Monday, February 8, 2016

Black History Month: A poem in celebration of Mae Jemison

I wrote this poem in celebration of the Endeavor Shuttle mission of Mae Jemison, the first woman of color in space.  This poem is written from the point of view of Mae Jemison, and it merges the factual with my own poetic imagination. This poem is the first in a series of poems about famous Americans aimed at middle grades students.


Mae Jemison Counts Down Aboard the 1992 Endeavor Shuttle




My blood pumps itself to a distant planet.
My brain is a supernova. My skin is a million stars.
The orange straps across my suit are bright as a fire.
I’m thinking of Grandmother, the swish, swish, swish

of her broom on that Alabama porch, the hot grits
bubbling on the stove, the smell of biscuits and bacon.
On an autumn evening, we’d slowly launch ourselves
in the swing, our feet rising across the pumpkin moon.

The year of my birth, 1956, Alabama still called segregation
separate but equal. My school teacher mama wanted more.
Her and daddy moved us to blue Chicago
to spirit, to hope, to zeal, to inspiration.

Grandmother’s tiny Alabama dreams never imagined 127 orbits
of the Earth.  Mission control is counting slowly down
and this Endeavor will shoot me into history
like a blazing star. What new horizons will I find

in a thousands years of blackness. The earth
and all its heavy history fall. I float, an impossible
dream, a black woman in a white NASA Suit,
an Alabama child with the whole world in her hands.


#blackhistorymonth #ya #youngadult #middlegrades #teaching #maejemsion #poem #poetry

I recently performed this poem for the students, teachers, and parents at the Poetry Out Loud Regional Competition in Spartanburg, SC at Spartanburg Community College. Sponsored by Hub City.






*Mae Jemison was not interviewed in regards to this poem, so the details of what she may have been thinking about while she waited to launch into space are wholly from my imagination. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Snow in the Upstate of SC

In honor of our little snow adventure, I wrote a few light verses just for fun.







Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Poems inspired by the Textile History of SC



Lindy Lee: Songs on Mill Hill

An unpublished collection


Yesterday, I had a great visit to the Courtney Mill in Newry, SC. Historic building are a great inspiration to me for poems that speak to the people and context of South Carolina. I am looking forward to writing some new poems on the rich textile history of the Upstate.

But in the meantime, here are a few of my textile mill poems that have already been published.  I am now sending the manuscript out for publication as a chapbook. The poems tell the story of Lindy Lee, a fictional mill worker, and her life and family. The poems are based on historical research as well as interviews with family members who worked in Poe Mill and Union Bleachery. I also toured the Courtney Mill in Newry, SC and village,which inspired many of the poems. 

Photo by Dede Norungolo.

Dip


Doctor said it would make me grow. 
That first time, chaw flipped my stomach.
But all the mill girls dip. My sisters
swear the thick stew keeps out the lint.

When the girls came up, they had spittoons
but now we bring our own little jars.
I ain’t never seen a girl smoke a cigarette.
Miss Rena would say it was unladylike.







Photo by Gordon Magee. https://flic.kr/ps/2qqwpH

Jerome’s Silence


Silence is a pause between shifts,
a Sunday dawn, it ain’t a commodity
but it’s rarer than gold.

Farmers got a sense about snakes
they hear the tremor of the grass,
the slight zither.

The looms are so stretched out
they shriek and jerk like sinners
in the fires of hell.

I know the sound of moth’s wings.
I’ve heard the first cricket of spring,
a lifetime back I had the clarity of silence.

 “Dip 1929,” “Hop Along Little Crow,” “Jerome’s Silence.” The South Carolina Review. Vol 42.2. Clemson, SC: Clemson UP, 2010.



Photo by Gordon Magee. https://flic.kr/ps/2qqwpH

The Cotton Mill’s Song


Thread spinner. Loom weaver.
Cloth maker to the world.
Doffers. Smashers. Slashers.
Whipping, sweltering, and worn.

