Irene Blair Honeycutt
Poetry book, 80 pages, $14 cover price
($12 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)
Before the Light Changes was selected as an honorable mention in the 2009 Brockman-Campbell Book Award. Judge David Romtvedt, Wyoming Poet Laureate, commented:
I very much enjoyed Honeycutt’s warmth toward loss. She’s in a hurry to notice the world while recognizing that we must be patient. We must imagine that we have all the time in the world. Her metaphor of looking at a painting before the light changes very gently leads us to the poems of loss due to the passage of time. There’s a great kindness toward the world in Honeycutt’s work.
About The Author
Irene Blair Honeycutt is the author of two other poetry manuscripts: It Comes as a Dark Surprise, winner of Sandstone Publishing’s Southeastern Poetry Contest in 1992; and Waiting for the Trout to Speak (Novello Festival Press, 2002). Her first children’s book, The Prince with the Golden Hair, was published by DN-P in 2006.
An award-winning poet, she has published poems in numerous anthologies and national journals, including Nimrod, Asheville Poetry Review, Cold Mountain Review, Southern Poetry Review, Pembroke Magazine, Devil’s Millhopper, Croton Review, Crucible, The Arts Journal, and St. Andrews Review. She has been the recipient of a NC Arts Council Scholarship to study at the Prague Summer Writers Workshop in the Czech Republic and of a Creative Fellowship from the Charlotte Arts and Science Council awarded in 2002. In 2004 she participated in the 5th Annual Writer’s Conference in Hofsos, Iceland.
In 1998 Creative Loafing Magazine acknowledged her with the Best of Charlotte Award for Best Contribution to the Improvement of the Literary Climate in Charlotte. In 1997 the Charlotte Writers Club named her the first recipient of the Adelia Kimball Founders Award for her advocacy for writers.
A native of Jacksonville, Florida, she worked her way through college as a switchboard operator and an executive secretary before receiving an MA in English from East Tennessee State University. She taught creative writing at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, NC, where she was awarded Teacher of the Year for Teaching Excellence. She founded and subsequently directed the college’s Annual Spring Literary Festival for 14 years. Upon her retirement in 2006, the college established the Irene Blair Honeycutt Distinguished Lectureship. She now lives in Indian Trail, North Carolina, and continues to teach writing workshops in classic fairy tales and poetry, in addition to conducting writing retreats in the North Carolina mountains.
“Irene Honeycutt defies the easy stereotype of Poet, disengaged from everyday life. Even better, she defies it with a vengeance—an energy that enlivens her work throughout. Whether lying in bed wondering if she should answer the doorbell, staring at an empty computer file, or watching an old man sweep water from his flooded home’s floor after hurricane Katrina, she refuses to let go of the everyday moment, whether interior or exterior, probing the depths of it for its past and ever-present reality. Because she enters her poems so completely, her readers recognize these moments as their own. When Honeycutt declares, ‘Dreams live in buried codes. /Last night they told me: /You carry a corpse around /and you are part of the sun,’ we know what she means. Before the Light Changes renders that interplay of light and shadow in all its shades of mystery.”
—Kathryn Stripling Byer,
North Carolina Poet Laureate,
author of Coming to Rest
“Honeycutt ‘slices an apple and its heart opens,’ particularly in those poems in memory of her dead brother. And for all the other absences we tend—and bear, the way ‘darkness holds the moon in place/even when it’s hidden.’ This collection finds her ‘swimming in a dream of a sunken pool we never had.’ But there are moments, also, of poignant humor. When a jazzman asks a friend with dementia how she’s doing, the reply is: ‘Who could ask for anything more?’ Indeed.”
—Julie Suk, The Dark Takes Aim
“In ‘Clearing a Path for Retirement,’ just one of many of the memorable poems in this collection, Irene Honeycutt tells us of her refusal to send ‘parts of my life to the shredder.’ How fortunate we are that she hasn’t but instead used her past to create poems that touch the reader’s heart as she probes the machinations of her own. Before the Light Changes is further proof that Irene Honeycutt is one of North Carolina’s finest poets.”
—Ron Rash, Saints at the River
The Absence That We Tend
is not the same as loss.
A separate room within our hearts,
like space between the stars—
not hollow emptiness—
this absence that expands.
When Cinderella wept
upon her mother’s grave,
the twig she’d planted there
flowered into a tree.
We cradle absence as
the darkness holds the moon
even when it’s hidden.
Walking the dog
again at dusk
nothing new until
the snake begins its crawl
to my side of the road
I tighten the leash
hug the curb surprised
when the pickup truck
rounds the corner picks
up speed and swerves
not to avoid but to run over
the long sleek body
I avert my eyes
not wanting to believe
look back and witness
a silhouette of spasms against backdrop
of red tail lights evening grass and asphalt
the snake live enough to curl
heave its head hold it there
do what it best does when it must
bare fangs flash tongue
The Radio With the Green Eye
The radio with the green eye is playing
“I’m so lonesome I could cry.”
Dad turns the knob, and Gabriel Heater’s voice
blasts into the living room. Dad folds
the Labor Union News and hunches
towards the radio’s mouth.
It is covered with brown cloth.
I poke it when no one’s around,
wondering what goes on inside.
Tonight the mouth thunders with bombs.
I get up from the sofa.
My fear is like the egg I drop
on the kitchen floor.
Mama just keeps washing dishes,
pretends not to notice.
Ronnie’s in bed, wants me to play checkers.
Yesterday, he stepped on the iron rake,
sat crying in the garage while Dad poured
kerosene over the hole in his foot.
His blood soaked the towel.
I’ve learned that if I turn a dial in my head,
it all goes away. Even the static
of machine guns becomes a blanket
of snow, covering the war.