A company providing “software tools and actuarial services for risk management and insurance professionals” may not seem like a garden of creativity. But the chief communications officer for Brentwood based Specific Software Solutions and SIGMA Actuarial Consulting Group has recently released a collection of very personal poetry entitled “Heaven Was the Moon.”
Though not a 100 percent, born and bred ‘Boro native, Kory Wells came to Murfreesboro as a young girl in the fall of 1970 and has spent the majority of her life in the town.
“My mother was smitten with Murfreesboro, with the charm of the square, with it being a college town and with the considerably better public schools than what were available to us in Georgia at the time,” Wells said.
Now, nearly 40 years after first arriving in the town sitting on the geographic center of Tennessee, Wells has documented its people and culture in verse. The poetry in the book is incredibly relatable to anyone in Murfreesboro or in any small to medium Southern town, for that matter. But the works contain landmarks uniquely ‘Boro, such as a Starbucks sitting near the site of a Civil War battle so many years before and going shopping at Roses on Mercury Boulevard. Many of the themes though could be applied to the lives and memories of many across this country; Wells writes of the cups that used to come with oatmeal boxes, moving to a new town as a youngster, growing urban sprawl, many races coexisting in the same town, religion, music lessons, friendships, family and the journey of life.
“Each one is like a little story,” said one reader of the poetry collection. “It’s easy to visualize.”
Though the poetry covers Wells’ life from the move into town as a first-grader up until present day, she did not take writing poetry very seriously until recently.
“I come from a strong storytelling tradition–my mom, Judy Lee Green, is a writer, and my grandmother was a great storyteller. I wrote my share of angst-ridden poetry in high school, but as a young woman trying to nurture both a family and a career in computer programming, I hardly took the time to read for pleasure, let alone write,” Wells said. “But a pivotal moment occurred for me on Thanksgiving Day in 1996. After a big meal, many of my extended family sat around our dining table, too stuffed to move. Somehow the conversation turned to abandoned dreams, and my grandmother asked everyone there, ‘If you could live your life over, what would you be? What dream did you have that you never pursued?’
“The answer came out of my mouth before it even registered in my brain. I wanted to be a writer.”
Once her kids were in school, and after attending a writing class through MTSU’s continuing education department, Wells starting writing and compiling her poetry full force.
“After a number of years writing mostly fiction, I started dabbling with poetry as an exercise to become a better writer. And then I got so hooked!” said the self-described “recovering Sunday School teacher.” “All of the poems in the book have been written in the past two or three years, and I continue to write new ones.”
She had to look no farther than her hometown for inspiration.
“When I hear people who have moved here stereotype small-town thinking or Southerners, I get irritated. I am so much a product of this community that it feels like an assault on me. I’m not that stereotype, and neither are my friends. That’s part of the reason I started examining cultural, racial, gender and religious issues in many of my poems.”
In the midst of Wells’ first journey into launching a book, she’s realized that no matter how good someone’s writing is, getting it in people’s hands is a whole separate battle.
“As a first-time author, I had no idea how big of a challenge (distribution) was going to be,” she said.
She submitted the manuscript to March Street Press on the advice of her mentor, Bill Brown (“a marvelous poet and writing teacher who lectures part-time at Vanderbilt”).
“I started with March Street because I had a couple of their books (one by Bill and another by Tennessee poet Jane Sasser) and liked how they looked. March Street publishes about 12 small poetry collections per year. I got an acceptance within a matter of days, which is totally, totally not the norm in the publishing business,” said Wells. “The actual editing and proofing process took about six months and was a very collaborative process between the editor and me. It would’ve been faster, except that when we were almost ready to go to press, there was a feature on NPR about a new poetry book called “Leap,” which was my title. Two friends called me when they heard the interview on their car radios; both about drove off the road, thinking, ‘That’s Kory’s title!’ Although titles are not copyrighted, we decided I should rename the book, so that took a little while and inspired all-new cover art, which I love.”
Though getting the book into stores has been a slow process, Wells continues to try to get her work out there; her daughter, Kelsey, has arranged some bluegrass flavored tunes to accompany the reading of the works. The mother and daughter duo have some private performances scheduled, and other reading events during National Poetry Month in April are in the works.
In the meantime, “Heaven was the Moon” is available at JoZoara’s Coffee Shop on Thompson Lane, Designz by You/Coffeez by Us in Bell Buckle or online here.
