Thursday, May 3, 2012

Birmingham Arts Journal tells our storm stories

Poems, photos, paintings and prose about the fear and hope, color and light and losses and lessons of the devastating storms of April 27, 2011 swirl together in the latest edition of the Birmingham Arts Journal.

I’m honored to have one of my blog posts included in the five-by-seven-inch, 50-page booklet that is the all-volunteer, nonprofit arts journal.  The one-year anniversary-storms issue of the arts journal – now in its 10th year of publication -- is online at

My own family’s storm story -- a posting called “Images of tornado devastation include horror, hope” --  appears on pages 12, 13, and 14. The original post on this site was May 16, 2011.

I attended a reading of this publication the day before the tornado’s one-year anniversary and met wonderful people who belong to the Birmingham Arts Journal, writers and artists all.

They include new members like me, and young artists like Nick Petelos, a recent fine arts graduate who created the painting that is the cover art for the issue. Nephew of the Hoover mayor, current Jefferson County manager (bless his heart) and apparent namesake, Petelos said he painted the picture as representing chaos months before the storms hit.

Others reading their words or there to hear them include Carolynne Scott, fiction writing coach whose classes in Homewood I hope to join this month, and Stephen Edmondson, whose business card identifies him as “Raconteur, Bon Vivant and Palmist” and purveyor of “Cherokee Rain Dances for all problems.” And, he writes well, too.

The Birmingham Arts Journal is a volunteer effort for its editor Jim Reed, who is master of ceremony at these readings and who curates the Museum of Fond Memories at Reed Books in downtown Birmingham; his wife, art editor Liz Reed, and production editor Kathy Jolley. Novelist Irene Latham is poetry editor, but she was not at this meeting.  I’d hoped to meet Ms. Latham. She wrote a book called Leaving Gee’s Bend, set in the same L.A. (lower Alabama) region as my novel. 

There were other novelists and writers and painters there, and just folks who love words and love to create. I felt at home with them, and that was great.

I liked all the pieces – Carolynne’s lament on trees lost in storms called “A few questions for the tornado adjuster” to Birmingham artist Nancy Lloyd’s “Tornado Over Tuscaloosa” oil painting. Check it out online or find a copy at Reed Books. A $5 (or more) donation to The Birmingham Arts Journal gets you a copy of the publication; $25 membership donation gets you a year’s worth and supports this labor of love for words, art and expression.

Song of the day
I’ll replace the song of the day with this poem about the day after the storms by Jessica Temple, a University of Alabama graduate in English who is now in graduate school at Mississippi State.

Jessica Temple
                        the day after
Plastic cups
still in their dispenser,
rest in the rubble where a restaurant was.

The hospital saw 600 patients in the first 5 hours.
40 children arrived alone.
Don't come if you only have broken bones.

Red X's on cars,
just additional scars
added to those already torn through the skin of the city.

A mailbox,
the day's delivery still in place,
displays the address of the house that should be behind it.

A dog still chained to a tree uprooted
from another plot of land,
must have surfed through the wind.

One man swears he was 30 feet above the ground,
riding in his iron bathtub,
Wizard of Oz style.

A cat found in a neighbor's apartment
hid under the wrong bed
since no walls are left between the two.

A student saw arms waving,
pulled a pregnant woman from her house
Then her child.
Then her mother.

My father saw a picture of a front door
with no house behind it.
Good thing you weren’t home, he says.
The girl nods, says, 
I was. 

A young man threw his nearly-naked body 
over his neighbor. Not to be a hero,
but because he thought the world was ending
and he didn’t want to be alone.

Picture of the day
Birmingham Arts Journal cover art by Nick Petelos, “Refractory”

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