Welcome to my online home.  Just like my timber frame cabin in the mountains of South Carolina, I hope this space will have a sense of place. I am fun-loving Southern woman who loves the old folk ways, fresh tomatoes from the garden, local history, and the atmospheric southern landscape.

“Kimberly Simms writes with eloquence and empathy about an important part of Southern history too often neglected.” --Ron Rash, Author of Serena

Friday, September 18, 2015

Kimberly Simms Gibbs: Funny Friday Poem

Sometimes on a Friday, I will post a short funny original poem - hope you enjoy!

Kimberly Simms Gibbs: Funny Friday Poem: Letter to Adam Dear Adam, I appreciate the bone and all, but next time you’re hungry, pick your own damned apples becau...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Unpublished Poetry Manuscript: Lindy Lee: Poems on Mill Hill

In 2005, I begun a collection of historic poems based on the rich textile history of the Upstate of SC. In sum, eleven of the poems have appeared in literary journals, and 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 Newry Mill and village, pictured below, before it was demolished. 

Photo by Dede Norungolo.


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.

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.

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.

"Beach-glass" by JSpiess - JSpiess - photography shot in Eastern PA. 

When I visited Newry 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 in the 1960's, 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.

"Beach-glass" by JSpiess - JSpiess - photography shot in Eastern PA. Licensed under CC0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beach-glass.jpg#/media/File:Beach-glass.jpg

©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, September 13, 2015

A Poem on Race and the Rich Diversity of the South

In July 2015, I was honored to to share a poem at a Speaking Down Barriers Event held at the Phyllis Wheatley Center in Greenville, SC. It was a wonderful, well attended and inspirational event that brought folks form a variety of backgrounds to discuss issues of race. These events are held monthly, so if you have not attended one, I certainly would encourage you to do so.

Below is the text of the poem that I shared. It is also published on the Speaking Down Barriers website: http://www.speakingdownbarriers.org/poems.html

Sweeter than our Carolina Tea
By KJ Gibbs

My English Grandmother never allowed past her lips
a single bite of Spaghetti Marinara, Lasagna or other “foreign muck”.
While some may call her racist for it, others may point out
the hypocrisy in shunning Italian food, while simultaneously embracing
 a far east stew that the English deem “Pub Curry.”

But my Grandmother never forgot her Rosie the Riveter years
in the Sheffield munition factory, or my Grandfather’s post
in Cairo that left him deaf,  or the birth of her first child
in a shell shocked hospital hallway with no doctor or electricity.

She never forgot the sound of the bombs on blacked out streets.
So she manifested her anger, she took her revenge for a ravaged city
in the only useless way she could: a hate for all things German and Italian—
right down to the noodles.

You may have realized that I have a heritage afar,
I’m first generation American, “an anchor baby.”
As my co-worker Yolanda exclaimed after I mentioned my English parents,
“I knew you were eating some strange food.”

And yes, the British are known for their love of weird food.
Yes, I’ll have the pizza with tuna and sweetcorn in it.
Sure I’d love the prawn flavored crisps. And TGIF!
Thank God its Fish on Friday cause I love me some Fish N’ Chips

Yet while not a single bone of my family is buried on American soil,
I am native born, raised in Carolina, learned in the ways of collard
greens, cornbread, grits, and biscuits. This food is what ties the cultures
of the South together. Take any group of Southerners, black or Textile Mill white,

they can bond over the commonality of a shared food tradition:
A tradition of fat back and pickled hot peppers flavoring
share cropper staples of string beans, potatoes, black eyed peas,
and greens. A tradition born from never having enough.

Yet in this New South, while our schools may be integrated,
where as much as we have moved forward — things have also stayed
the same. Some Southerners may have been trained with a more PC vocabulary
but the generational racism has not been erased from their hearts.

Nonetheless, Southern cultures raised in the isolation of slavery then segregation
have developed their own flavor — a quilt sewn of diverse tradition and dyed
with Indigo, Sumac, and Black Walnut.  Whether it is the traditional artisan
crafts of the Gullah Geechee, the Appalachian dulcimer twang, the colorful Haitian

dance, or the Tree Tossing Highland Games, our cultural differences are what makes
the American South Great — not a reason to hate. 

Yet today, while more whites may keep racial slurs private, it is not because
their colorblind— it’s because they’ve learned to avoid the backlash.
Opting instead to create a culture of shunning our darker skinned countrymen.

Meanwhile friends of a darker hue are refused service
at a bar on Greenville’s supposedly welcoming Main Street.
How shocking that in this day, an American citizen is treated
as if he was wearing an invisibility cloak. 

Meanwhile on that same Main Street, my black business partner
and I are harassed by a 30 something in a tie, for the crime
of walking shoulder to shoulder from Coffee to NOMA square.

If my Grandmother was alive today, I would tell her to forgive
the terrifying 1940’s and the undernourished 1950’s
and take a twirl with a plate of Mussolini linguine.

Just like today, I say to you, South Carolina — God Damn—
black churches are still burning and the strange fruit hanging
from bloody trees has been replaced by the echo of a Glock.

But most damaging, we are smothering
our young, gifted, and cultured beneath a hooded history.
Instead of celebrating a rich God-given diversity
that could make our Carolina future sweeter than our tea.

©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.