Archive for December, 2010

No Holiday Cheer in Poverty Statistics

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010 by Randall Williams

As Southern members of Congress continue to say “no” to most safety-net and stimulus proposals, the grim reality is that poverty is deepening across the nation and especially in the region.

According to a report issued today by the Southern Education Foundation (SEF), extreme poverty in the United States increased during 2009 by 12.9 percent, expanding the number of people living below 50 percent of the poverty threshold by more than 2.1 million. As a result, extreme poverty was the fastest growing income group in America last year, and the South’s share of the increase was almost twice that of any other region of the country.

One out of every 16 Americans – 18.8 million people – lived on less than seven to ten dollars per day at the end of 2009. This number of persons was larger than the combined population of 15 US states.

Analyzing recently released Census data, SEF’s update on extreme poverty notes that half of the additional 2.1 million persons who fell into extreme poverty during 2009 resided in only seven states, including four Southern states: Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New York, and Ohio. The 15-states of the South had 45.3 percent of the nation’s increased population in extreme poverty – almost twice the share of any other region.

Among states, growth rates for extreme poverty were over 20 percent – highest in the nation – in Colorado, Kansas, Utah, Idaho, and Missouri. The five states with the next highest rates of growth were all in the South: North Carolina (19.7 percent), Florida (18.7), Tennessee (18.6), Alabama (18.5), and Georgia (18.2).

“Southern states and the nation cannot long ignore these trends without imperiling the future prosperity of all of its residents,” stated SEF President Kent McGuire. “Even in the worst of times, addressing the problems of extreme poverty is in everyone’s best interest.”

SEF’s full 24-page report includes nine charts, three maps and various graphs illustrating and ranking developments among the states and regions on how extreme poverty grew in 2009 and which population groups have the highest rates of extreme poverty. The update also discusses the implications these trends have for education in the South and the nation.

A Yellow Watermelon “lucky” read for student award winner

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010 by Lisa Harrison

A Yellow Watermelon by Ted DunaganLauren Bradford, a 10-year-old student at Gulf Shores Elementary School, has won a $10,000 savings bond in the 10th annual HOAR Construction/Go Bowl Reading and Writing Program, thanks in part to an essay on A Yellow Watermelon by Ted Dunagan, published by NewSouth Books.

The Mobile Press-Register reports that Miss Bradford submitted a book report in the initial phase of the competition on A Yellow Watermelon after the author visited her school. She won an autographed copy by asking the so-called “Secret Question.” A seasoned presenter to school children, Mr. Dunagan always includes as part of his presentation an announcement to the students that whoever asks a question he has previously sealed in an envelope will win a free autographed copy of his first book.

Says Dunagan, “the secret question generates a lot of curiosity and a good bit of excitement among kids.” Winning the book in this way convinced Lisa Bradford that A Yellow Watermelon was a “lucky” book for her.

For the final competition resulting in the $10,000 prize, all the students read The Pig Man by Paul Zindel. In order to reach the final stage of the competition, Miss Bradford had to compete against some 10,000 students from the state of Alabama, so her essay on A Yellow Watermelon proved lucky indeed in moving her ahead to the finalist stage.

Ted Dunagan’s next book, Trouble on the Tombigbee, will be published by NewSouth Books mid-summer.

A Yellow Watermelon is available from NewSouth Books, or your favorite retail or online bookseller.

Alabama poet laureate Ralph Hammond remembered

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 by Suzanne La Rosa

These I Would KeepRalph Hammond, a former two-term mayor of Arab, Alabama, who served as chief of staff, press secretary and speech writer for former Gov. Jim “Big Jim” Folsom, died this past Friday; he was 94. At NewSouth Books, he is chiefly remembered as Alabama’s eighth poet laureate. A sampling of his verse was included in a gem of a book we published showcasing the work of Alabama’s poet laureates, called These I Would Keep. It was compiled by Alabama’s ninth poet laureate, Helen Blackshear, sadly, now also deceased.

Hammond was the author of many collections of verse, and was extremely active promoting the reading and writing of poetry. He served as president of the Alabama State Poetry Society in the 1980s and as state poet laureate from 1992-1995. Maybe in his passing he’s gone back to the curl in the creek, where he swam as a boy and which later engaged his adult imagination. From his poem, “Along the Curling Creek”:

In these stalk-wilted days I
return to the curl in the creek where,
as a youth in naked sunlit body, I
dove from overhanging persimmon
limbs, splashing a rainfall of water
over barrier banks. And today, like
a scratchy needle on a worn Victrola
record, I would reverse time and relive
those soft golden moments.

Sue Brannan Walker, reigning poet laureate whose extended poem called It’s Good Weather for Fudge: Conversing With Carson McCullers was published by NewSouth Books, observes, “Ralph Hammond’s love of nature, the cycle of life and death that shaped his unfaltering faith, is preserved in the words he penned. He wrote of the ‘caress of grass,’ and the ‘sorrow of rain.’ His spirit, now ‘untethered in the wind,’ is forever alive in poetry and part of the rich heritage of Alabama verse.”

