Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Poet Reece Painted Word Pictures of Spring

One of poet Byron Herbert Reece's strongest advocates while he lived, wrote and published his poems and novels was the late Ralph McGill, former editor of The Atlanta Constitution. He wrote this accolade of Reece and his work which appears on the back cover of Bow Down in Jericho, published first in 1950 by E. P. Dutton and Company of New York and republished in 1985 by Cherokee Publishing Company, Atlanta:
"The mountains were in his poetry and ballads. They, and the Bible,… colored all his poems. The skies, the clouds, the cold lakes, the tumbling rivers, the forests, the cold, keen nights when stars looked green as ice, the winds of summer and winter, the wild flowers, the corn and cattle—all these were in his poems as were the prophets and peoples of the Old and New Testaments."
It has been fifty-one years since Poet Byron Herbert Reece (1917-1958), beloved son of Juan and Emma Lance Reece, ended his life on the campus of Young Harris College in the same room where his beloved professor, Dr. Lufkin Dance, met his demise years before in a similar manner. Reece's emaciated, pain-racked body could not hold on to life. On June 3, 1958, he reached a point of no return.

The literary legacy he left us is contained in four published volumes of poetry and two novels. These, first released by E. P. Dutton between 1945 and 1955, were all republished by Cherokee Publishing Company in 1985, and are now available again to those wishing to purchase them.

In the past six years, the Byron Herbert Reece Society, under the capable leadership of Dr. John Kay of Young Harris, other officers, a Board of Directors, an Advisory Board and a growing membership have sought to make Reece and his literary works known. Call their efforts resurrecting Reece, for the members of the Society, like his ballad based on Ezekiel's Valley of the Dry Bones, are breathing new life into the life and works of Union County's premiere literary genius.

May 30, 2009 will be the annual meeting of the Society to convene at the Goolsby Center, Young Harris College. Within the day's program will be the viewing of the introductory video produced by Karen Deem. With interviews from several who knew Reece, the film will be used as visitors to the Reece Farm on Wolf Creek begin their tour when the facility opens to the public as a cultural center. Members of the Society have worked hard to ready the farm as a memorial to the farmer-poet.

In spring, especially, those who love and appreciate Reece and his works turn to his published pages for inspiration. Through his well-crafted lines, the reader can see in the mind's eye the scene he paints, feel the emotions his words convey. His words speak for themselves. Explication would be redundant. Read any of his poems about Spring (or any other season) aloud. Allow the beauty and rhythm of the lines to speak their poignant message. You will come away from the reading with a greater appreciation of his poetry and its ability to move the reader and engrave a memorable image in the mind.

Now that the year's advanced to spring
And leaves grow large and long
Forget each sorry and rueful thing
Hearing the wild bird's song.
The leaf will fall, the bird will fly
And winter close the year,
But O, put all such knowledge by
Now that the spring is here!
Plum, peach, apple and pear
And the service tree on the hill
Unfold blossom and leaf.
From them comes scented air
As the brotherly petals spill.
Their tenure is bright and brief.
We could wish them a longer stay,
We could wish them a charmed bough
On a hill untouched by the flow
Of consuming time; but they
Are lovelier, dearer now
Because they are soon to go,
Plum, peach, apple and pear
And the service blooms whiter than snow.
Both the above poems by Byron Herbert Reece appear in his book Bow Down in Jericho published by Dutton in 1950 and republished by Cherokee in 1985. We invite readers to consider attending the annual meeting of the Society on May 30, 2009.

c 2098 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 21, 2009 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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