BY MEGAN PATTERSON, CONTRIBUTOR
Appalachian Hippie Poet: a man who just returned from researching basket making techniques in Australia.
A man who is an eighth generation Tennessean.
A man who finds inspiration in a jar of moonshine, but not in the way you might think.
However, for most of his life, the Appalachian Hippie Poet was just known as Bill Alexander.
“My momma started writing poetry early in life, and I started later in life,” Alexander explained.
Alexander graduated from the University of Tennessee with a master’s degree in plant and soil science and went on to a career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory until his retirement 15 years ago.
“I started hiking the Smokies between ’99 and ’02 and hiked all the trails on the eastern side of the park,” Alexander recalled. “I started writing poetry inspired by something I would see or hear or feel on the trails.”
His style began to take shape in what Alexander describes as old Scotch-Irish second and fourth line rhyme.
“In 2006, my wife of 35 years passed away, and my poetry was filled with grief and alcohol at that point,” Alexander said. “I took the appropriate steps to heal and come out the other side.”
After his wife’s death, Alexander’s work could be split into three distinct phases which he coined: mountains, sad and drinking, and the rainbow.
Alexander describes the rainbow phase as “the healing after the pain and the grief like a beautiful rainbow after a storm.”
Chyna Brackeen, president of Attack Monkey Productions, met Alexander a few years ago and said the first aspects of him that struck her were his positive attitude, generous spirit and wild energy.
“I think you get a good understanding of who Bill is through his poetry,” Brackeen said. “His soul really shines through his work.”
Although the content and tone of his work has changed over the years, Alexander still draws inspiration from the physical world around him.
“I heard a fella one time say he was inspired by things he read, and I said ‘Well, I must not be reading the right stuff,’” Alexander laughed. “Mostly I’m inspired by things I do, feel, see, hear or experience, so it’s a very hands on, very active approach to being inspired.”
In a moment of inspiration, Alexander met up with a man he encountered briefly at Rhythm N’ Blooms to go for a ride in the man’s 1924 Ford.
“He had some original Popcorn Sutton moonshine, and we had a drink or two before he gave me a little jar of it,” Alexander said. “When I screwed the lid back on it popped, and before I got home, I had written a piece called ‘Popcorn.’”
Read more via Poet pulls inspiration from life’s beauty | The Daily Beacon.