Poet and fiction writer Starkey Flythe, Jr. once took a shower with Dan Rather… sort of.
As managing editor for the Saturday Evening Post in the 1970’s, Flythe was part of the press entourage accompanying President Richard Nixon to Egypt. When the group was housed in an old army barracks in the Azores, Flythe crossed paths with the towel-clad Rather in the shower room.
The encounter is memorialized in Flythe’s poem “I once took a shower with Dan Rather.” The National Endowment for the Arts Fellow will appear in Savannah on Tuesday, Oct. 17, the first of a trio of poets featured in the Fall Poetry Series sponsored by the Poetry Society of Georgia and Southern Poetry Review.
Flythe’s poetry draws from an eclectic array of his life experiences--service in the Army in Africa, working as an editor for two national magazines, and as a writer of fiction and poetry. Like the shower episode, many specific events become the origins for broader observations.
“Poetry gets shifted off to being a frill of the intelligentsia now,” says Flythe, “yet it’s all around us. We hear it in ad jingles and greeting cards.”
One piece, titled, “The light, driving home, dusk along alternate highway 41 after hearing a friend, much touted, give a rotten reading” becomes a timeless observation on winter, light, and “the place we are going.”
A student of the classics, Flythe encourages writers to “ground ourselves in the early poets—Shakespeare, John Dunne, Shelley, Keats—those people have never been surpassed,” he says. In studying the greats, contemporary writers can “mold ourselves into various forms. I think it helps to stretch us. As they say, ‘it broadens the mind by narrowing it.’”
Flythe says many of his poems feature “various writers who are part of the canon of our literature. I talk a little bit about of the lives of these people. How they are a little different than what we read about in literature.”
His poem, “From our hotel room” was published in last year’s Southern Poetry Review, the national poetry journal housed at Armstrong Atlantic State University.
“What I like about the poem is its combination of serious and sass,” says Tony Morris, managing editor for Southern Poetry Review and organizer of the Fall Poetry Series. ”There’s a sense of humor in it but also a dialectic going on between history and man and nature.”
The Fall Poetry Series is intended to galvanize Savannah’s poetry community. Editors at the journal think that both Flythe’s writing and presentation style will move that goal forward.
“He’ll bring to the reading a personal sense and personality that will be fun and entertaining and witty, and yet serious at the same time,” says Morris.
Flythe will read from his two poetry books, Paying the Anesthesiologist and They Say Dancing, as well as from a recently completed collection that he’s shopping for publication.
Brigitte Byrd, a Parisian-born poet living in the U.S. since 1988, and James Kimbrell, a native of Jackson, Mississippi who directs the creative writing program at Florida State, will round out the fall series with separate readings in November and December.
The poetry series is the first joint project of the two longtime poetry organizations based in Savannah. The Poetry Society of Georgia has sponsored poetry prizes and literary events since its inception in the early 1900’s, yet has been faced in recent years with a dwindling active membership, according to Karl Harris, a board member and past president.
“It’s an aging society but young in spirit,” says Harris. “We’re trying to create a resurgence with this collaboration with Southern Poetry Review. Over the years the Poetry Society has occasionally had poets of some note, but a series is new for us.”nç
Starkey Flythe, Jr. will appear Tues., Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. in the Armstrong Center, 13040 Abercorn Extension, adjacent to the Armstrong Atlantic Campus. Free. Flythe’s poetry books will be available for sale. Call Tony Morris, Southern Poetry Review, for more information: 921-5568.