Project Thank-A-Dancer

Is there someone in your contra dance community that has had a big impact on your life? This is your chance to raise that person up.

Perhaps there is someone who showed you kindness at a time when the world was not being particularly kind to you. Perhaps you know someone who has quietly been volunteering for years with little recognition. Or maybe there is a particular musician who took you under her wing and helped you learn the finer points of your instrument.

The purpose of project Thank-A-Dancer is to collect those expressions of gratitude so that the people who are appreciated can know just what an impact they’ve had. They might not even realize that someone is so grateful to them. The other purpose of the project is for us as a community to see all the ways in which our acts make a difference.

It might be that the person to whom you are thankful is no longer living. That’s fine. They are still a part of our community. And it’s possible that you are thankful to something that is not a person. That’s okay, too. The most important thing is to be specific. Say exactly what you are thankful for and how it affected your life.

I’ll start.


I would like to thank Jack Mitchell of the Triangle Country Dancers. For years Jack has been a reliable source of positive energy for the dance community in North Carolina. In recent times he’s gained notice as a caller of repute. But it’s the consistency of his many acts of goodwill that I truly appreciate. He’s learned the craft of doing sound (goodness knows we need more folks like that), he organizes caller workshops, he welcomes beginners, and he teaches essential and new skills. Thanks, Jack, for all you do!


Please record your own thanks in the comments below.

Collard Greens

I am consistently asked to bring collard greens to family gatherings because folks seem to like the way I prepare them. So I am sharing the secret with you. Let me know how it works out.

  • 2 bunches of collard greens
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3 T of olive oil
  • 1/3 c of soy sauce
  • red pepper flakes

Wash, remove stems, and roughly chop the collards. Sauté the onions, garlic, and pepper flakes in oil in a large pot for 5 minutes. Add collards and soy sauce. Cover, then reduce heat, allowing the greens to steam until done (15-20 minutes). Stir to distribute onions with greens before serving.

This dish can be made to travel well for holiday gatherings. Simply toss the onions, garlic, and pepper flakes in the oil to coat them and leave them in the bottom of the pot. Add the greens on top and cover for transportation. When you arrive, add the soy sauce and cook on med-low for 25-30 minutes. You’ll have hot greens but you’ll be able to stay out of the kitchen (mostly) and you’ll only use one burner on the stove top.

Voicings: Alice Osborn

Heroes without Capes cover“The theme is being an other in a place where a lot of people don’t understand you.” This is what Alice Osborn has to say about her new book, “Heroes without Capes,” which features poems written from the perspective of various misunderstood heroes, including Darth Vader and Bruce the Shark. That these heroes can share their hopes and insecurities speaks volumes about Osborn’s ability to write at once with humor and sensitivity.

I sat down with Alice recently to discuss poetry, her upcoming book, and her work as a writing coach and editor.

Alice Osborn profile“Compartmentalize” is the advice she gives new writers, who often struggle with how to share personal stories while keeping the focus on the writing aesthetic rather than veering off onto a personal healing journey. She should know. As a writing coach and editor she conducts many workshops and helps a lot of new writers find their wings.

She’s also passionate about introducing new readers to the vibrant world of poetry. One of the ways she does this is by keeping her selections accessible at readings instead of breaking out the ‘tricky’ poems that befuddled so many of us in high school literature class.

I hope you enjoy the interview.

You can read more about Alice Osborn at

Voicings is a series of interviews conducted by writer Tyler Johnson featuring writers, musicians, artists, and thinkers in their own words.

Mr. Hutchins

I never knew a middle class black family until I went to college. Instead, this was my reality growing up in rural Virginia.

Mr. Hutchins

I sat at the kitchen table drawing with my fat pencil
as my grandmother hummed
and patted out dough for fried apple pies.

This far out in the country you had to
either take your garbage to the dump
or burn it.

Mr. Hutchins was the colored man we paid
to pick it up for us. He had been at it long enough
to have his own honest-to-god garbage truck.

I watched it creep down our long gravel drive,
and stop. Mr. Hutchins swung down,
dragging the floppy rubber can by one arm,
his other gloved hand extended for balance,
until he disappeared behind our house.

The opening maw and final crush
were the highlights I waited for,
but today there came a knock at the door
and his blackened hat held to his chest.

Ms. Yancey, please, if’n you don’t mind,
if I could trouble you just for a glass of water,
it’s mighty hot and I’m powerful thirsty.

My grandmother smiled, took down
a white porcelain mug, and drew him
a cold cup of water. He downed it
on the porch, thanked her genuinely,
put the cup on the rail, and was gone.

I watched the truck lumber back up the drive,
and my grandmother retrieve the cup from the rail
and drop it gently into the trash
before spooning butter on the apples,

leaving me wondering
what to believe:
the water,
or the cup.


– from the collection Dancing the Haw

Voicings: Celisa Steele

how-language-is-lost“If a new poet has to get just one thing right it’s learning to listen to herself,” says Carrboro Poet Laureate Celisa Steele. I asked her about being commissioned to write a poem for a public event. “Occasional poems are difficult,” she said. Watch the interview to hear her enlightening perspective on the inverted nature of that activity.

Steele’s first book, “How Language is Lost,” has garnered accolades from across the spectrum of active poets. It’s no wonder, since the same thoughtfulness she brought to this interview she infused into the works in the book. Steele is one of a minority of poets that memorizes and recites work publicly. Her interest in sound and performance is refreshing, and brings to life some of the immediacy of poetry performed in an earlier time.

When she’s not writing or performing her work, Steele is promoting a project called Carrboro is Poetic, resulting in a variety of public poetry activities including poems posted in galleries and boxes around the town.

