- Associated Press - Saturday, April 23, 2016

FLAT ROCK, N.C. (AP) - Soon after Kimberly Simms arrived at the Carl Sandburg Home, the poet had the first of the season’s baby goats in her arms, only hours old at that point.

Simms, who is the National Historic Site’s 2016 writer-in-residence, lives in Marietta, South Carolina, a short 20-minute drive away - close enough that she’s commuting from her home to Flat Rock for the residency, which runs from April 6 to April 26.

“For me it’s a great opportunity to work in Carl Sandburg’s house because I’m a fan and a lover of (his) poetry,” said Simms.

Because the main house is undergoing renovation and is currently empty, Simms is able to set up a quiet place to work in one of the upstairs rooms: the “crow’s nest,” which has a sweeping view of ridges to the northeast of the historic home.

“It was just a strange twist of fate,” said Simms of being an area resident accepted as the 2016 writer-in-residence; a commuting option worked well for the mother of a 6-year-old daughter who also tends to 16 chickens daily.

The residency program, which launched in 2010, is sponsored by Friends of Carl Sandburg; the program features writers from all over the country working in various fields, from poetry to fiction.

“Our goals for the program are to provide the community with opportunities to become involved with writers and to provide the writer a work space and accommodation in a national park,” said H. Tyrone Brandyburg, superintendent of Carl Sandburg Home NHS.

Simms was so excited about being selected for the residency she had told Chief of Visitor Services Sarah Perschall that she couldn’t get anything done for two days.

“It’s been kind of unique because there are so many opportunities for outreach,” she said of the residency, which has the professional teaching artist doing much what she does regularly in her work for the Metropolitan Arts Council in Greenville, South Carolina.

Last week, Simms worked with visiting middle school students at the NHS with their Sandburg Out Loud program; she said some of the students hailed from the South Carolina school where she once taught, having been an English teacher for 10 years before recently becoming a full-time writer.

In her work with the Arts Council, Simms works with students in various educational writing-related workshops - recent gigs have included an art class with students “writing” visual poetry, and in an eighth-grade class she tasked students with writing poems inspired by the William Golding novel “Lord of the Flies.”

“I work in partnership with teachers to integrate poetry into the curriculum,” said Simms, who started writing poems as a teenager.

About 60 of her poems have been published in numerous journals and collections, including Poem, The South Carolina Review, The Asheville Poetry Review, The Blue Collar Review and The Millennium Sampler of SC Poetry, among other journals, anthologies and magazines. Simms has a master’s degree in English from Clemson University with a Creative Writing Thesis, as well as a bachelor’s in English from Furman University.

She is a daughter of British-born parents; aside from the three years Simms spent living in England working for the British Film Institute, she has resided in South Carolina.

“I grew up in the South, but didn’t try fried chicken until I was 21,” she said with a laugh. Her mother, a painter, and her grandmother, a lover of theater, inspired her to an artistic career. “I always say, you put an artist and an engineer together and you get a poet,” she said of her parents.

Simms, who launched the Wits End Poetry Slam 14 years ago, straddles the worlds of publication poetry and spoken word poetry. “I’m a bit unusual as a writer - most writers do either spoken word or poetry - but I write poems that are in both worlds,” she said.

Simms has performed regularly with a fellow teaching artist, Greenville-based poet Glenis Redmond - who, like Simms, has deep roots in the Greenville poetry slam community.

Simms is looking forward to writing poems in her temporary office in the former Sandburg home - voices from the American past will be part of her focus for the residency.

She is starting a series of biographical poems which will be written in the voices of individuals from history; the project is on the heels of a series of 40 poems she completed based on the history of the textile industry in North and South Carolina.

For that series Simms created a fictional character, Lindy Lee, from which the poems have their “voice.” Sandburg’s poems influenced that project, which she is now sending to prospective publishers.

“His Chicago poems informed (those) poems because he was so interested in the plight of the working class, and that’s something that’s important to me, as well,” she said.


Information from: Times-News, https://www.blueridgenow.com

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