The University of Alabama in Huntsville Official Blood Harmony Book Launch & Poetry Reading with Lana K. W. Austin
Time & Location
About the Event
WHAT: The official University of Alabama Huntsville Book Launch for Lana Austin’s Blood Harmony
WHEN: Thursday, February 28th, 2019
WHAT TIME: 6:00 p.m.
WHERE: The Wilson Hall Art Gallery at UAH
Lana K. W. Austin’s poems, short stories, and reviews have recently been featured in Mid-American Review, Sou’wester, Columbia Journal, Zone 3, Appalachian Heritage, The Colorado Review, The Pinch, and others. Winner of the 2018 Words & Music Poetry Award, Austin has been a finalist and semi-finalist in multiple other competitions, including the James Wright Poetry Award, the Crab Orchard Review First Book Award, the Zone 3 Book Award, the American Short Fiction Award, the Still: The Journal Fiction Award, and the Machigonne Fiction Award. Born and raised in rural Kentucky, Austin studied creative writing at both Hollins University and the University of Mary Washington as an undergraduate and has an MFA from George Mason University (2008). Her full-length poetry collection, Blood Harmony, is from Iris Press (2018) and her chapbook, In Search of the Wild Dulcimer, is from Finishing Line Press (2016). Austin has lived in England, Italy, and Washington, DC, but currently resides in Alabama, where she is an adjunct instructor in the English department at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
An ecclesiastical thread runs through this fine book, in that everything has its season, and everything—including joy and grief—goes together. Austin’s poems achieve through their own high and lonesome registers what we expect from the best blues or hillbilly music: the human experience in this weary world is affirmed, even dignified. I am glad these refreshing, bone and blood-deep poems are in the world.
--Maurice Manning, Author of One Man’s Dark, The Common Man, and Bucolics
BLOOD HARMONY introduces a lively new voice to Appalachian poetry. Lana K. W. Austin celebrates the bonds of memory and blood in poems of both harmony and drama, remembering the blood spilled in the coalfields, and the struggles of families with loyalty and courage. The poems pay tribute to the place and soul of the region, the music of blending voices, adolescent desire, and the exuberance of motherhood, the enduring legacy of Jean Ritchie and Bill Monroe, and the mountains where the music was born.
--Robert Morgan, Author of Dark Energy, Gap Creek, and Chasing the North Star
The great circle is unbroken in Lana Austin's first full-length collection, Blood Harmony. The arc of mothering and hard unmothering, Kentucky floods and wanton drink, the luthier one with the carved grain and sorrowed ballads. In poems birthed from paradox, Austin's fierce coupling of alto and effervescence infuses and uplifts family and community portraits and tributes to the high lonesome of her upbringing—Jean Ritchie, Bill Monroe, Emmylou Harris. Her own unshakable voice prevails amid the downbeat of wounded genealogy, love's aching counterpoint and antidote to loss. So put your hands on the radio still warm and faintly glowing, scoot closer to hear Austin's "damned salvation of sound." The circle thrums as it bends toward that stubbornly joyful noise, the chord so deep and alive within us.
—Linda Parsons, Author of Mother Land and This Shaky Earth
Walt Whitman once advised young poets to "Be outrageous! Be outrageous! But not too damned outrageous." Lana Austin's Blood Harmony has exactly that balance of old and new, of the immediate and the distant, of challenge and embrace. Her Kentucky landscape shows as familiar as a family heirloom and the music of her poems is as clear as a harpsichord in a meadow. This first collection reminds us how the soul is always seeking, in its dream of place, the final character of one's identity, one's home. The Gospel says abide and these poems are enactments with bold, electric, convincing authority. Lana Austin's is a new country music worthy of a great readership. Let it be.
--Dave Smith, Author of Little Boats, Unsalvaged, The Wick of Memory: New and Selected Poems, and Hunting Men: Reflections on a Life in American Poetry
Attentive to history, place, pitch and character, the poems of Lana Austin’s Blood Harmony find bonds in music that dovetail with chords in family and community. Her lovely and passionate verses interweave precise knowledge of traditional mountain and CW music with marvelous invention, which renders a mandolin “an amulet of sound” and describes listeners to Emmylou Harris as “embered . . . into incandescence.” These poems are handmade and heart-carved with a luthier’s canny expertise. Anyone wishing to go, as her opening poem invites, “In Search of the Wild Dulcimer,” need look no farther than this collection where kindred sounds blend beyond description. In thrall to depths of the spirit, her poems are also sweetly free. Blood Harmony will make you sigh and sob, clap and stomp.
--R. T. Smith, Recipient of the 2014 Weinstein Prize in Poetry and Author of Outlaw Style
“Blood moves like music in the body of this book and you can hear it as you read. In Search of the Wild Dulcimer celebrates physical and invisible grace--all that gives life to art and to us. Austin makes us hear the sound that thrums inside us--a song that is a story. Here are poems of country ways and Southern melodies "divined from a vast river." What a joy to hear her sing.”
--Steve Scafidi, Author of Sparks from a Nine-Pound Hammer, For Love of Common Words and The Cabinetmaker’s Window
“In earthy narratives calling on the lives and work of legendary traditional country music performers and blues players and in short lyrics of a rare, brave sweetness, Lana Austin woos us into the Kentucky of her origins and the region of the spirit. These poems are honest, straightforward, and resonant as a lost-love song.”
--Betty Adcock, Author of Slantwise, Intervale and Widow Poems
“The poems in In Search of the Wild Dulcimer—like the hymns and secular songs which many of the poems reference, often paying homage—reconnect, reinforce, and define lineages and generations through love and suffering and conviction. “The almost Patsy Cline voice of Neko Case” at a concert can slick a couple of fifteen years into a frenzy of desire, which provokes the speaker to imagine her grandmother pulled into a “fierce coupling” with her grandfather, “when everything needed to come undone,” when the grandmother could put aside in those ecstatic moments “the crops that failed, the babies/ (she) buried” while the couple “clutch each other against the seasons turning.” Lana Austin shows what too few poets writing about the South are able to capture: authentic Southern experience spoken by an empowered voice that refuses stereotypes, that knows the past and its connection to it but, ultimately, looks forward.”
--Adam Vines, Author of The Coal Life and editor of Birmingham Poetry Review
“Lana Austin’s In Search of the Wild Dulcimer is a beautiful collection. In poem after poem, Austin recognizes the importance of the familial, the personal, and the ways in which sound, particularly Southern music—gospel, soul, bluegrass, and others—informs lives in ways deeply sensual and resonant. Indeed, Austin’s poems resonate with a vividness and genuineness that makes it easy to trust the poet—to know that what is written in these pages is more than poetry about family, music, and love—it is music itself, a book of call and response, close harmony, and sometimes “a single aural finger” that strums words both “lonesome” and “tremblingly full.” This book is a “host of voices,” a powerful choir of a debut.”
--William Wright, Series Editor of The Southern Poetry Anthology and Author of Tree Heresies.
“The poems in Lana Austin’s In Search of the Wild Dulcimer sing out with an irresistible energy. Music is their theme, and their abiding metaphor, the tissue connecting our lives to the past and to the present. In poems like “Sex at the Ryman” and “Highland Elegy,” Austin brings us to that place where the body and spirit meet. She hears the “simple incandescent strand” of her Kentucky roots in the ballads of Jean Ritchie, the plaintive tremolo of the dulcimer, and the “hybrid harmony” of blood relations singing together. Lana Austin invites her readers to follow this strand, and in doing so offers a reminder of the rich and varied ways music and poetry move us.”
–Jesse Graves, Author of Basin Ghosts & Tennessee Landscape with Blighted Pine