Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Arkansas Folklore


Did I ever tell you about the time I accidentally bought a book of naughty folktales? Well, a few months ago I was at Barnes & Noble in Little Rock (wasting some time before an appointment), and I started looking at the Arkansas section for some coffee table books. I had some about Tennessee, and I wanted some about Arkansas. Well the photography selection wasn't to my liking, but I saw this book called Pissing in the Snow & Other Ozark Folktales by Vance Randolph. I bought it without reading the forward or even perusing the folktales; I got home and to my surprise, this was not the book I thought I was buying. Well, I read it anyway - the stories are not pornographic (not really), they are more, well, baudy and ribald.

One week when my K-group (small group from church) was over at the house, as we started the discussion of the Bible study, the small group leader looks over at the bookshelf and loudly reads the title - of course, that is the one book that would catch his attention. All very embarrassing.

I don't know that I can recommend that book to anyone. However, I did buy a another copy for my friend Marty, but he's a US Marshal and hears naughty things all the time from criminals - he even had a perp whose street name was "dog nuts."

I can, however, recommend the following book: Deep Down in the Delta - folktales and poems by Greg Brownderville. He is the Poet of Pumpkin Bend. No, seriously, he's from a town in Arkansas called Pumpkin Bend, and he's a poet (no really, he's won an award and everything). He's just finishing a Masters program at Ole Miss, but his undergraduate work was completed at Ouachita Baptist University (my alma mater - Go Tigers). His book is available at Amazon.

My friends Donnie and Lori (aware of my interest in family-friendly as well as adult-themed folklore) invited me to a poetry reading that Brownderville did at OBU, and I thoroughly enjoyed it (I'm usually not one for poetry readings). The poems he read from that night are being compiled into a second book. Despite having not read this unpublished second book, I still recommend it (just because the last time I bought a book without reading anything about it and it turned out to be folk-porno doesn't mean anything). Anyway, my two favorite images from the poetry at the reading are as follows (obviously they are more powerful as lines in poems as opposed to my remembrances scrawled into crazy blog posts). The first was from a poem where the characters were gathering honey and he compared the honeycomb to a "box of shells." That's ammunition, not seashells. The other image was how he described a lady singing at his boyhood church - her voice was sweet, it was "banana cream Jesus."

He also sang a gospel song, "Jesus on the Mainline," before reading one of the poems. This is a video of he and his brother performing that song:

Now, bringing this random blog back together: My friend Rachel visited this past weekend and we went to Hot Springs to see/hear the live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. My eyes lit up and ears perked up as Keillor and his colleagues sang "Jesus on the Mainline," and then he explained how an important folklorist, Vance Randolph, lived in the Ozarks and collected folksongs and folktales, some of which are compiled in the book, Pissing in the Snow.

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