Member Spotlight: Henry McCarthy

 

Henry McCarthy says he has enjoyed watching the evolution of the WSWriters. He remembers first meeting with a small, but enthusiastic, group at a bagel shop on Stratford Road before moving to Billy Bob’s Diner. The encouragement he encountered in those early days, he says, remains today. He observed it recently when he read at an Open Mic night at the Milton Rhodes Center, and he continues to appreciate the opportunity to share his writing with a non-judgmental audience.   

 

Often his poems take the form of notes to himself. You will find them simply filed on his phone. Like Jack Kerouac or Thomas Wolfe, his near stream of consciousness style captures the immediacy of events and the authenticity of emotions. For Henry McCarthy, writing is “talking on paper.”

 

And while both writing and talking are things he does well, listening must also be added to that list. That is why he is such a welcoming host of his radio show, Poets and Writers on the NPR-affiliate station WEHC, 90.7, out of Emory, Virginia. Twice a week, Henry engages in conversations with authors, such as Pat Conroy, David Baldacci, Lee Smith, Robert Morgan, Naomi Nye, and our own WSWriters Sam Barbee, Steve Lindahl, Carol Roan, and Steve Mitchell, 125 people to date.  You can listen to archives of the show at https://archive.org/details/PoetsAndWriters. The interviews are also preserved in the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC Chapel Hill. His radio program not only introduces audiences to the poetry of a wide variety of authors, but also their philosophies of writing.

 

As with most writers, McCarthy’s own inspiration comes from his roots and experiences. His father was a “street kid” from Boston and his mother from the hills of western North Carolina. Born in Johnson City, Tennessee, Henry later moved to Winston Salem, where he played baseball in high school and followed “the best advice [he] ever received” to study drama. With $65 borrowed from the Winston Salem Foundation, Henry attended Eastern Tennessee University to earn a Theatre degree. He continued his education, earning graduate degrees at the University of Kentucky (Master’s) and University of Tennessee (Ph.D). For more than 30 years, he was an Assistant Dean in the College of Education at Appalachian State. He is also a world traveler, a guest actor at UNC School of the Arts, and has twice received the Order of the Long Leaf for his service to the state. The title poem from his latest collection of poetry, Never Read a How-To Book, beautifully expresses his own philosophy.  

 

 

Never Read a How-To Book
Between Whitman’s Leaves of Grass
Great Poets of the World and
Charles Bukowski’s
Notes of a Dirty Old Man were
How to Read Poetry
How to Write Poetry and
How to Present Poetry
Obscene titles
Totally obscene titles
I started to grab the books and
Stomp on the covers
However that was not acceptable for
My age and station in life
May I tell you something
May I tell you something
Never never read a how to book
Never
Go deep into your soul
Cry inside your heart
Feel the rhythm of your
Joy and anger
Then hurl your message to that
Friend or stranger
Who is much lonelier than
You and who has
Read far too many
How to books

 

 

 

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