A little departure…a virtual tour….

Dear Friends:

As a departure from the usual here on Marginalia (the letters I exchange about writing with the wonderful Nancy Peacock, who, by the way, you should head over and meet at  http://www.nancypeacockbooks.com)  I’ve been tagged via THE VIRTUAL BLOG TOUR.

What that means.

I have long loved the work of poet Luisa Igloria  http://luisaigloria.com .  Here is just a glimpse of that work (part 7 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012)

Night Heron, Ascending

Through the window by my desk, I see a poem light in the branches

of a tree. It roosts awhile, then leaves— Night heron, ascending.

 My friend thinks it an omen for something good and rare. I regard the question

mark of its neck and back, its feathered cap streaked with pale saffron, ascending.

 Last season’s big storm flung a nest with young herons to the ground.

Perhaps this is one of them, out of the rhododendrons ascending.

 In The Conference of The Birds, what fate befalls it as the flock undertakes

the journey? A blur past oak, ash, and willow; past reddened crags, ascending.

 From that height, boats are specks on the water, and we, even smaller.

Which dark craft at the river’s mouth is Charon’s, swiftly descending?

 In this summer light, some things look struck by gold: mythic, emblematic.

Portentous spirit, wings outlined with neon— tell me of ascending.

And now I’ve been tagged by Luisa for The Virtual Blog Tour.

 What is a Virtual Tour? 

Luisa tells me that when one is tagged, one must answer 4 basic questions about my work and creative process, and then tag (and briefly introduce) 3 or 4 other writers who will then each continue to process with their own writing friends.

Luisa was herself tagged by her friend, fiction writer Marianne Villanueva  http://anthropologist.wordpress.com.   She tagged me.

And here are my responses to four questions about writing:

  1. What are you currently working on?

I’m working on draft…six…seven…of a novel that has challenged me for about six years now.  It is called Wanting Inez.  It started as the story of a woman named Waydean Loving, who is a roadie and a fortune teller whose sister, also a fortune teller, died at a lover’s hands.  Now it is Waydean’s story of not being able to love, finding love, finding her own truest past.  One part of the novel appeared in Iron Horse Review  http://www.ironhorsereview.com/#!around-the-tracks/cb8y

I’m also currently working very slowly on a new memoir in essays about memory, memory loss, and other kinds of “between worlds.”  The work is partly prompted by my long-standing, and challenging, relationship with my mother, who now has final stage Alzheimer’s.  I see this as her inhabitance of a new and difficult language, a world between this one and the next. Other kinds of between worlds in the memoir are travel, leaving a job, houses, the aftermath of adoption, faith and understanding, lovers, St. Anselm, and the process of creating in and of itself.  Some of the essays that are part of this evolving work have appeared in the following:

The Bellingham Review  http://www.bhreview.org/author/mbruce/

Drafthorse  http://www.lmunet.edu/drafthorse/nonfiction/k_mcelmurray.shtml

Riverteeth  http://www.riverteethjournal.com/blog/2012/08/23/karen-salyer-mcelmurray

Still  http://www.stilljournal.net/karen-mcelmurray-saved-cnf.php

Trop  http://tropmag.com/author/karen-mcelmurray/

Brevity  http://brevitymag.com/nonfiction/consider-the-houses/

2.  How does your work differ from others of its genre?

My most grounded self as a writer is from my homeplace. My blood, my voice, my hands, my  heart are part and parcel of Eastern Kentucky, the mountains, Appalachia.   The form my work takes comes from the place that made me.  I hear those voices and translate them.

I also sometimes think my work isn’t “a genre” at all.  It’s some fusion of poetry and lyric prose, with a big dash of Mark Rothko and Thomas Merton and Howard Finster in the mix.  I love visionary work.  I love work that has magic realist elements.  I’m a fan of Toni Morrison.  Leslie Marmon Silko.  I’m also happiest when I’m reading about spirituality.  Oh, and my garden.  As my friend Mary Caroll-Hackett calls it, Dirt Church.  The work of hands and earth.

3.  Why do you write/create what you do?

I used to believe that making art was a vehicle for the spirit.  That building a house in the world of words was building a house with the Creator.  I still believe that, but along with that lofty notion these days is dogged persistence.  Discipline.  Fear.  Humbleness.  Overwhelm.  And in beautiful moments, discovery.  Magic.  The end of the sentence and, suddenly, the clear vision of what the next moment will be and the eagerness to find the next page.

4.  How does your writing/creating process work?

My grandmother was a quilt maker.  She made quilts with names like Log Cabin.  Trip Around the World.  Flower Garden.  Cathedral Window.  She kept boxes and chests and baskets and drawers full of scraps of cloth.  Cloth from old dresses of mine from when I was a child.  From my long-dead grandfather’s work shirts. Or she bought dresses from the Mountain Mission Store and cut them into squares.  She found the patterns in all those squares and made quilt upon quilt.

log cabin block with red center

Sometimes I think my process is like that.  Finding the pattern, finding the form.  Learning to trust the pattern.