It is true what they tell you. I am wicked
with my women weaving through throbbing
night under the electric lights. And, yes,
they say I am cruel for I have slaughtered

the little child and then brought another
to fill his place. And they tell you I am vile.
But my reply: in the cheeks of girls
and the ribs of toddlers I have instilled

the hollows of hunger. And still, I will turn
to those indolent idealists who huff
at our speeding machines, and say to them:

Come and show me a grander temple
to woman’s industry with brick walls buzzing
through sunrises and hail storms and snap frost.
Show me another place where the indigent,

the illiterate, the slow, the widowed
are set to toil so assiduously in
sweat-soaked aprons and wild, dripping hair.
Spouting steam and thick oil, I cast long shadows

across the mountains. I sing my swollen song
timbre as dulcimer strings. Flushed. Defiant.
Racing. Thumping. Heaving. On the floor, cotton
coating my woman’s skin, singing with hands

like wrens, fueling the machinery of America,
and singing the way only a burdened
soul can sing, with chin thrown forward
and heart sour as ukulele, humming,
beating a foot on the cotton covered pine,

blood pumping to the pulse of the looms. Singing!
Singing the heavy, linty, violent
song of the worker. Sinewy, sweat-soaked
proud to be thread spinner. Loom weaver.
Cloth Maker to the World.



"The Cotton Mill Song." “1963” Blue Collar Review. Vol. 10 Issue 1. Autumn 2006. Norfolk, VA: Partisan Press, 2006.


Photo by Kimberly Simms



When I visited Courtney Mill  near Clemson,SC, I found shards of blue glass in the rubble. The glass shards and the story of how mill windows were bricked after the installation of fluorescent lights, inspired this poem.

Blue Panes


Indigo, cobalt, azure. Protection
from the evil eye or wandering ghouls.
Cool icy streams. The color of heaven.
Jesus’ robes. Hyacinth blooms.

I always loved those windows,
forty years those blue eyes met mine,
a window to the soul. Mr. Stephenson sent
the boys up on ladders, smashing

laughing with each rain of blue tears.
Blue tick. Bluebird. Blueberry.
Shards settled in the grass and shone
in the streaming sun like a thousand eyes.

Who knew mortar could be spread
so fast? By day end we stood
in the fluorescent lights, surrounded
on all sides by endless brick.

But the debris called to us like jewels to crows.
We couldn’t help but pick up the shards,
filling our aprons with textured glass
then stringing our porches with their blue song.


“Blue Panes.” Honorable Mention. Kakalak 2006: An Anthology of Carolina Poets. Charlotte, NC: Main Street Rag, 2006.



©Kimberly Jane Gibbs No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any electronic or audio form without permission in writing from the author. The author reserves all rights to this original piece of writing. 

Publication History of Collection Poems from Lindy Lee: Songs on Mill Hill

“Middle Saluda.” South Carolina Review, Volume 47, Number 3. Fall 2015. Clemson, SC: Clemson UP, 2015.
 “Dip 1929,” “Hop Along Little Crow,” “Jerome’s Silence.” The South Carolina Review. Vol 42.2. Clemson, SC: Clemson UP, 2010.
“The Summer of Tiger Swallow Tails.” In The Yard Anthology. Sylva, NC: Old Mountain Press, 2007. (oldmp.com)
“Brother’s Mess of Crosses.” First Place. 2006 John Edward Johnson Prize. SC Poetry Society. Charleston, SC: SCPS, 2006.
“Cliff Jump.” Honorable Mention. 2006 Lyric Poem Prize. SC Poetry Society. Charleston, SC: SCPS, 2006.
"The Cotton Mill Song." “1963” Blue Collar Review. Vol. 10 Issue 1. Autumn 2006. Norfolk, VA: Partisan Press, 2006.
“Blue Panes.” Honorable Mention. Kakalak 2006: An Anthology of Carolina Poets. Charlotte, NC: Main Street Rag, 2006.
“Mama’s Mill Christmas 1935.” Home for the Holidays. Anthology. Sylva, NC: Old Mountain Press, 2006. (oldmp.com)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Spoken Word Poem on Fear Mongering: Terrified

After watching the #GOPDebate, Dr. Ben Carson's talk about EMP threats and the very real threat of terrorists taking out the electrical grid, I was reminded of this poem I wrote. In the spirit of full disclosure, I find it easy to get overwhelmed by the constant messages of destruction from the media. 


Terrified

by Kimberly Simms

It started with airplanes. What with failing airlines
cutting flights and possibly corners, long lines,
the war, terrorism, deep thrombosis, and the advent
of exotic Asian diseases, flying was just too risky.

But then there was that Amtrak disaster,
the hijacked greyhound, EMP threats,
orange terror alerts, mass shootings—
it just seemed safer to stick close to home.

Then one night there was this piece on Hardcopy
about wax coated fruit, rat hair allowances,
genetically modified gluten disasters;
it was time to switch to organic food.

