National Poetry Month – Tony Reevy

I first met Tony a year and a half ago when we were both invited to read at Malaprops Bookstore in Asheville, as part of its monthly Poetrio. I fell in love with his book cover for Passage. I have a weakness for old black and white photos.

The title conveys movement, and Tony’s poems move me. We’re on the ships that carry passengers to Ellis Island, we feel their excitement and apprehension. We’re here as these new immigrants find their way in a new country with their welcome or rejection, their hard work or lack of work. We dance and sing with them as they celebrate their traditions, making their new home feel more like home.

From Passage, published by Iris Press, posted with the poet’s permission.

The Debt (A Tartozas)

Creosote smell, ties spaced

just wrong for my

footfalls. Mama walking

the rails with me, thirteen

miles to Portage. No

train today, mines running

just twice a week.


Uncle’s house, doilies

under the lamps. But Mama

and me come back

with no money. Pap

yelling, Never go there

again. I paid his way

to Amerika. He’s no

brother of mine now.


I run out to the spring,

watch the crystal water

spill and gurgle, hold

my hand in till

it’s numb.


Sunday Csardas

Wood crackles in the stove,

and smoke mixed

with cabbage reeks.


Kitchen winter-cold despite

the fire. Ma is rolling

halupki. Pap walks up


behind her, clasps

her waist. She looks

up, turns to him


and they dance, csadras

without music, brogans

and high buttons


thumping, slapping on the kitchen

plank floor. The fiddle’s

in the corner,


and there it stays – even

Pap can’t dance

and play at once.


Bus Brown’s Funeral

Seventies tin-box car

crawl-climbs peaks, snakes

the Shenandoah vale, past

Winchester Blue and Gray

Motel, west of Broad Top

to tiny coal town.


At ex-company house

whiff of boney-pile smoke

as women and men gather

to lay Bus

in the ground.


This black-lunged man

who labored in the Earth

each workday –

or two days a week

in Hoover times.


It’s a long road from Auld

Reekie brought this man, chest

wizened like a dried apple,

to a churchyard undercut

by company tunnels.


Where no one can stop

the craters swallowing lawns,

playgrounds as dark rocks

shift far below.


Tony answers my questions ~

On your first question, I wrote my first poem in 1981, when a student in the first-semester English Literature course at NCSU ( I remember the professor saying “whale road” to refer to the ocean a great deal). I was a civil engineering-chemistry double major. It was a rhymed poem, archaic in style, which I later lost; I do not recall the subject. What I do recall is saying, gosh, I can write a poem. But I didn’t write another poem until 1991, 10 years later, when I took the first-level creative writing course at UNC Charlotte, while working there. Most fortunately for me, my teacher was Robin Hemley, a wonderful teacher, fiction writer and non-fiction writer, who has gone on to become well-known. My first poem was, therefore, an a-ha moment that I should have followed then. But late is better than never.

On your second point, I am tempted to name a favorite poet, living or dead. But, what comes to mind first, given the politics of our times, is that I would love to have coffee with Wendell Berry and ask him what he thinks about our swing back from progressivism to what I will be bold enough to call anti-environmentalism, and also to have a chance to ask him what we can do, as individuals, to try and make this better. I would also like to ask him what his real, unvarnished opinion about mountain-top mining and those who are involved might be.

Tony’s photo by Beto Cummings



This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s