Trout to Speak (Novello Festival Press, 2002); and Before the Light Changes (Main Street Rag, 2008), finalist for the Brockman-Campbell Book Award. Other awards for her writing and advocacy of writers include a North Carolina Arts Council fellowship and a Creative Fellowship from the Charlotte Arts and Science Council. She founded Central Piedmont Community College’s spring literary festival, Sensoria, which has continued since 1993. Upon her retirement after almost forty years of teaching at CPCC, a Distinguished Lectureship was established at the festival in her name. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Nimrod, Southern Poetry Review, Southern Poetry Anthology, and Virginia Quarterly Review. She lives in Indian Trail, NC, and remains active in the writing community.

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Poet Irene Blair Honeycutt’s latest volume, Beneath the Bamboo Sky, brims with poems, journal-like entries, and essay-like fragments. An ambitious collection, her newest work explores the subject matter of death, grief, and longing, exhaustively. Should we at first resist being pulled into the tide of grief that these pieces sweep us into, we find that we must eventually yield and ponder, along with Honeycutt, why death calls our loved ones when we are not ready for them to depart. Even as death seems the victor in each instance Honeycutt portrays, she delivers to us a gift: memory. It is, in fact, memory that reclaims the dead, rendering them alive and well in Honeycutt’s work. Honeycutt sets the tone of her collection with her very first poem, “Memorial Day.” A harbinger for other pieces in the volume, this poem speaks to how exacting a phenomenon death is. Recalling how playing with her brothers brings about a presumably unexpected result, Honeycutt reveals the following: We played at Westbrook Park, my brothers and I, scooping minnows from the creek into mayonnaise jars, . . . .... By next morning, the white bread crumbs had soured. Bloated, the minnows floated upside down.

Honeycutt’s volume requires that we be active readers of her work: her words draw us in. Thus, we idle along with Honeycutt and her brothers. And we discover, as they have, that play with a sort of reckless abandon can lead to a devastating effect. Only a few short lines later, Honeycutt muses, “That creek is dry now. / The two younger brothers have gone.” She posits further, “And the older one/ has vanished in his own way.” Though the poem shifts to a decidedly somber tone with the news that Honeycutt’s brothers are no longer living by the poem’s end, she provides a thread of hope earlier in the poem when she describes how she and her brothers at play succeed in “dragging time through our nets long enough / to last the rest of our lives.” We see, then, that it is memory that rescues and restores well-being through

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2018  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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