I wondered, “What fiasco was next?”
I became obsessed with watching the news.
It seemed that disaster was everywhere:
kidnappings, sleeping terror cells,
biochemical weapons, and vulnerable milk supplies. 

So I began shopping on line, telecommuting,
cleansing my living surfaces with antibacterial bleach.
I stocked piled plastic bags, solar chargers & duct tape.
I stowed gallons of fresh drinking water, began grinding
my own wheat.  I built a bomb shelter in my basement.
I bought a gas mask on e-bay.  

Now that I didn’t leave the house, it was much easier
to keep abreast of current events that shape my world. 
I had 24 hour streaming CNN, MSNBC, Fox Live Breaking News. 

But then Time Magazine ran that piece on micro-organisms,
how they thrive in shower heads and vaporize in the steam. 
So I stopped taking showers . . .  

But then Newsweek described the toxicity of indoor air
the ecosystems in my carpet.  I was confused
didn’t know what to do — nowhere was safe. 

And then I realized! There was space!
I launched myself in a high-tech shuttle,
pressed my face against the viewing bubble
at the peaceful swathes of blue green trouble.

Now that I was in outer space

Finally, I smiled — I would be safe!

#endtimes #terrified #fear #organic #safefood #terrorism #news #fearmongering

***

And that's not even including the Zombie apocalypse!


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Wishing you a Happy Holiday!

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Please enjoy this poem about my home town of Greenville, SC called "December in the Foothills." It was originally published in The Dead Mule: School of Southern Literature



December in the Foothills

by Kimberly Simms

Winter plays hide and seek. 
We open the windows, sit in the sun.
It is epiphany before the cold
jumps out from behind a Christmas tree.

I find my weak winter jacket and go
down Main Street – fairy lights twinkle;
sunset is a fuchsia feather boa
round the voluptuous mountains.

I poke in artsy crafty shops –
finger mountain made ceramics.
There are no trendy bars, pounding
nightclubs - no cutting edge.

Townspeople wear baseball caps,
play banjos without irony.
I grab a mocha-chino at the cafe.
I see someone I know.  I see someone else
I know.  I see my brother.

Billy hands me a picture of hell,
as I unlock my car door.  He smiles
and asks if I’m prepared
for eternal damnation. 

I pass Bob Jones U and slow with the traffic -
an eternity of red, green, blue Christmas lights.
“Isn’t it pretty,” we say
in our fallen state of grace.




First published in:
The Dead Mule: School of Southern Literature. April 2005. ISSN 1535-8488. Val MacEwan, 2005.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Wits End Founder brings poetry to Alchemy Improv Tonight!

Every Friday night a different local legend tells their own local legends (personal stories) to inspire this fully improvised show. Check the site for a list of previous and upcoming guests.

Tonight Kimberly Simms will be sharing stories and her wry poems to inspire the Alchemy troupe with their usual comedic shenanigans! Show starts at 9:00 pm at Coffee Underground tonight December 4th at 1 East Coffee Street in downtown Greenville.

Alchemy Comedy Theater is Greenville’s only weekly improv comedy show. These energetic and completely improvised shows feature different local performers and special guests each week.
All shows are Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30pm and 9:00pm in Greenville’s iconic Coffee Underground theater. Street parking is available as well as several nearby parking garages.
al·che·my [ˈal-kə-mē] a power or process of transforming something common into something special

Tickets:
http://www.eventbrite.com/e/local-legends-improv-inspired-by-stories-from-kimberly-simms-gibbs-wits-end-poetry-tickets-19127911097

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Upcoming Shows with Kimberly Simms


Upcoming shows with Kimberly Simms Gibbs

October 24th at 2:00 pm in Poetry on the Trail at Art on the Trail Festival

Join a selection of local poets as they share their poems as part of the annual Art on the Trail Festival on October 24th. The festival runs from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and the poetry reading will be from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.


Here I am reading at the TR Arts Alliance Art on the Trail Festival! Thanks to everyone who came out! It was a great crowd!



December 4th: Local Legends: 

Improv Inspired by stories and poems from Kimberly Simms



Every Friday night a different local legend tells their own local legends (personal stories) to inspire this fully improvised show. Check the site for a list of previous and upcoming guests.
Alchemy Comedy Theater is Greenville’s only weekly improv comedy show.  These energetic and completely improvised shows feature different local performers and special guests each week.
All shows are Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30pm and 9:00pm in Greenville’s iconic Coffee Underground theater. Street parking is available as well as several nearby parking garages.
al·che·my [ˈal-kə-mē] a power or process of transforming something common into something special