Episode 20: Gregory Byrd
Dr. Gregory Byrd is a poet, novelist and professor at Florida's St. Petersburg College. We discuss his new poetry collection, his completion of his first novel, his growing up in Florida in a working class family, and how it shaped his aesthetics.
Order your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Name-God-Who-Speaks-Poems/dp/1680031864
This is the Name for the God who Speaks
Father, you would know these primal prayers,
light flashing in the west behind live oaks,
a sky-slashed language dead after Conquest.
From that living world, we share only lightning,
an old god speaking light out of darkness,
a chant of rain as alphabet where water flowing
is a word.
I found picture of us twenty-five years ago,
after your divorce. We stood in front of the old
Florida Keys house where I grew up.
You poured concrete there
to appease those Calusa gods,
then steered your small boat into their vast ocean
where you taught me words
that cannot be spoken for greenrayed depths,
the language of whale sharks surfacing,
fishblood across decks and on hands.
Loneliness of the Gulf Stream moves,
over the horizon lightning chants,
dark, by the time you hear its name.
Gregory Byrd’s poems have appeared widely in journals such as the Tampa Review, Apalachee Review, Cortland Review, Milosao (Albania, in translation), Poeteka (Albania, in translation), and many others. Among his poetry books are Salt and Iron (Snake Nation, 2014), At Penuel (Split Oak, 2011) and Florida Straits (Yellowjacket Press, 2005), which won the first Yellow Jacket Press Chapbook Contest for Florida Poets. He has received a Creative Pinellas Rapid Returns Fellowship (2016), Fulbright Fellowship to Albania (2011), an SPC Distinguished Teaching Award (2015) and a Pushcart Prize Nomination (1988). Greg has a B.A. from Eckerd College, M.A. in Creative Writing from Florida State University and Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Greg’s scholarly and artistic interests are influenced by the culture and landscape of Florida as well as by his studies in poetry. Tampa poet Silvia Curbelo writes that Greg’s poems “embody the restless energy of the Florida landscape, a place of stories fathers tell over beers and heroes facing unordinary times.” In his poems, you’re likely to come across references to Puccini, Beethoven, Faust, or Genesis in one line and then to images of Everglades muck, rusted shotguns or dead tarpon in the next.
He has recently finished a novel about an American pilot flying for the British during World War I, Where Shadow Meets Water. When not working on his writing, Greg fishes the flats near Clearwater, sails, rides his bicycle and works on his 1966 Ford pickup. He is founder and advisor of the Student Veterans Association at St. Petersburg College.