You can read more about Celisa Steele at

Voicings is a series of interviews conducted by writer Tyler Johnson featuring writers, musicians, artists, and thinkers in their own words.

Why Men Fish

Fishing is the great metaphor. It is about being small and insignificant. About being lifted and lowered in your little boat by the mysterious depths. I used to fish on sunny days after school. I would shrug off my books filled with histories and sciences and maths, and grab my pole and box of lures, headed to one of the many local ponds. I didn’t always know what I was after, or even care. I just knew that there was something below the surface. Something big.


Why Men Fish

It is to escape their wives, of course,
with their endless suggestions,
and the day after day trudge of work.
To shove off, pull in the foot
and kneel in the wobbly craft.
To ease an oar into the water
with the softest splash.
To float without time
until the falling sun turns
the sky into fields of purple and orange
and casts man and boat
as a tiny silhouetted bobber,
their thin line almost invisible,
save the twitching circles
where it enters the water.
The hope, or faith really,
that surely, in all this,
there must be something
to catch.


from the collection Dancing the Haw

Voicings: Nora Gaskin

untilproven.frontcover“I like to let the characters have their say, even with a plot line that involves murder and mayhem.” So says Nora Gaskin, author of Until Proven and Time of Death. In these books Gaskin explores the story of two young North Carolina women killed in their homes forty years apart. Until Proven is a fictional account of the incidents and Time of Death is a true account of the actual trial, giving readers a rare opportunity to step into the writer’s shoes as she envisions, enlarges, and recreates those horrible happenings.

Gaskin also operates a publishing company, Lystra Literary Services, where she assists writers in independently bringing their books to market, marrying the best of traditional and self-publishing models. She uses her experience as an author and publisher to help writers ensure their works are developed to their full, professional potential.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Gaskin recently to learn about her books and get her thoughtful take on writing and publishing.

Drop by Lystra Literary Services to find out where you can get Gaskin’s books and learn more about their publishing and writing services.


Voicings is a series of interviews conducted by writer Tyler Johnson featuring writers, musicians, artists, and thinkers in their own words.

The Idea of a Garden

My beans are up, raising their sleepy genius heads out of the cracked soil. Before it was a garden this little plot was my driveway. I take pride in coming up with the idea to make better use of it. It wasn’t until the conversion from driveway to garden was complete that it started to dawn on me that I wasn’t the sole creator here. That it was a shared idea. Inevitable, even.


The Idea of a Garden

It was the weeds, of course, that had never given up
on the top of my driveway, never yielding
to the sun baking those pea-sized gray coals all summer.
Why not, I thought. It’s the only sunny spot.

So I rented a tractor to scrape off the gravel and clay,
laid out a winding path and built dry stacked walls of stone.
I spied a lizard between them, already basking.

The first plants I brought home were a surprise:
the worms had already risen in the new topsoil.
One day I found a baby snake
creeping through the stepping stones.

The morning glory has sprawled across the whole back fence.
I am at war with the most excited mole I have ever known.
All day the wren snatches, gathers, flits,
and the catbird chides me from above.

It is as if we all
had the same idea.


from the collection Dancing the Haw

Poetry on Your Plate

Have dinner with three poets at Poetry on Your Plate. You order dinner from one of the many excellent local Carrboro restaurants and bring it over to the Century Center. You’ll get to hear each poet read and share in Carrboro’s wonderful literary community.

Thursday, April 16, 2015
6:30PM – 8:30PM
Carrboro Century Center

Susan Adler George

susan_adler_georgeSusan Adler George is an award-winning published writer, artist and multi-arts educator whose works have been in many regional and national print and online publications. Susan who has an English degree in literature and Creative writing from Towson State University, was tapped to teach several college-level poetry classes and did an intensive master degree course in Shakespearean Comedy. Susan also studied poetry with the NPR com- mentator, essayist, novelist and poet Andrei Codrescu. Susan Adler George integrates art into daily lives – not as a means to become famous, rather as a means to live an honest, purposeful and valuable life.

Tyler Johnson

tyler_headshot_colorTyler Johnson is an author and poet living in Carrboro, NC. He grew up in rural Hanover County, VA, in a log cabin built by his father. His writing is rich with that Southern voice, but influenced by an ear for other dialects and a taste for other cultures. Traditional music and dance are integral parts of Tyler’s life and work. He is a regular contra and folk dancer, and also plays the mandolin, Irish tenor banjo, and guitar. Tyler’s books include The Swamps that Close, Tales from the Red Book of Tunes, and Dancing the Haw. His poems have appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Iodine, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and Prai- rie Wolf Press Review.

Bianca Diaz

biancaBianca Diaz is the author of No One Says Kin Anymore, winner of the Robert Watson Poetry Award and published by Spring Garden Press. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She won Flyleaf Books’ annual poetry contest in 2014 and new poems will appear this spring in San Pedro River Review and The Linden- wood Review. She earned an MFA from George Mason University and is originally from Miami FL.

Voicings: Danny Gotham


repastThat’s how Danny Gotham describes performing live. And he should know, having been on stage with some of the best singers and musicians in the business. Gotham’s newest album is called “Repast” and it draws on many of those singers and musicians to create a generous feast of songs.

I sat down with Danny recently to hear his thoughts on the album, the differences between making your own recording and supporting others, and the value of making music in community.

Learn more about Danny Gotham’s current projects and thoughts on music, life, and baseball at

Voicings is a series of interviews conducted by writer Tyler Johnson featuring writers, musicians, artists, and thinkers in their own words.