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Tom Chaney: Davis McCombs in Lexington

Of Writers And Their Books: Davis McCombs in Lexington. Tom talks of Three Kentucky writers who deal with the idea of the land, of community and of the satisfaction of living in one's place.. This column first appeared 13 March 2005.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: The Holy Communion of Rabbit Hunting

By Tom Chaney

Davis McCombs in Lexington

Hart County was done proud last Friday night [eleven years go] at the University of Kentucky. Strategically placed between two other fine Kentucky authors of more years and books, Davis McCombs of Woodsonville, now in exile in Arkansas, read from his newer poems to a packed house at the university's Memorial Hall

The occasion was a joint symposium sponsored by the University's Gaines Center for the Humanities and the College of Agriculture. A co-sponsor was Partners for Family Farms.

Titled "Growing Kentucky: New Directions for Our Culture of Land and Food" this is the latest in a series of symposiums that each year honors the life and work of Joy Bale Boone, Kentucky's first poet laureate.

Mr. McCombs was a part of a broad spectrum of specialists with expertise from both agriculture and the humanities who considered
"all aspects of the state's rural agricultural communities --
the economic, the environmental, the social, and the spiritual,"
said Dan Rowland, Gaines center director.

Mr. McCombs read a selection of poems from his newer symphony of poems dealing with the vanishing tobacco culture of his native soil. Vivid images of tobacco fields and barns and people give these poems the same immediacy as the river, cave and farming images from his published volume Ultima Thule, which was awarded the 1999 Yale Younger Poets commendation.

Wendell Berry, author of more than forty books of poetry, novels and essays, began the evening with a portion of his newest novel Hannah Coulter, which continues the life of his "Port William Membership."

The evening ended with Barbara Kingsolver sharing an essay from her recent collection Small Wonder. She elaborates the concepts of self-sufficiency as she tells of her garden and barnyard in her southern Virginia farm.

Three Kentucky writers dealt with the idea of the land, of community and of the satisfaction of living in one's place. That place may be one of decay as its membership face economic changes such as
-- the decline of tobacco, once a mainstay of the small family farm; or
-- the long, inevitable deterioration Hannah Coulter sees
"where we feel the old fabric torn, pulling apart,
and we know how much we have loved one another."

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney -

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