Versify #26: Person, Animal Thing

When we talk about the casualties of war, often the emphasis gets placed on the visible losses, but for the people like Rani Banjarian, a Lebanese international student turned East Nashville Maths teacher, who actually endure those conflicts,  the intangible changes, are often just as costly. Today Rani speaks with his form college professor, poet Destiny Birdsong, about his experience living under the shadow of war, and how what he learned from that ordeal, transformed is relationship to his country, and led him to pursue an education overseas. A decision that’s caused Rani to be torn between his family and his ambitions. And then Destiny takes his complex history, and turns it into poetry.

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Neighbors: The Hero’s Journey

Neighbors: The Hero’s Journey
photo credit: Eric England

The town of Harrenheim is mysteriously out of water, yet its reservoir is full. The Heroes’ Guild summons four of its bravest to investigate. These particular heroes are middle-schoolers, playing a tabletop roll-playing game at a Nashville community center. The game master is Josh Unruh. He’s also a barista and leather worker. A couple years ago, Josh was sinking into despair over our polarizing political climate. Rather than give into the hostility, he decided he would “follow his bliss.” As a lifelong enthusiast of role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, Josh decided to share the benefits of those games with kids and founded an after-school program to teach them a new game he and his friend Keith created for that purpose: The Heroes’ Guild RPG. It incentivizes peacemaking and cooperation over fighting, and you get a front-row seat at how four kids embody the game. (more…)

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Neighbors: Back Home On Short Mountain

This is a story about a way of life put on trial. Jeffory Young was a beloved farmer and major landowner in scenic Short Mountain, Tennessee, a place about 90 minutes southeast of Nashville that’s long been a magnet for interesting people.

But when police charged Young in a major marijuana distribution operation in 2006, they were able to seize much of his coveted property and send him to prison for more than a decade.

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Versify #25: A Woman And A Dragon, Part Two

After surviving the Mumbai terror attacks. Linda Ragsdale made good on her promise to honor her friend Naomi’s last wish — teach her how to draw a dragon — by starting a non-profit to travel the world and teach children around the globe about peace. But five years into fulfilling that promise, Linda was faced with yet another threat to her life. Linda tells poet Amelia Edelman about her journey toward recovery, her mission to teach peace through her nonprofit “The Peace Dragon,” and how an unexpected cancer diagnosis threatened to unravel her beliefs. Then Amelia takes Linda’s decade of harrowing ordeals and transform them into poetry.

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Versify #24: A Woman And A Dragon, Part One

Versify #24: A Woman And A Dragon, Part One
Illustration by Mack Linebaugh

Linda Ragsdale felt lucky to get the last seat on a trip to Mumbai, intending to deepen her practice of meditation. She found herself instead struggling for survival — in the middle of India’s most severe terrorist attack in decades. In part one of this two-part season finale, we hear how Linda’s world disintegrated into chaos – and began to find order once again. Warning: This episode contains descriptions of violence.


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