Don’t put this book on your bookshelf, mounted there like some hunter’s head of a deer, to prove you can read. Don’t put this book on the coffee table, turned slightly askance –to be noticeable, so people will know you read poetry. Don’t even take this book to your reading chair where you riffle through Crichton, Frazier or Rash when you can steal a moment. No, take this book outside.

Crack Light is Thomas Rain Crowe’s newest book of poetry, just published by Wind Publishers. Crowe, who lives on John’s Creek in Jackson County in a shack that he helped build, is a poet, a translator of poetry, an author of at least 30 books of original and translated works, an editor and publisher (New Native Press) and, more importantly with regards to Crack Light, one who lives in nature. One who admires and respects the natural world and understands the thread that runs through rock and dirt, through trunk and limb, to leaf and sky – through our very essence and connects us all as the umbilical connects the unborn to life.

Take this book to Judaculla Rock or any other petroglyph site and read from “The First Poem”

“And after the voice of God stopped shouting and began to

sing, words became colors as a form of light —

blue, green, white — even the energy in matter cut loose and

ran for the woods that no one ever went near for fear

of speaking His name and forever being banished from

innocence and awen uttered in praise.

“Why would anyone want to be a bard?”

And after he had asked, he went to the woods and

wrote on the backs of trees and on the heads of rocks

every shape he knew and could carve with his knife

now that he had invented words that with his own voice

could sing!”

Take this book to Elkmont in the Smokies on an early June night and read:


Like eyes at the edge of the woods:

the fireflies dance.

Like lonely cabin lamps

on a ship at sea

they ride the tide of night

’round our old mountain homes

near sleep.

Who are these little lighthouses in

the alleys of night?

They are tipis of fire on torches

where faeries feast and sing.

Wandering the wood.

Where wili is Queen.

Darkness the Fool.

And moon the mystic King.

Take this book to Black Balsam Knob at sunrise and read from “Dawn” (for Thomas Berry):

“Even in the evening she dreams of morning

in her sleep. Of that quiet moment before love

when creation paused

at the thought of dawn flooding his face.

When hands become legs and

bodies become the moving water of sheets

covering the darkness before the birth of stars.

Before even the breath of truth

became flames dancing from the dream

on fire in a poet’s heart.

And there was light.”

Crowe collaborated with photographer Simone Lipscome to create Crack Light and her images sing in harmony with the poet’s voice. The poems span decades but according to Crowe they all have one thing in common – they’re about place. They’re about this place – the Southern Appalachians, her beauty; her culture; her customs; her people; her poetry.

This book is a must take.