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Local poet, arts advocate, and arts organizer Al Black releases his first book, I only Left for Tea:  Poems, on Friday, August 29th with a 7 pm party at the historic Equitable Arcade Building at 1332 Main Street.  Edited by Ed Madden, I Only Left for Tea:  Poems is a publication of Muddy Ford Press, underwriter for Jasper Magazine. It is the press’s 11th publication.

Black, a native of Indiana, moved to the Columbia area in 2008 when his wife accepted a teaching position at Newberry College. A life-long poet, Black, who is also a former coach and athlete, had never shared his work with others—not even his wife, Carol—but he craved the community of writers so he soon began establishing poetry groups to meet various needs in Columbia’s growing writing community. Now, Al leads Mind Gravy, a combination music and poetry group that meets at Drip Coffee in Five Points, as well as two other groups, Bones of the Spirit and Songversation, both of which meet in West Columbia.

The celebration of I Only Left for Tea will feature a signing and reading by Black as well as a musical performance by local music group Daddy Lion, light refreshments, and a cash (donation) bar. The public is invited to attend.


About Al Black

A Hoosier in the land of cotton, Al Black was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana.  He has been married 42 years to Carol Agnew Black; they have four grown children and nine grandchildren. Black was drafted and served as a Conscientious Objector during the Vietnam era, attended Ball State and Purdue Universities, and is a Baha'i. By day he has worked in various management positions and been a business owner; by night he has been an athlete, coach, community activist, and town gadfly. Black began writing verse at age nine, but kept his poems strictly to himself. In late 2008, he moved to South Carolina so his wife could accept a job as a professor of Sociology. Unemployed for the first time and free from family and community expectations, he publicly shared his first poetry four years ago.  Black considers himself a northern born Southern poet because it was here in the South that he felt free to blossom.


Ed Madden on Al Black's I Only Left for Tea

“We return here often,” says Al Black in the book’s title poem, “to resume mid-sentence our conversation upon my deck.” That’s the feel of this book, a kind of wide-ranging conversation with a friend. Even as the book teases out in confessional poems the relation between the past and the present, the author’s origins in the Midwest and his life now in the American South, and even as it opens out into broader perspective in voices and stories that spin through the heart of the book, it comes back to the quiet intimacy and vulnerability that drives this collection.  Leavetaking and loss haunt the book, but a desire for connection and continuity keeps us coming back to the deck for that “gift of time together.” – Ed Madden, author of Nest



I Only Left For Tea

We return here often

To resume mid-sentence

Our conversation upon my deck

Paisley patterned spinning backward

Then forward – narrowing and swelling into its self

Like designs upon a blanket


Is time a straight line?

Postulated geometry – point A to point B

Or maybe, it is a long and colorful ribbon that ties

Our gift of time together

Moments that are more than anniversaries

To etch upon our gravestones


You and I return here often

To resume our full-flight soaring

On communion’s thermal zephyrs

What is yesterday – today – tomorrow?

I only left for tea

We return here often – wrapped in our paisley blanket

To resume mid-sentence


From I Only Left for Tea:  Poems by Al Black, Muddy Ford Press, 2014.