You finally have a real house – your first
that’s not on wheels. This three bedroom ranch
boasts wall-to-wall carpet, coppertone
kitchen, avocado bath, and more
closet than any seven-year-old needs:
a walk-in to hold your clothes, your toys,
your Southern secrets. That’s right. Your new
friends don’t understand. Subdivision
streets thick with bicycle-wreck gravel
are named for Confederate heroes,
but you’re the only kid who isn’t
from Michigan. Or Minnesota.
Their prominent-nosed fathers work
at luggage and appliance factories.
Their mothers drive to tennis lessons,
cook Italian, ask embarrassing
questions in nasal disbelief: You’ve
never had spaghetti? You learn: don’t
mention fried baloney suppers, or
hominy, or grits, or that you eat
your evening meal in the afternoon.
Your new friends invite you to pizza
parties where you bravely nibble one thin
slice while they inhale six or seven.
Maybe you can get used to white cheese,
but pepperoni? An acquired taste,
your daddy assures you. I can’t believe
you ate that foreign food, your mother
says. You wonder at the mysteries
of lasagna, that the girl next door
closes her eyes and lifts her face to
the heavens when she zests the word off
her tongue. But you don’t even think
to explore the possibilities
of Taco Bell, just down from K-Mart,
until a college boy, from Pikeville
of all places, takes you there at nine-
thirty at night and you try to act
casual but the menu says grande
and life is suddenly salsa.
A NATIVE SOUTHERNER,
ISSUES AN ENVIRONMENTAL
Some say this is hardly the place
to raise a family anymore.
New houses spreading across the county
like flu, schools and strip malls springing up
in places you wouldn’t run goats.
Everybody’s crowding in. Mexicans.
Minnesotans. Laotians. Californians.
Even some Buddhist monks
have a place out by the mall,
right next to the Civil War battlefield.
The city fathers can’t keep up
with all this growth, so you be careful:
a stray Minié ball from a front-loading musket
could fly out of the past and hit you
right in the eye, blind you
to the sameness of Pier One and Starbucks,
where the old men who used to whittle
on the courthouse grounds never gather.
Pray to me, oh
tailgaters and red-light runners
that I will forgive your sins.
Plead my intervention
for a new lease
on buildings emptied
when Linens ′n Things closed,
when Old Navy moved
to the new mall.
Ask in my name
for another cozy bistro,
another trendy boutique.
Praise that the city has no need
of sun or moon,
for its streets are bright
with signage and lights,
with commerce that surpasses
For new stores and new restaurants,
new clinics and new condos,
new roads and new schools,
always and everywhere
it is right to give thanks
to my mighty power.
For I am Wal-Mart and World Market,
the cash and the credit,
the beginning and the end.
I am not pure, and I live among people who are not pure. – Isaiah 6:5, NCV
Mama shopped Mercury Plaza
in the age of Aquarius,
when the Fifth Dimension sang of
Jupiter and Mars and love and
stars and harmony, and Rose’s
Discount Store let the sun shine in
floor to ceiling plate glass windows.
When I come here hunting a deal
like Mama taught me, Steve Winwood
makes sunshine on a CD. Sings
of higher love and what could be.
Dingy painted bricks eclipse store
windows. Run-down strip mall feels like
a ratty Goodwill overcoat.
I shrug off the ill fit, focus
on the front door and cheap sandals,
stumble on flimsy street smarts when
a boy of eleven or twelve almost
sideswipes me from behind
on his bike, then returns.
I make eye contact.
He circles again, mutters
something about white.
I steady my gait, my gaze.
He passes too close
a third time.
What you lookin’ at?
I don’t say,
but he reads my lips,
twists his bike to face me, a bitch
or a prophet. He doesn’t follow
me into the store that smells
stale and unwashed
but I stay longer than I need to,
finding no sandals that fit,
no cheap jewelry to unjangle my nerves,
only a bottle of Windex I might need
What happens when a galaxy eats its neighbor?
the boy reads aloud from Discover online.
His mother, arcade queen of 1979,
pictures PacMan gobbling little yellow dots,
targets so flat and mundane they’re almost alien
to the boy, who navigates three-dimensional
Super Mario Galaxy like he’s an astronomer.
Or a Jedi fighter. A dangerous occupation,
his mother knows, and she worries: What happens
when a boy is addicted to PlayStation and Wii?
But the boy, still reading, stops on the phrase
rivers of stars to say
that’s nice, meaning the language,
not the aftermath of a cosmic invasion,
and her heart explodes, a supernova
flinging hope into the universe where,
elegant in black velvet and satellite bling,
Venus waits in the night like a sure lover,
winks her seductive eye
at the man he will become.