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City Lights poetry reading

City Lights poetry reading

Poets Jane Hicks and Thomas Alan Holmes will present their latest book of poems, “The Safety of Small Things” and “In the Backhoe’s Shadow,” at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva. 

“The Safety of Small Things” meditates on mortality from a revealing perspective. Images of stark examination rooms, the ravages of chemotherapy, biopsies and gel-soaked towels entwine with remembrance to reveal grace and even beauty where they are least expected.

Within “In the Backhoe’s Shadow,” one takes a brief rest amid responsibilities and needs, considering what comes next. In his debut poetry collection, Holmes offers a measured evaluation of a lost past, balancing the consequences of generational shift with expanded understanding of family, love and place.

A native of upper East Tennessee, Hicks is an award-winning poet and quilter. She also retired from Sullivan County, Tennessee, schools after 30 years of teaching.

The Jesse Stuart Foundation published her first book, “Blood and Bone Remember: Poems from Appalachia,” in 2005. The book met with popular and critical acclaim, winning the Appalachian Writers Association “Poetry Book of the Year” prize. It was also nominated for the Weatherford Award given by the Appalachian Studies Association.

Her second poetry book, published in the fall of 2014 by the University Press of Kentucky, is titled “Driving with the Dead.” It also won the Appalachian Writers Association “Poetry Book of the Year” (2015) and was a finalist for the Weatherford Award. Her critically acclaimed third book, “The Safety of Small Things,” was published by the University of Kentucky Press under Hindman’s Fireside Press imprint in early 2024.

A native Alabamian, Holmes spent many years on the staff and masthead of The Black Warrior Review while completing his graduate degrees at the University of Alabama. He is co-editor of “Walking the Line: Country Music Lyricists and American Culture,” “Jeff Daniel Marion: Poet on the Holston” and “The Fire That Breaks: Gerard Manley Hopkins’s Poetic Legacies.” He specializes in Appalachian and African American literature as a professor of English at East Tennessee State University.

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