Bob’s Note: For the last month of this year’s Winter Market season we feature another in our In Their Own Words series. In honor of our West Virginia teachers this time it’s our resident Market poets, The Bards of Yellow Wood. I mean, how many farmers markets have resident poets, anyway? We came by ours very much by kismet. As you may know if you are a Market regular we started a book club a few summers back called The BFM Book and Bean. Here you can sit and read a book or magazine related to local foods, or West Virgina/Appalachian history or both. We also have a great selection of kids books on these topics. All this while enjoying a fresh-brewed cup of joe from our resident coffee roaster, Quantum Bean Coffee.
As luck would have it, the Bards caught wind of our plans and one thing led to another and they ended up as our Book and Bean hosts. Their contribution to the Market these past few years is hard to overstate. Not only do they support a great cause but they bring a certain cache to the proceedings with their literary pursuits. And our customers get a great memento to take home. Personally, the poem they wrote for me upon the death of my mother is a keepsake for me and my sisters. So, here they are to explain themselves. And with a little poetry to boot!
By Brian Elliott, English Teacher at Bridgeport High School
Words matter. Words can move countries to crush each other. Words can knit minds together across time. Words can rebuild the lost pieces that you never knew you lost. The Bards of Yellow Wood believe in this more than anything.
Origin of the Bards of Yellow Wood
Daniel Summers, Rebecca Dewitt and myself (Brian Elliott) are local English teachers that want nothing more than for our students to have access to books. Any books. All books. The problem (as it so often is in education) is funding. Sure, we buy books with money from our own pockets, but there are limits to how much you can spend from your personal funds. We needed another way.
When Daniel and I were in grad school, he suggested that we use our meager talents in poetry writing as a fundraiser for an organization we were part of. Though we both loved the idea, nothing ever came of it. About two years later, we were both into our teaching careers and looking at a lot of empty bookshelves in our classrooms, so we revisited the idea as a way to help our students.
If you aren’t familiar with us, here’s how it works. If you bring us a monetary donation, or donate a book, we will write you a poem about pretty much anything. We’ve written about Lego Batman, lost four legged family members, football games, breast cancer survivors, goats, and West Virginia. There really isn’t anything we won’t write about.
The size of the donation doesn’t matter. A penny will get you a poem, so will a well-worn copy of Leaves of Grass. We are so grateful for the help; and to be honest, we love writing poetry so much, that any small amount will send us over the moon. It usually takes about ten to fifteen minutes, so see us on your way in and get some verse on the way out.
Meet the Bards
Daniel Summers is an English/Business teacher at University High School in Morgantown. If you are looking for that Appalachian voice or aesthetic, then Daniel is the man for you. The images and tones he creates are West Virginia to the core. I’ve never met someone who cares about the written word or stories more than Mr. Summers.
by Daniel Summers
It seems so different, inspiration…
I heard the mother tell her daughter
Willow trees lean over because they know
Life is in the soil, in our roots.
But they keep stretching don’t they?
In the evening-hands reach up,
Dance with the moon, dance with my beauty—
I bend down, scoop the pads of my fingers
Across the dirt, spring—
Clouds are the best dancers,
Especially the old ones.
Brian Elliott is an English Teacher at Bridgeport High School in Bridgeport. Brian is at his strongest when he has a very specific emotion to evoke. He frequently uses scientific terms in poetry about very emotional subjects.
by Brian Elliott
My memories of Grandma—
Sunday afternoons, jam
Spread on toast, glistening
In the summer sun—
Inside the beveled edge
Of a jam jar.
Strains of an Appalachian
Tune, locally grown and picked
Off the mountains,
Singing auditory fruit
Like gleaming, delicious
To take berries grown
From West Virginia soil
Is to take West Virginia
And preserve it—
Sell it so that market
Friends can uncap
Memories—tart and tangy
Savory and sweet—
And enjoy them
One more time.
Rebecca Dewitt teaches English and Yearbook at Fairmont Senior High School in Fairmont. Rebecca’s poetry is a wonderful blend of simple and complex. Mainly lyrical in nature, she adeptly reveals emotions without being too sentimental.
The Bridgeport Farmers Market has been our gracious host for all of the Summer Season this year. We are thankful for the space, and the opportunity. Our students matter to us. We want to provide them with the ability to read and understand the world around them. The support from the community at the Farmer’s Market has been overwhelming at times. We love to write. We will be at all of the winter markets, so stop buy on your way to buy the best coffee I’ve ever had, and share your story with us. We can’t wait to hear it.
Watch Daniel read one of his poems at the Market: