Tom Kimmel’s Late Winter News

1. Greetings!

Goodness, it’s a nasty, dark day in Mississippi. Streetlights stayed on dawn to dusk, and a chilly rain’s falling. I’m reminded of my early years in Nashville, when I attempted to heat an old farmhouse with wood.

Here’s what I learned about that:

-By February that incredible mountain of wood you cut in October with your rented chainsaw is gone.

-A Volkswagen van is not the ideal vehicle for hauling ricks of wood up and downhill muddy Tennessee farm roads.

-If you have to plug holes in your wall with newspaper and paper towels, a wood stove won’t keep your house warm anyway.

-February is an excellent time to visit friends in California or Florida.

And yet… and yet… it’s a short month till the first day of Spring!

2. News

a. Waymores sightings

After a bit of a hiatus the Waymores (Don HenrySally Barris, me) will be playing in Hattiesburg (Fri March 4), Tupelo (Sat March 5) & Birmingham (Sun Mar 6). That’s just 2 weeks away. I’ve been missing my Waymores, and I’m looking forward to some harmonious grooving.

We’re also doing some last minute booking for May in California around a Sat May 10 show in Santa Rosa. And we’re still looking for some other California shows to go with Santa Rosa. All ideas are welcome. Please send them to booking(at)

Waymores (photo: Kari Bedford)

b. Songwriting retreats, recent past & coming up fast

i. I just completed highly enjoyable teaching stints in Cape Cod, California and Florida. Made many new friends, and I was deeply touched by all the inspired work… (and play)!

Sleeping Bag

ii. My next retreat is one of my very favorites. It’s my 3rd Annual Doe Branch Ink Songwriting Retreat (June 5-11) in Marshall, North Carolina. It’s a getaway for a small group of writers in a very special mountain setting just north of Asheville.

This is a unique opportunity for songwriters: an entire week to work in a relaxed, focused, warm, supportive atmosphere. Very reasonable tuition includes all meals, and our schedule allows for ample one-on-one time, as well as free time to socialize, read, rest or explore the beautiful countryside….

For much more, click HERE. Writers at all stages of work and development are welcome.

NC retreat song share (photo: Kim Schofstall)

iii. After the North Carolina retreat I’ll be off to Crete (Greece) as a guest instructor at a long running annual arts retreat! Very excited about that. If you’ve ever wanted to visit Greece and study songwriting—on the Mediterranean, no less—write us at booking(at)

Mediterranean beach motel

iv. I’m always open to booking a workshop to go with a concert date on the road. Truly, every writing workshop is a gathering of kindred spirits. If you’re a promoter or concert host who likes the concert-plus-workshop idea, please email shauna(at)

A Florida writer’s son “sitting in” on class
​(photo: Suzanne Cardinal)

3. Poem of the Month

While going through boxes in my garage recently I ran across a volume of poems by Galway Kinnell. Thus I was reminded of a poem I wrote after hearing him read several years ago in Nashville.


I’ve come to hear the poets read
—four uncommonly fine poets
all of whom I revere
and now I sit just five rows back
virtually at their feet.

Each poet in turn brings
verse profoundly soulful
in its exalted form
of spirit and rhythm
and now it’s Kinnell’s turn
—Galway Kinnell, in the flesh
fifteen feet in front of me
here in the town where I live
about to read a poem.

I am beside myself.

He fishes in his jacket pocket, says
I’d like to read something I’ve just finished
and brings forth a tattered page
—perhaps a napkin of some sort
filled with illegible handwriting
and assorted markings.

What great good fortune, I think
a first reading by the poet himself
held in his own hand here in front of me
and this is when I notice the other poets
rolling their eyes and clinching their teeth.

Here’s old Kinnell, they’re thinking
just tossed this one off, his latest masterpiece
scribbled on a napkin and stuffed in his jacket pocket.
Why, they’re asking themselves, have I been suckered
into sitting on another panel with him
playing that tired old trick, and, egad
pulling the wool over the eyes of the young
the envious and intellectually naïve.

The paneled room is hushed.
Kinnell clears his throat
as the outside world slows
suspends its plans
and the room leans in
to catch each note and inflection.

He reads of dogs and blackboards
stairwells and cemeteries
sermons, deathbeds
lifetimes and wandering spirits
and indeed the poem is fine
—as fine as fine can be
as we knew it would be
—we being myself
those who had arranged the evening
the scholars and professors in their seats
along with the fans, aspiring writers
and distinguished poets on the panel
who wag their heads.

We hate him, they are thinking
but it is fine
—as fine as fine can be.

April 2013

4. Food for Thought

Nelle Harper Lee, author of the culture-shifting novel To Kill a Mockingbird, died last week. She was buried in the cemetery where my mother, father and other kin rest.

“She wrote the book that explained us to ourselves.”
—Rick Bragg, author & journalist (b. 1959)

5. Recommended: New Kate Campbell album, The K.O.A. Tapes

My New Agrarians partner Kate Campbell has put together an album recorded in living rooms and rest stops along the road, and it truly captures Kate’s unique soulful spirit. Kate’s original songs here are among her very best—Greensboro and Passing Through are classics—and her unadorned take on Paul Simon’s America presents the song as the perfect poem it is.

Check out the K.O.A. Tapes HERE.

If you’re not familiar with Kate’s singular brand of Southern soul, The Portable Kate Campbell is a great place to begin listening.

(I’m also quite proud of the New Agrarians album Kate and I made with Pierce Pettis. You can also find it at Kate’s website HERE…)

photo: Kate Campbell

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