The ghost town of Henry River is located in the southeast corner of Burke County in the Foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina. Built at the turn of the 20th Century, the village, as it is often called now, has been mostly deserted since the 1970’s when, soon after a change in ownership, the mill burned. The brick company store still stands along with twenty or so haggard rent houses that line State Road 1002 as it meanders uphill toward Interstate 40, a little over a mile away.
In 2011, a film company chose Henry River as the location for the protagonist’s childhood home in the first Hunger Games movie. Interest in the site sky rocketed. Individuals and tour groups made the location a destination. What had been a popular spot for photographers and those with an interest in local and regional history now became a part of pop culture.
The poems in this volume reflect on the historical Henry River with some reference to the intrusive forces of the film industry. Some are responses to photographs; others are based on stories that Henry River natives have shared with me, while some are sheer flights of fancy. All of them, however, share an empathy and reverence for those who lived and worked in Henry River.
It’s always been difficult for me to wade through the subjective haze, which has become contemporary American poetry. At first glance that might seem to be a rather bland statement. Yet, since Whitman and Dickinson introduced the world to the concept of “organic verse,” American poets have taken the genre in multiple directions that continue to expand. To list the exponentially growing movements would be little more than a rudimentary exercise in “who knows what.”
However, when the smoke clears the method of overwhelming choice has become the free verse narrative. That which seems easy while being anything but. Think about writing a song. Consider the relationship between Brian Wilson and Mike Love when Love focuses upon “the hook.” A poet has that luxury only in the context of the more primitive levels on the rung. The present day narrative wordsmiths are often torn between their concepts of what is or is not profound. Dr. Williams showed us that profundity has a natural existence in the simple recording of reality and the concept of “things.”
I met Tim Peeler in 1999. Oddly, it was a simple complimentary note related to a piece of fiction I’d read in a small press journal. He immediately directed me to his recently published book of poems, “Touching All the Bases,” a collection of baseball poetry. I knew immediately that I had to meet him. After that we began a correspondence that hasn’t lost its strength over these past 15 years. I’ve had not only the pleasure of publishing several of his books, but the privilege of watching him hone his craft on a daily basis. I can’t recall the exact moment when I realized he had found “it,” but I remember vividly realizing at some point that he’d reached a very significant plateau and that all the tools were in order to allow his visions and perceptions to take hold.
In America, we’ve long since passed a point in which “culture” can be an all inclusive concept. We are a potpourri of cultures. Some so tiny as to be almost less than obscure. Tim Peeler looks at the amalgam of community, breaks down the cultures, and assesses them poetically with the keenest of visions. He sees the things that the rest of us have viewed for so long that we no longer notice. There is a value in such perceptions as well as a beauty that only the weakest among us can ignore.
April 21, 2015
A past winner of the Jim Harrison Award for contributions to baseball literature, Tim Peeler has also been a Casey Award Finalist (baseball book of the year) and a finalist for the SIBA Award. He lives with his wife, Penny in Hickory, North Carolina, where he directs the academic assistance programs at Catawba Valley Community College. He has written thirteen books and this is his third chapbook.
Henry River – An American Ruin
Perfect Bound 5.5 X 8.5
Henry River USA
Henry River WORLD