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Woodsmoke: Poems by Wayne Caldwell

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“Woodsmoke” is an ideal title for a book of poetry whose meanings are extensive and deep. Nothing is more ethereal than woodsmoke, yet nothing stands more concretely for honest labor than preparing wood to burn, and no greater connection exists between mankind and nature than deriving warmth from trees. Nothing is more heartwarming than a wood fire.  When I published a poem by Wayne Caldwell entitled “Woodsmoke” in the Fall 2011 issue of Appalachian Heritage, I had no idea how that poem itself would evolve or how it would become the title poem of a collection. I’m proud to have played a small part because this book is engaging, enchanting, and endearing. Most of the poems are in the voice of Posey Green, an old mountain man, a widower, with deep roots in the North Carolina mountains in the shadow of Mount Pisgah. Scattered amongst them are a few poems in the voice of Susan McFall, a mainstream woman whose husband deserts her for a younger woman and who exacts enough revenge in the divorce settlement to buy a beautiful piece of land adjoining Posey Green’s place and to build a cabin there. This juxtaposition of the two, both essentially condescending towards one another, provides both anchor and tension to the collection. “The beauty of Woodsmoke is that it gives us the pleasures of both poetry and prose as it unveils not only the story of one man’s life but the story of a whole culture .. . Woodsmoke is an absolute delight.” – Ron Rash. “Skeptical, thoughtful, funny, proud, and humble, Posey Green tells the most telling truths. I read this volume through, then read it again. For dessert.” – Fred Chappell. “This collection touches on the common threads that bind us all together.” – Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle. “Sit in a quiet place, preferably in front of a woodfire, take deep breaths, and listen to Posey Green. His voice is a beautiful elegy for a southern Appalachian language and mindset almost gone.” – Charles Frazier. Wayne Caldwell was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, and returned there after a career as an English professor. He is the author of two outstanding novels, Cataloochee (2007) and Requiem by Fire (2010).

 Durham, North Carolina: Blair/Carolina Wren, 2021. 81 pages. Trade paperback.