Springtime in Verse with Crystal Simone Smith

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Springtime in Verse is a series of blog posts inviting you to learn and gather around poetry with the Ackland. Today’s featured poet is Crystal Simone Smith.

Crystal has written three tanka poems in celebration of the Museum’s current exhibition, Lotus Moon and Nandina Staff: The Art of Ōtagaki Rengetsu and Nakahara Nantenbō. Follow our blog throughout the month of April to enjoy more original works by celebrated North Carolina poets. We are so pleased to present to you this exhibition and the original works written by poets from the local community.

I had sixteen children

twelve were sold away
eighty-one years old
I can still outwork 
all my daughters 

allowed no pleasures
when we sung 
we turned a pot 
down at the door 
to catch the noise 

Mistress Mary was kind
barn dances & holidays
she had a heap of beehives
Mama had to tell those 
bees when she died 

A woman in dark clothes seated at a picnic table

Crystal Simone Smith is the author of three poetry chapbooks, Routes Home (Finishing Line Press, 2013), Running Music (Longleaf Press, 2014), and Down To Earth (Longleaf Press, 2020). She co-authored One Window’s Light, A Collection of Haiku, edited by Lenard D. Moore (2017), which won the Haiku Society of America’s Merit Book Award for Best Haiku Anthology. In 2019, she won the North Carolina Poetry Society Bloodroot Haiku Award. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Prairie Schooner, POETRY Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, Frogpond, and Modern Haiku. In 2020, she received a Duke University Humanities Unbounded Fellowship. She writes poetry about the human condition and social change. Smith is the poet & author of Dark Testament (Henry Holt) and Ebbing Shore (Horse & Buggy Press)

We invite you to share your own poems inspired by Rengetsu’s and Nantenbō’s artworks on display. In the coming weeks, the Ackland will host several opportunities to gather around poetry writing, recitation, and scholarship.

On Friday, April 14, the Ackland will remain open late until 9:00 p.m. Listen to local poets perform waka poetry, learn to craft your own waka poems, and share your compositions at our open mic. Learn more here:

On Saturday, April 15, the Ackland will host a free, drop-in poetry writing program at Carolina’s Coker Arboretum’s central lawn. Visit any time from 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. to enjoy the serene landscape and the pleasure of crafting poetry to hang amongst the blossoms. Your poems will remain displayed in the gardens through April 24. Find out more here:

Also on Saturday, April 15, the Ackland will host a one-day public symposium considering the two artists of Lotus Moon and Nandina Staff. The symposium will look at the work of artists Ōtagaki Rengetsu and Nakahara Nantenbō from multiple perspectives, including Japanese Buddhism, the materiality and functions of the work, the role of literature, and the aesthetics of calligraphy. Capacity is limited. Register here:

Lotus Moon and Nandina Staff presents and contrasts the work of two major Japanese artists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, taking its title from translations of their names. Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875) was a Buddhist nun who became very well known as an important poet focusing on the traditional waka verse form, rendering her poems in elegant but strong calligraphy on paper and on ceramics that she often formed herself; Nakahara Nantenbō (1839-1925) was an influential and strict Zen Master famous for his energetically and expressively brushed calligraphy and paintings.