On this episode of Arts & Letters, Arkansas Poet Jo McDougall discusses the farm, family, and the everyday mystery that poetry explores.
McDougall is the author of several collections of poetry, as well as Daddy's Money, A Memoir of Farm and Family. The memoir, published by the University of Arkansas Press in 2011, explores her early life growing up on a rice farm outside the town of Dewitt, Arkansas. Her book of collected poems, In the Home of the Famous Dead, was published by the University of Arkansas Press in 2015.
McDougall received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Arkansas, and spent much of her life teaching writing at universities in Arkansas and Kansas. She now lives in Little Rock.
Her most recent collection The Undiscovered Room was published in 2016 by Tavern Books. It "invites readers into the small towns of the rural South and Midwest inhabited by grief, resignation, awe and death."
The Undiscovered Room is a mature collection—a careful coalescence of a life's work—a coming together of so many of the themes McDougall has previously explored: farm life, ghosts, sweet contrivances and stillness falling like calamity.
In the poem, "Vehicle," McDougall writes:
Nobody wants to be a ghost.
It's tiresome, being noticed
but never seen.
How else can one go back, though,
to the house that was sold or burned
or rotted away--
to rustle the blinds,
startle the cat,
walk barefoot out
for the morning paper?
The music for this episode was composed and realized by Fayetteville-based musician Randall Shreve.
Generous support for this program was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.