Spartanburg writers say you can go home again
Hub City Anthology
edited by John Lane and Betsy Teter
Holocene Publications 150 pages
"He had a shelf full of books on railroad trains, and Spartanburg was
Hub City. Spartanburg was King of Trains."
Rosa Shand, Hub City Anthology
Lamenting the state of the so-called "Asheville cultural
renaissance," I recently wrote an article titled "Is There An Arts
serious question as I continue to search for a sense of community in
western North Carolina's largest "boom" town.
Contributors to the new book Hub City Anthology gather on the tracks in front of Union Station in downtown Spartanburg.
But recently I have noticed that while Asheville is getting all the
press in the mountains, only hours away in the Piedmont Spartanburg, like
the tortoise, seems to have caught and maybe even surpassed its New
Age-fueled competition to the west in terms of laying claim to a
legitimate arts community.
And what, you may ask, is the substance upon which such heresy is
based? First of all, personal experience with Spartanburg and its creative
community over the past decade. And, secondly, the publication of the
Hub City Anthology.
The brain child collaboration of John Lane and Holocene Publications
and Betsy Teter and the Hub City Writers Project, the Hub City
Anthology is a 150-page compilation of personal essays and
autobiographical fiction by 15 of Spartanburg's most celebrated poets and
fiction writers, featuring photographs by four of the city's premiere
photographers and 10 artists from the Southern Exposure co-op.
Judging by the voluminous credits and acknowledgments pages, it would
seem that Spartanburg as a whole has thrown its hat into the renaissance
government, industry, business and arts organizations alike.
Lane and Teter's vision of a true correspondence between its business,
political and arts communities has come to life in this beautifully
designed and presented book that unifies the oeuvres of its
disparate artists and calls it "home."
Perhaps the best way to put this cornerstone publication into
perspective is for me to write about it in terms of what I know best
in this case would be the ideological and physical commitment to "place"
as embraced by the bioregional movement in both the United States and
Europe. An ideology that, if not literally espoused by some of the artists
in this book, is certainly unconsciously implied:
The house in the wiId
the wiId in the house.
Both together, one big house.
Gary Snyder, Hub City Anthology
West coast eco-poet Gary Snyder is, by unanimous opinion, the
poet-laureate of the bioregional movement in this country. His book
titles, including Earth, House, Hold; The Old Ways; Turtle Island; The
Real Work; and A Place In Space, indicate his dedication to the
practice of living one's life in a particular place, of knowing that place
well and living welI in that place, amid all its diversity. In harmony. In
Snyder's sentiments are echoed throughout this Hub City
beginning with Larry McGehee's communal metaphor of "the web" in his
introduction, and Rosa Shand's nostalgic train ride down the Saluda grade
and into "The Hub" (as Spartanburg was known during the heyday of
train-based transportation and commerce) for the first time, to Lane's
book-ending essay, which after a walk down Spartanburg County's Kelsey
Creek ends with the Snyder quote: "The real work is becoming native in
your heart" and a group photo of the artists and writers represented in
this book taken, of course, on the tracks in front of Union Station in
Here, at the hub and in fact the heart of Hub City in its heyday, this
bioregionally inculpated cadre has returned as "new natives" and to
creatively call it home.
There's an old adage that says you get what you give up. Twenty years
ago, when I moved back to this region to try to initiate a bioregional
movement appropriate not only to the diverse confluence of mountainous and
prairie terrain but also for its urban and rural populations, I saw many
natives leaving Asheville and Spartanburg. Or if not leaving, throwing up
their hands in despair over the doom-like impending futures of their
downtowns and any hope for any real community.
In both cases, local people stepped in and revitalized both these
urban landscapes, and both are, at present, thriving and vital.
In the case of Spartanburg (as the vote is still out on Asheville) it
would seem that with regard to "community" its people have gotten what
they gave up. And the Hub City Anthology is proof in the pudding.
And a sweet and tasty pudding it is.
So if you are one of the many with a sweet tooth for putting the
"sweet" back in sweet tea or the "home" back in home-brew, then this
book's for you. Jump on board this end-of-the-millennium boxcar and make
it a train.
By supporting Spartanburg and its community of artists and patrons,
you are bringing the train back into the town or city where you live.
Bringing the dream of community back into the body of industrial sleep.
Thomas Rain Crowe is a poet and former funding editor of Katuah
Journal: A Bioregional Journal for the Southern Appalachians. He makes
his home in the mountains of western North Carolina in Cullowhee.