My friend and writing peer and blog-mate and I, Nancy Peacock, have been writing letters to one another for almost two years now about our writing and our lives.  We’ve written about light and dark.  Humor and gravitas.  Family.  The outer world and the inner silence we need to find our voices.  Our letters are at a site called Marginalia, and you can find them here.  http://nancypeacockbooks.com/wp/

And here are the three writers I’m tagging and introducing to you here!!

SHELDON COMPTON is the author of the collection The Same Terrible Storm http://foxheadbooks.com/product/same-terrible-storm/

and the upcoming collection Where Alligators Sleep. His novella, Brown Bottle, will be published by Artistically Declined Press in the summer of 2015.

sheldon compton

Compton’s work has been widely published and anthologized and has been nominated for the Thomas and Lillian B. Chaffin Award for Excellence in Appalachian Writing, the Still: Journal Fiction Award, four Pushcart Prizes, and the Gertrude Stein Award.



Sheldon Compton is past co-founder of Cellar Door Magazine and Wrong Tree Review, as well as the founder and past editor of A-Minor Magazine. He also worked as an editor with Metazen and currently edit the online journal Revolution John, which I started in October of 2014. Also in 2014, he was named an associate editor of Night Train.   Compton currently is editor of the on-line journal Revolution John http://revolutionjohnmagazine.wordpress.com/

His blog is Bent Country  http://bentcountry.blogspot.com/

JANE HICKS [ http://www.cosmicpossum.com/ ]  is a teacher, poet, and fiber artist from upper East Tennessee.   Her website, Cosmic Possum, is named for the possum itself.  The possum is the perfect symbol of my beloved Appalachia: underappreciated, misunderstood, and the ultimate survivor in the face of all manners of predation.  Her words are about that survival or, as Kathryn Stripling Byer says of Hicks’s poems, “[they] gather up the stories of family, those lost in war.. the mountains  [that] ‘hold the sky where it belongs’ with ‘their language and vision.’”

jane hicks

The Jesse Stuart Foundation published her book, Bone and Blood Remember, in January 2005. Bone and Blood Remember won the Poetry Book of the Year 2006 Award from the Appalachian Writers Association.  Her work has appeared in numerous journals, including Iron Mountain Review, Appalachian Journal, Appalachian Heritage and in anthologies like Literary Lunch, Coal, and The Southern Poetry Anthology. 

Jane’s newest, just-released book is Driving With the Dead, from University of Kentucky Press.  http://www.kentuckypress.com/live/title_detail.php?titleid=3751#.U_C6FY10yM8

driving with the dead

As writer Silas House says of these  poems, “they do more to capture contemporary Appalachia than any book in a long while. Hicks writes of  place, of WalMarts and quilts, meth labs and country ham biscuits, a place where schoolteachers read Gerard Manley Hopkins to their students and where dignity is found in hard work. Driving With the Dead is a book about longing and loss but it never wallows in either. Instead it is a book that is just as much about hope, strength, survival, and the great pulsing beauty of a poet at the height of her powers writing about the lush complexity of her place and its people.”

From Jane’s new book is this poem, “Revelation:”

Someone touched me as I dreamed

of ruined splendor

 scent of crushed fern underfoot.

A tentative touch, a stroked arm, an embrace,

 I extended my hand, awoke

heart-hammered and breathless.

 Someone who matters must leave

my world, the embrace a certain farewell,

 the intention no mistake of sleep,

no deceit of dream.  Sure, defined.



jason howard


http://www.jason-howard.com/ is the author of A Few Honest Words: The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music (The University Press of Kentucky, 2012), a collection of profiles of contemporary roots musicians that explores how the land and culture of Kentucky have shaped American music.  The book features  an eclectic group of musicians including multiple Grammy Award winner Dwight Yoakam, multi-platinum soul singer Joan Osborne, rural rap pioneers Nappy Roots, indie rock god Jim James of My Morning Jacket, legendary country music star Naomi Judd, and many others.

a few honest words

Howard is the coauthor of Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal, which was hailed by the late Studs Terkel as “a revelatory work” for its unflinching look at the destructive mining practice through the eyes of thirteen environmental activists.  His features, essays, reviews and commentary have appeared in such publications as the New York Times, the Nation, Sojourners, Revolve, LGBTQ Nation, Paste, No Depression, the Louisville Review, and on NPR. In 2009, Howard co-founded Still: The Journal, the first online literary magazine devoted to Appalachian literature, with Silas House and poet Marianne Worthington, serving as creative nonfiction editor for four years. Howard was a finalist for the 2013 Kentucky Literary Award and he received the 2013 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship in Creative Nonfiction from the Kentucky Arts Council.  Named a 2010-2012 James Still Fellow at the University of Kentucky, he was chosen as a finalist for the 2010 Roosevelt-Ashe Society Outstanding Journalist in Conservation Award a

In November 2013, Howard was named editor of Appalachian Heritage, a literary quarterly founded in 1973 that has published national and regional writers including Lee Smith, bell hooks, Wendell Berry, Silas House, Harriette Arnow, James Still, Maurice Manning, Nikki Giovanni, Ron Rash, Robert Morgan, Crystal Wilkinson, among many others. http://pub.berea.edu/appalachian-heritage/

Jason Howard teaches at Berea College and lives in Berea, Kentucky, with his partner, novelist Silas House.



This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *