Kory Wells: Mixing Past and Present

IMG_5616This week I’m happy to feature Kory Wells— a genuine Tennesseean– who writes, reads her pieces to the sound of her daughter’s fiddle, mothers two children, and works as a product manager at a software company. Wells is more than just a well-rounded person; she’s a living and interactive work of art. Her first book of deftly crafted Southern poems, Heaven Was the Moon, was published in 2009. Since then, she has begun to perform these poems as spoken word, “bluegrass rap,” with her daughter Kelsey, who produces old-time music on the banjo, fiddle, etc. The duo released their first album, A Decent Pan of Cornbread, a year ago. As a Tennessee native, Wells grew up in Southern Appalachia and then relocated to Murfreesboro, where she has spent the majority of her days, and received both a B.A. and M.S. from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU).

Hope Universal

What happens when a galaxy eats its neighbor? 
the boy reads aloud from Discover online.

His mother, arcade queen of 1979,
pictures Pac-Man gobbling little yellow dots,

targets so flat and mundane they’re almost alien
to the boy, who navigates three-dimensional

Super Mario Galaxy like he’s an astronomer.
Or a Jedi fighter. A dangerous occupation,

his mother knows, and she worries: What happens
when a boy is addicted to PlayStation and Wii?

But the boy, still reading, stops on the phrase
rivers of stars to say

that’s nice, meaning the language,
not the aftermath of a cosmic invasion,

and her heart explodes, a supernova
flinging hope into the universe where,

elegant in black velvet and satellite bling,
Venus waits in the night like a sure lover,

winks her seductive eye
at the man he will become.


The poem is happily placed in the ordinary, everyday world, and features a heavy vocabulary of Wells’ geekier love: space. I smile every time I read this piece, not only because of its whimsy voice and metaphors, but also because there is a ten-year-old boy in my life who is similar to Wells’ son. My youngest brother, like many children his age, is deeply ingrained with the technological age that we live in. Both boys can wield these new devices with an ease that has begun to worry adults who grew up entertaining themselves with fishing poles and backyard escapades. But often my brother, the young historian and devourer of novels, gives me daily reasons to fling “hope into the universe.” If we can keep teaching them to find beauty in the lives of those who walked before them, in the land they inhabit, in the language on paper pages of a book, and in the richness of the heavens above, I have supernova- sized confidence they’ll grow  to become decent young men too.

To find more of Kory Wells, click here for her personal website and blog. To purchase her poem book or CD, one can buy directly through her site or through Amazon. Though Wells will not be reading at the Southern Festival of Books next weekend, I’m pretty positive she will be around with her fellow writers for the festivities. Come join us!