Tryon Fine Arts Center to present An Evening with Lee Stockdale and Gorilla

Published 8:15 am Thursday, January 5, 2023

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Tryon Fine Arts Center will present “An Evening with Lee Stockdale and Gorilla”—Stockdale’s book of poems published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company—on Thursday, January 26, at 6:00 p.m. in the TFAC Pavilion. 


Stockdale will read from Gorilla and speak in detail about the relationship between his father, Grant Stockdale, and John F. Kennedy, for whom his father served as, among other roles, Ambassador to Ireland. Grant Stockdale committed suicide ten days after President Kennedy’s assassination. Gorilla portrays Stockdale’s journey from childhood tragedy to healing, through faith in God and the help of family and counselors. As a warning, the content will include discussion of suicide.

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“I’ve been looking forward to presenting this program to our community,” said TFAC Executive Director Marianne Carruth. “Lee’s style and the subject matter are compelling and courageous. It will be a riveting evening.”


Stockdale thanked Tryon Fine Arts Center for asking him to read from Gorilla, and to talk in-depth about the friendship between his father and JFK. He explains that on its face this was an unlikely friendship because the two were from such different backgrounds. 


“At the height of the depression, my father, 16, was left in Mississippi when his mother took his two younger sisters to live with relatives in Alabama. Whereas Jack of course was from one of the wealthiest families in America,” says Stockdale. “I’ll display photos, letters, and other items I think will interest people. I feel a deep responsibility to do this right, out of respect for my father, respect for John F. Kennedy, and out of respect for their friendship. I want this to be a singular, memorable night.”


Former North Carolina Poet Laureate Joseph Bathanti writes, “Lee Stockdale, in his stark and memorable volume, Gorilla, takes head-on, fearlessly, the specter of mortality that looms and lords above us all. He dares it again and again and, ultimately, spits in its eye—with harrowing, surreal, and deadpan matter-of-fact razor-diction.”


A Q&A period will follow, and the evening will conclude with a book signing. Gorilla will be available for purchase though attendees may purchase the book on Amazon to become familiar with the poems and information in advance.


The program will take place in the TFAC Pavilion, located at the rear of the building. Parking for the evening program is available in the Lanier Library parking lot on Chestnut Street or the Baptist Church Parking lot on Pacolet Street.  For more information on this event and other activities at TFAC visit or call 828-859-8322.



Submitted by Debra Torrence