Poetry isn’t religion. No one would die for it or of it. Poet, editor and educator Scott Owens knows these truths. Yet still he writes poetry, with more than 1,100 published poems, 10 poetry collections and nine Pushcart nominations. And he’s coming to the Lazy Lion bookstore in Fuquay-Varina this evening, March 21, to share his work.
Owens’ poetry is at once distressing and transforming.
“All of me is the monster here,” he attests in “Persona,” adding, “Here you’ll see the monster in me is you.”
Owens faces that monster in poem after poem.
“Anyone who experiences the human potential for cruelty carries it with him,” Owens says.
In his collection “The Fractured World,” he reveals a cruel realm of child abuse and pain, empathy and redemption.
Poems have redeemed Scott Owens.
“I’m a better person when I write poetry,” he explains.
His creative process helps him make meaning out of his own life and the world in general.
“We all have shadows,” Owens says. “Art is one way to deal with them.”
His second collection, “Paternity,” rediscovers childhood wonder and the saving grace of parenthood.
His latest collection, “For One Who Knows How to Own Land,” chronicles his youth in the dirt-poor Piedmont, where his grandfather “broke the earth, broke cows/ in the pasture, chicken-bones/ in his teeth.” It’s a child’s world of slingshots, screen doors, red dirt, carcasses and scuppernongs, a world of poverty and death and regret tempered by the promise of seeds in the ground.
Listeners sometimes cry at his readings.
Owens insists the poetry’s not all about him. But his poems are loosely about the places and people he knows—forts of broom straw, fields dotted with skeletons of tobacco stalks, the gnarled hands that fix fence wire and slaughter cows.
Writing allows him to step outside life and reorder a fragment of it.
“There’s a part of me,” he says, “that remains controlling. It’s a way of fighting off the shadows.”
Words offer possibilities. Owens embraces possibilities.
The evidence lies in his poems. He sees the precision and despair of a neatly made bed in “Hospital Corners,” decrying “a bed that disallows/ movement, breath, /rampant possibility.”
Owens doesn’t limit himself to writing alone. He teaches at Catawba Community College in Hickory, N.C., and edits “Wild Goose Poetry Review.”
As an editor, he offers advice to writers just starting out. First, he says, never prioritize publishing over writing. Resist formulaic approaches just because they sell. It’s artistic death.
Next, he says, send poems to publications whose poems you like. Read journals to get an idea of where you’ll fit.
“Look at the dart board before you throw darts,” Owens says.
Finally, he adds, start local. You have a better chance to meet publishers and make a connection.
Owens offers a word of caution about posting online. Once you post your work on the Internet in a blog or on Facebook, publishers may not accept it, since technically it has already been published.
Owens is no stranger to Fuquay-Varina.
“We’re so pleased to have Scott Owens visit us again,” says Laura E. Towne, co-host of the Third Thursday event. “His work is a perfect mix of poignancy, humor and social consciousness. He makes you want to be a better citizen and a better writer.”
Owens will read from his work and answer questions at 6 p.m. March 21 at the Lazy Lion on Broad Street in Fuquay-Varina. An open mic will follow the reading.
Come by. It might just be a religious experience.