Friday, April 21, 2017

Meet Peter Huggins (And Drawing Results)

A Gift of Air, part of the Solomon & George Chapbook Series, is the sixth poetry publication by Peter Huggins. The Series pairs a visual artist with a literary artist and features twelve works by each.  Placed on facing pages, handmade paper pieces by visual artist Allyson Comstock accompany poems by  Peter Huggins.

I'm delighted to introduce you today to Peter Huggins. Peter was part of my first critique group and his voice always brought clarity, whether we were working on poems, picture books or novels.  He and his wife live in Auburn, Alabama, where he is retired from teaching in the English Department at Auburn University after thirty-one years. Peter has written six books of poems, as well as publishing poems in journals and magazines. 

He's also published in the children's book industry--In the Company of Owls, a middle grade novel (NewSouth/Junebug Books, 2008) and a picture book, Trosclair and the Alligator (Star Bright Books, 2006), which has appeared on the PBS show Between the Lions.

If you haven't seen Trosclair and the Alligator, you really should check out a copy. It's a delightful Cajun retelling of the Brer Rabbit in the briar patch story.

And now on to the poetry Peter is sharing with us today. Enjoy!

A Gift of Air

Virgil said honey came
From heaven, a gift of air.
Aristotle thought that bees
Did not make honey but gathered it
As it fell from the sky.
Samson scooped honey
From the carcass of a lion,
Then ate it as he went along.

When I put honey in my tea
I taste the meadow
The bees drank from.
I feel the wind, the rising warmth.
I smell the flowers,
Their sweetness, and I am refreshed.

©Peter Huggins

from an interview with Kudzu House:

Madison: Well, I guess the last question I’d like to ask you is there any advice you’d like to give emerging poets and writers?
Peter: Yeah, and I think I can do that in one word: read. Really, I mean, that’s it. Read. I think you have to just read, read, read. And, if you’re a poet, not just poems. Any poet can learn a lot from reading well-written prose. You can learn a lot about pacing, about story arc. I mean, obviously in poems, you do it in a much more compressed fashion, but you can learn a lot about how to do that, particularly how to pace, and how to elaborate on things that need elaborating or things that need cutting. So reading, and not just whatever genre you’re writing in.

Audubon’s Engraver

At the end Audubon didn’t know his name.
He couldn’t remember birds.
So many of them. My favorite prints:
Louisiana Tanager and Scarlet Tanager,

Blue Jay, Indigo Bird, Summer
Red Bird, Yellow-throated Vireo,
Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I could
Come up with a new list tomorrow.

He killed them, you know. So many
Songbirds, waterfowl, birds of prey
Gone. I know he killed them,
His specimens, he said, to render

Them more precisely, to make the
Come alive. Havell, he said,
You are tender-hearted and do not
Understand the process. You have not

Walked the woods or slogged through swamps
For days on end to see what I’ve seen.
He was probably right and I
Didn’t hesitate to admire or profit

From what he produced.
I gave him the fame he wanted,
Yet I wonder, as the dementia that
Took his life tightened its grip on him,

Did he dream of hawks or songbirds,
Of waterfowl in the long V of winter?
Did he return those birds to the wild?
Did he remember sky?

©Peter Huggins

If you'd like to hear Peter read, click here for "Interview with a City."

A native of Mississippi who grew up in New Orleans, Peter has an intimate knowledge of the South, especially New Orleans and Alabama, and his love for the area is evident in his poetry.


I returned to smell the dark.
That other country had
No scent I recognized as home.
The French and English street names

Were not unfamiliar.
I had grown up with Chartres,
Napoleon, and the muses
Clio and Polyhymnia.

On the Mississippi River,
I smelled the world,
Coffee and bananas,
Cars, silk, wheat, and wine.

The St. Lawrence
I admired from a distance.
The Mississippi was mine.
It flowed through me as I danced.

The twilight on the rivers
Running on the levee;
The long evening on Lake Pontchartrain,
Drinking the salt air;

These brought me to myself,
The cracked and broken ice
A cold dream to remember
When the heat became intolerable.

Exiled Jefferson Davis
Lived for a time
In Montreal as I did.
I fled my past to study

The past and escaped, I thought,
The legacy I was born to.
I theorized the class struggle
In eighteenth century France

And nineteenth century Britain.
I edged my way to the
Twentieth century disasters,
The lights all going out.

I refused the easy charm
Of exile, I rubbed
My fingers in the green grass,
I smelled the dark.

Awash in diesel, the tugs
Pushed barges upriver.
The lions in the Audubon Zoo growled.
History ran on.

She said, Trust me.
Lie still.
Listen. Music
Will tell you what you want to know.

©Peter Huggins

Here are the results from last week's drawing for five copies of Here We Go by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell.

Matt Esenwine
Keri (Recommends)
Bridget Magee
Jen Hden

Please send your mailing address to me at

Tabatha hosts the roundup today at The Opposite of Indifference.


  1. Beautiful poems. I like that South ends on music, which should connect us all, rather than dividing us like rivers do.

  2. Some particular favorites from this lovely post: Virgil et al's take on honey, Mr. Huggins' advice about reading widely, and this stanza:
    I refused the easy charm
    Of exile, I rubbed
    My fingers in the green grass,
    I smelled the dark.

  3. I like his advice! I do gladly partake of it in every free moment!

    That Audubon poem is a real zinger. Ouch.