Ode to Knoxville and its Founders


Indya Kincannon
[email protected]
(865) 215-2040

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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Poem read at the Founders Day Luncheon at the East Tennessee History Center on October 3, 2018

By Marilyn Kallet

Ode to Knoxville and its Founders

Founders Day PoemNear the center of our green valley,
The Muscogee hunted deer,
Rabbits, turkeys, 
And gathered herbs,
Harvested corn, squash and beans.
They fished our teeming river for
Catfish and bass.
The Cherokee wove the fabric of
Their lives into our heartland, 
Before the Trail,
But this is not a political poem.
This is a song of Thanksgiving to the 
Native people, then to James White,
William Blount, John Sevier, 
Francis Alexander Ramsey,
John Lutz and the Mabry-Hazens,
To their families and 
Neighbors, to the elders and children, to
The nameless women we will not find 
In histories.

Knoxville, I am no kid, but I 
Was not here in 1786, when James White
Built the Fort, I was not here in 1791
When Knoxville became the capital of
Southeast Tennessee.
I worked at UT for 37 years, but I
Was not here for the founding of Blount College
In 1791.

You have always been a prize.
Your homes were divided blue and grey
In the Civil War. They say
You were a house with many eyes.
Mine were not yet open.

I was not here for Lizzie Crozier French and the
Suffragettes, but I will never forget to vote.
I was not here for your birth, Knoxville, 
But you were here for the birth of my daughter,
Heather, in 1985,
UT Medical Center.
You were here for her wedding, too.
You offer wedding flowers every spring:
Dogwoods, azaleas, peonies, crepe myrtle,
And in the fall, spectacular asters
Line the driveway with tall stalks, blue stars.

I have come late to your beginnings,
Dear Knoxville, but never too late to sing the praises
Of your founders and your bounties, of the 
Rich earth we stand on, the gleaming river that rushes by,
The stones that are older than we are, the artists  
Who carve them. Praise
The earth and its greenery, the bards and their
Songs. James Agee, Nikki Giovanni, Cormac McCarthy,
RB, thank you for showing the world in words what 
Knoxville can do! 

Praise Mayor Rogero, who does not easily accept 
Praise. She has helped to build our city, its roads
And greenways, to nurture 
Diverse populations, listening
To citizens.
Praise the mayors before her who have built on the 
Work of the founders.
Praise our green home. 
Let us tend her well for the next generations.
Praise everything that gives us heart and birth.
May we be worthy of our foundations, 
Acknowledge our flaws and mend them.
Dear Knoxville.
May we honor the ancestors, and remember
The names.