Edison Jennings headlines the Sunday with Friends regional poetry celebration, which is held April 28 at 3 p.m., at the Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, Virginia.
While he has three chapbooks and his poetry has been published in various journals, he still remembers the first poem he ever wrote.
The pythonâ€™s manners are quite crude.
It squeezes its prey and gulps its food.
Edison Jennings says he was â€œ6, maybe 7, when I wrote that masterpiece. I wrote it just to entertain myself and maybe show off to my parents. They werenâ€™t all that impressed.â€
Their initial reaction to his childhood poem didnâ€™t stop Jennings from continuing to express himself and search for meaning through his poetry.
â€œIâ€™m not sure why I focus so much on poetry,â€ he says. â€œI guess I like the density, the wit and the figuration of poetry. And the way it sounds - primarily the way it sounds. I write poetry in rhymed, blank and free verse. With rhymed verse, I usually fool around with ballads and sonnets, though I have been known to mangle terza rima (an arrangement of triplets that rhyme aba, bcb, cdc, etc.) from time to time. Most of my poems, though, have been free verse.â€
At the poetry celebration, he reads from his two latest chapbooks â€œA Letter to Gretaâ€ and â€œSmall Measures.â€ He also shares selections from his first chapbook, â€œReckoning.â€ He is joined by regional poets from the Appalachian Center for Poets and Writers including Warren Harris, Rees Shearer, Delilah Oâ€™Haynes and Deborah Meacham Ledford.
Jennings uses his poetry to try to come to terms with the conflict between beauty and suffering and to explore concepts familiar to everyone: loss, gain, triumph, defeat, joy, suffering, love and loneliness.
â€œThe world is both beautiful and cruel; living things suffer and die in the midst of unspeakable magnificence. How to come to terms with that? I donâ€™t know. Maybe poetry might offer a clue?â€ he wonders.
He is inspired by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bishop. He also enjoys the contemporary poetry of Frank Bidart, Charles Wright and Derek Walcott.
â€œMany, many folks encouraged me, all sorts of folks, not just writers. But I will name a few local writers who have been generous and helpful with my efforts. In no particular order, they are Adrian Blevins, Mark Roberts, Dan Stryk, Larry Richman, Ann Richman, Errol Hess, Felicia Mitchell, James Owens and Sam Rasnake,â€ Jennings says.
Jennings earned a Bachelor of Arts while serving on active duty as an enlisted air crewman in the U.S. Navy. After military service, he completed a Master of Fine Arts at the Warren Wilson Program for Writers, Swannanoa, North Carolina. He lives in Abingdon, Virginia. His poems have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including â€œBoulevard,â€ â€œKenyon Review,â€ â€œRattle,â€ â€œSlate,â€ â€œSouthern Review,â€ â€œSouthwest Review,â€ â€œTriquarterly,â€ â€œValparaiso Poetry Reviewâ€ and â€œZone 3.â€
CHECK OUT JENNING'S POEM - THE CATS OF ROME