Reading this inaugural issue of A.C. PAPA was a special treat for me, because the many wonderful poems and stories evoke a world from my own memories. Like Robin McClary who wrote the foreword, I grew up in the Sunshine State and know many of the same things: palmettoes; TVs you actually had to cross the room to change; three local (and only) channels; locks not used, because they were not needed. On Vilano Beach, where I was raised, the sand dunes were tall, the ocean gave up the most perfect shells after tropical storms, and August meteor showers were brilliant because there was no competition for the light.
My sister and I walked together between our street and Boating Club Road to visit our grandparents practically daily—no worries about what lay between those two homes. We knew the neighbors, and there weren’t a great many. The beach community is filled now. The world is so connected, and I suppose we’re safer now in a way because of it, but there’s also more we need to be safe from. Something has been lost, and that makes it all the more important to remember these details of our childhoods and family histories here in St. Augustine.
The poems in A.C. PAPA capture Florida in works that celebrate cities such as Saint Augustine and Saint Petersburg, as well as the state’s varied landscape. They share the authors’ own memories, as well as what they love of our state and town in contemporary times. Salt-river views, beach glass, Egrets, sea turtles are all here in verse. “Florida’s Environmental Heritage” speaks of those things that have been lost from Nature, but of our attempts to recapture. Haikus capture slivers of Florida.
My state has always provided inspiration to artists. In this collection Larry Baker recalls his inspirations for The Flamingo Rising, how the A1A coastline provided shape and grounding for the acclaimed novel. Another essay, authored by Susan Bennett Lopez, takes us back to her journey to find Jack Kerouac in Florida. She recounts her search for Jack, her attempt to get to “the core of Kerouac’s psyche.”
Another theme in this volume is the inspiration we writers find in Nature’s most dangerous and awesome forces. There is something about storms that draws us, and lights our imagination. “Fakahatchee Bay Crossing”, by Jim Draper, is a gripping account of a struggle to survive, and the character’s transformation in the stormy bay along a coast of mangrove trees, buoyed above the hazard of razor sharp oyster shells.
In a special section called Coast Lines, three of the poems relate the power of hurricanes; Mother Nature’s signature Florida force. Ann Browning Masters gives us a glimpse into the Oldest City’s history with these storms. “Hurricane Winds”, by Gigi Mischele Miller and Tovah Janovsky’s “Impressions of Arthur” relate beautiful imagery of how we natives dealt with Mother Nature at Her most fearsome and awe inspiring. These poets give all due respect where it is deserved to this stunning and destructive power.
The talented artists in this volume capture the beauty, mystique, and history of this special place, in verse and prose and photos. It is a jewel of a collection.
The inaugural issue of Ancient City Poets, Authors, Photographers and Artists (A.C. PAPA) is available on Amazon by searching the title, or click here:
Barbara Pyles Barker is a writer living in her hometown of Saint Augustine, Florida. Her published work includes stories in Thema Literary Journal and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and essays in two collections from Greenwood Press that explore themes in detective fiction. A former English professor, she is now an Instructional Designer in the Defense industry. She has written a mystery novel featuring what she hopes will become a series character, set in a small, fictional Florida town.
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