The Athens-Clarke County Library and Reflecting, Sharing, Learning present an evening of poetry and song celebrating the works of Appalachian poet Byron Herbert Reece on Feb. 9, at 7:00 pm. Storyteller Jackie Elsner will perform Reece’s ballads and poetry with musical accompaniment by Jerry Taylor.
Byron Herbert Reece (1917–1958) lived the life of a hill-and-bottomland farmer/writer in the mountains of North Georgia. He was the author of four books of poetry and two novels. During his short career he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, earned two Guggenheim awards, and served as writer-in-residence at the University of California at Los Angeles, Emory University in Atlanta, and Young Harris College in Towns County. Lauded by Atlanta Constitution editor Ralph McGill as “one of the really great poets of our time, and one to stand with those of any other time,” Reece never achieved wide recognition. He is known today as the poet whose old-fashioned, finely crafted ballads and lyrics celebrate the life and heritage of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He called himself “a farmer first, a writer second.” Elsner has set Reece poems to the tunes of Appalachian ballads and Christmas songs.
Jackie Elsner enjoyed over 40 years of library storytelling before her retirement from the Athens Regional Library System in 2014. Occasionally she now tells Appalachian and Cherokee stories and sings ballads to guests at the Len Foote Hike Inn in Amicalola Falls State Park. Her album Ballad of the Bones: Byron Herbert Reece Poems Sung as Ballads helps preserve and promote the legacy of Georgia's mountain poet. Elsner and Taylor have collaborated on Christmas Time: Byron Herbert Reece Christmas Poems Set to Holiday Tunes.
Jerry Taylor is a native of Towns County, having lived his whole life in the shadow of Brasstown Bald. He is a graduate of Towns County High School and Young Harris College. He also holds degrees from UGA, North Georgia College and University, and Lincoln Memorial University. Jerry retired after 32 years as a teacher at Towns County High School. He is a charter member of the Byron Herbert Reece Society and has served on the Board a number of years. He is a member of the Historical Society and is Towns County’s official historian. His home, known as the “The Organ Loft,” features his collection of antique reed organs.
The event is free and open to the public. Call (706) 613-3650, or visit athenslibrary.org/rslathens for more information. The Athens-Clarke County Library is located at 2025 Baxter St.