I went shopping at a thrift store last week and found a gem, a book by Robert Morgan, This Rock. Finding it reminded me of the enjoyment I had in reading another of his books, The Truest Pleasure. As with it, The Rock pulled me into Morgan’s world in the first chapter. I am reading it slowly in order to make it last and will try to limit myself to one chapter a day. Doing so takes discipline.
Morgan writes about my world, that of Appalachia. It is the world of many of the readers of this column. Most, if not all, of Morgan’s novels are about our people and their raw, conflicted lives.
His world is in rural North Carolina, a mountainous region not unlike our own. Both books are set in the early 1900s; and the stories of the people’s language, religion, and lifestyles are like many of the stories my mother and my father’s mother often told me about growing up in rural Northeast Alabama.
Morgan’s way with words is lovely, often poetic. He is a prolific poet, by the way, and a writer of short stories. Here is an example from The Rock. His character, Muir, watches a girlfriend from a distance as she washes her hair and sings while wearing only a petticoat: “Annie set on a tub and shook her hair so it spread out again around her neck and shoulders. Her voice was pure as the ring of one glass on another. It was pure as the sound of springwater pouring into a pool.”
As a lover of pretty language, I admire the metaphors he creates because they show scenes in the mind – the mark of a good writer.
I failed to attend a lecture that Morgan held several years ago at Jacksonville State University.
A friend told me I would enjoy going, but I got distracted with something else. That was before I read The Truest Pleasure. After finishing it, I regretted not meeting him.
Morgan was born in 1944 in Hendersonville, N.C.; and he lived on his family’s farm in Green River valley, the same place where The Rock is set and possibly also The Truest Pleasure. He started out studying science and applied mathematics at North Carolina State University but transferred to its Chapel Hill campus and studied English where he obtained a bachelor of arts. He further studied at the Greensboro campus and received a master of fine arts degree.
It is interesting to know that a famous American poet, Carl Sandburg, also is from Hendersonville, and I visited his home several years ago. His wife was a goat breeder, which made for an interesting kitchen where she often kept baby goats as she prepared meals for her family. The house was filled with a plethora of books proving that Sandburg was quite well read.
Online, Morgan tells the story of his own life and his path of becoming a writer at his website, www.robert-morgan.com. He has a long career in teaching and has won many awards as a writer. I looked online and found some of his poems, which are written with such simplicity that I wonder why I quit writing poetry. Of course, that is what makes writing poetry tricky. Packing so many images and meaning into words seems simple, much like the way Olympians make their skills seem simple. The unseen mental and physical efforts that go into sports, writing, and most every endeavor makes the difference in a person becoming a master.
The list of Morgan’s books is too long to print (about 19). His latest published book is Chasing the North Star, a novel. I look forward to reading it.
To close I’ll quote a segment of one of Morgan’s poems, History’s Madrigal. “When fiddle makers and dulcimer makers look for best material they prefer old woods, not just seasoned but antique, aged, like timbers out of condemned buildings and poles of attics and broken furniture from attics. When asked, they will say the older wood has sweeter, more mellow sounds, makes truer and deeper music, as if the walnut or cherry, cedar or maple, as it aged, stored up the knowledge of passing seasons, . . . ”
Morgan seems to have stored up much “knowledge of passing seasons” in his 70 plus years. He “plays” words as an experienced performer “plays” notes, and he produces melodic literature that delights the ear.
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