These I Would Keep is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite bookseller.

Verse Daily features poem by David Rigsbee, and more about The Red Tower, Rigsbee’s new book of selected verse

Friday, December 10th, 2010 by Noelle Matteson

The Red Tower by David RigsbeeIn what NewSouth would call a different kind of poetic justice, we were delighted to learn that a poem by David Rigsbee from the newly published The Red Tower was featured on Verse Daily this past Sunday (December 5). The poem called “Equinox” observes, “It is the Equinox, and today I feel / the thrall that reconciles the animal / and the hole, cloud and lake, the sexes.” Verse Daily selects a single poem a day for featuring on its website in an effort to promote poets and poetry on the internet.

In his review of The Red Tower for Wild Goose Poetry Review, Scott Owens refers to “Equinox” as one of his favorite Rigsbee poems.

On the importance of Rigsbee’s work, Owens says: “Throughout his decades-long work, Rigsbee has encouraged us to live better, to make life better, by embracing the present tense.”

The Cortland Review, an international poetry journal, made The Red Tower its featured book in their November issue. Read through and listen to audio clips on the journal’s website; it also includes Rigsbee’s review of Stephen Dobyns’s Winter’s Journey.

Rigsbee’s work was acknowledged in NYC recently, when he was asked to read his ode to Nicolas Carone at a memorial service for the artist. One of the early New York Abstract Expressionists, winner of the Prix de Rome in 1941, and a friend of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, Carone passed away last summer. In Rigsbee’s words, he was a “Ulysses / who learned to chisel frowns from quarried stone, / who painted ugliness like an angel.” Read the full poem in The Brooklyn Rail.

Rigsbee will read from The Red Tower at a joint poetry reading with Peter Makuck on Wednesday, January 12, at 7 p.m. at FlyLeaf Books in Chapel Hill. Makuck will read from selections of twenty-five new poems and forty years of his own work. To learn more about other readings and events for David Rigsbee, visit David Rigsbee’s official website.

David Rigsbee’s The Red Tower: New & Selected Poems is available from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite local or online bookstore.

Valerie Gribben spotlights great fairytale picks

Friday, December 10th, 2010 by Brian Seidman

The Fairytale Trilogy by Valerie GribbenIf you’re excited about fairytales, you’re not alone. Valerie Gribben, author of the aptly-named Fairytale Trilogy, recently spotlighted five reasons fairytales were big news in the month of November on her Fairytale Market blog.

Among Valerie’s top picks for fairytale fans are Tangled, the new Disney remake of the classic Rapunzel story; My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, a collection of Brothers Grimm stories re-imagined by today’s top authors; and Once Upon a Time, a modern take on fairytales airing next year from ABC.

Not to be overlooked, Valerie includes her own addition to the fantasy genre, The Fairytale Trilogy, in which “Marianne and her brother Robin … come of age in an enchanted land where frogs talk, fantastical creatures prowl, and danger doesn’t stop at the edge of a dark forest.” Though steeped in the tradition of classic fairy tales, The Fairytale Trilogy presents an engagingly fresh story with what Southern Living calls “a modern twist.”

The Fairytale Trilogy is forthcoming in hardcover and ebook from NewSouth Books, Amazon, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Ethel Hall, first African American AL Board of Education President, praised for new book

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 by Lisa Harrison

Dr. Ethel Hall, author of My Journey: A Memoir of the First African American to Preside Over the Alabama Board of Education, was praised by several newspapers for her commitment to quality education for the state’s children. In his column for the Birmingham News, John Archibald noted Hall’s legacy as one of concern for children over all other considerations:

“As a 7-year-old she came to live with relatives in North Birmingham so she could get schooling unavailable to her in rural Madison County. She remembers teachers who made students read with inflection, who seemed harsh but pushed her to excel long into life.

So it hurts when she sees students who can’t expect the same learning she got in Birmingham 75 years ago.

‘It’s just sad,’ Hall said. And it’s made sadder because too many people run for school boards with no notion of what that job is about. They don’t read, she said. They don’t study. They don’t prepare. . . .’

And that ought to be Hall’s legacy, I think. Serving on a school board should be an honor and responsibility, but not a stepping stone.”

Arnold’s endorsement of Dr. Hall’s focus on the children is an important reminder of the commitment anyone working in the field of education should have. It also underscores the current malaise affecting many school systems, which fail to provide the quality of education Dr. Hall experienced as a child many years ago.

Also in the Birmingham News, Jeremy Gray recalled Hall’s career in an article on her appearance at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on September 30, where a reception in her honor was held.

And The Talladega Daily Home called Hall a “living legend” and her memoir “a touching testimony of dedication and courage.”

The attention given by these newspapers to Dr. Hall is evidence of her remarkable reputation and record as an advocate for children and for excellence at all levels of education in the state, a story which is told more fully in her book.

My Journey is available from NewSouth Books, or your favorite online or retail book seller.