I’d been living in Georgia twenty years. Still, I was a Midwesterner. Since I worked at a black college and my husband is black, I wasn’t exactly “integrated” into the white parts of the communities I was engaged in, Fort Valley where the college was located and rural Macon County where we lived on ten acres. Then I became connected with Adrienne Bond, who was an English professor like me, but at Mercer University. She was a poet like me, but more accomplished. We both had sons whom we loved. And she was half Swedish, just like me.
It probably was through my poet friend Judson Mitcham that I was invited to become a member of Adrienne’s new poetry group in Macon. Adrienne was white-haired, the way people get when they start out blonde. She had blue eyes. Not long after I met her, she bought an historical white frame house with a porch just off Vineville Avenue in Macon. I loved looking at her family pictures in that house, and artifacts such as her father’s bust of Lincoln, dishes she had collected, and her many books. Her refurbished antique furniture, inherited from her mother, had wood on the arms and backs. She even had inherited her mother’s old cat.
The poetry group met at restaurants at first and then at Adrienne’s home. Adrienne, Jud, and Seaborn Jones were established poets though Adrienne had not published as many poems as the other two had. Some other members who came from time to time included Mike Cass, Adrienne’s sister Charlotte, and Bob Kelly.
Adrienne was about ten years older than me, and she was a mentor, a support, and above all, a good friend. I’m sure I began to model myself after her to some extent.
She was a mentor to me when it came to my development as a writer. In our poetry group, she expanded my ideas of how poems could be written by sharing hers, which were immediate, with grounded language, naming places, plants, gardens, buildings, and specific people including those of her childhood and some she had read about. She had a critical eye, so she made valuable suggestions to the rest of us, but she also respected my suggestions.
The Georgia Poetry Circuit enriched our lives. Adrienne had engaged with Stephen Corey at the Georgia Review to start this project. Because of the people who came through the circuit, Adrienne and I could talk about the famous poets we met—too many to mention—and their work. We traveled together to the Southern Association of Modern Languages conferences, usually in Atlanta. On the last day of each SAMLA conference, we’d have a Bloody Mary. She liked to eat at Waffle Houses on the way to conferences and order pork chops. She tried to convince me to cut my hair (I said she was ten years older than me), but I wasn’t interested. We went regularly to Augusta College’s Sandhills Writers Workshops where we met or reconnected with wonderful writers. We had shrimp remoulade at a restaurant in Augusta and stayed at a fine old hotel. I even had a conference once at Sandhills with Derek Walcott who critiqued one of my poems. I talked to him again when my college hosted him on the Georgia Poetry Circuit.
During our travels, we talked, and Adrienne helped me to understand the small town and country people in Macon County, where I lived.
Adrienne generously helped me get experience in the writing world. I followed in her footsteps as an instructor at both Midsummer Macon at Wesleyan College and the Macon Arts Alliance where I dabbled in other arts, visited Madison, Georgia (home of our novelist friend Raymond Andrews), and traveled to New York City.
When we didn’t have poetry workshops or other work for our jobs, we went to yard sales together. I bought dishes, pictures, and a loveseat that was in the same style as the furniture she had inherited. I still have a yellow cup, a green cup, and a yellow vase that I remember her buying at a yard sale because after her death, her family allowed me to pick out a few things to remember her by.
After my father died, I began to talk more with Adrienne about my beliefs when it came to politics. Adrienne didn’t share all of my positions, but we could talk about how her experiences growing up in the South, seeing segregation and discrimination, nudged her in one direction, while my protestant upbringing (and my father) had pointed me in another. We were far more interested in telling stories about our relatives and current friends, acquaintances, and writers we knew in common. We did so without spite, but without too much sugar, either.
After Adrienne died, Jud gave me a paper on which Adrienne had written out a verse from Wallace Stevens in her own hand. I had it framed. I’ve had a fortunate life: enough money, a nice family, a good job, pretty good health. I was especially fortunate to meet Adrienne Bond at a time in my life when I needed a role model, a woman who shared many things with me and knew how to live life fully and with gusto.
Observations on the subjects of friends, family, country, cultures and nature.