Tag Archives: culture

Clark Medallion Event featuring Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape

Topophilia, the love of place, is what drives Richard Taylor. Through his love of Elkhorn Creek and his gift of storytelling, Taylor’s new release, Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape, presents readers with a powerful picture of a location that has impacted so many with its natural beauty. Filled with photographs, illustrations, and vignettes detailing this creek and its surrounding wonders, Taylor’s book gives readers a sense of why there is such a pull to this majestic landscape. 

Elkhorn is the 2018 winner of the Thomas D. Clark Medallion. The Clark Medallion is presented by the Thomas D. Clark Foundation Inc., a private nonprofit established in 1994. The medallion is presented annually to a book highlighting the state of Kentucky’s history and culture.

In honor of Taylor and his new release, an award presentation, reception, and book signing will be held at 5:30 pm Wednesday, September 26 in the River Room at the Paul Sawyier Library in Frankfort. The event will be hosted by Kentucky Humanities, Nana Lampton, the Paul Sawyier Public Library, and the Thomas  D. Clark Foundation.

Taylor_TrueFinal_Medallion“Count among the Elkhorn’s fans white-water enthusiasts who mount kayaks on their roof racks and often drive considerable distances to glide along its rough-edged spine. Or the fishermen who wade into sun-lucent pools as they might approach a spiritual or religious experience. And the rest of us, near and far, who love nearly pristine places, land that hasn’t been subdivided into suburban citadels with a few acres of tamed lawns or converted into cultivated fields that productively but monotonously generate nicotine or a single food crop to the impoverishment of nature and local soils,” Taylor writes in Elkhorn.

The Clark Medallion event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Click here for more information.

 

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Q&A with Amy Clark

With all of the excitement about the upcoming Appalachian Studies Association conference, we decided to get in touch with UPK author Amy Clark. Check out our question and answer session to learn about the University of Virginia professor:

UPK:       What first prompted you to think about and study Appalachian Englishes?

AC:           I grew up in the coalfields of southwest Virginia, and my first education in vernacular dialects had to be my upbringing. Voice was at the center of everything, like how my family told stories, the cadence of a preacher’s sermon, and music…always music. My dad sang in a quartet on weekends so I grew up traveling and listening to old-style mountain music, which is full of vernacular grammar, accent, and words.

 

UPK:       Who are some of your role models in the Appalachian community?

AC:           I grew up with three living generations of family, so I have to say they were my first role models because they were my first teachers, historians, sociologists…you name it. Everyone who came after simply added on to that foundation they gave me. I know everyone says this but it’s true of me, as well: I discovered Appalachian literature when I was introduced to Lee Smith’s and Denise Giardina’s books. And seeing my own voice on the printed page was a revelation, because it meant there was artistic integrity in the way we speak. I continue to be inspired by other writers like those I’ve gotten to know through the Appalachian Writer’s Workshop at Hindman. Helen Lewis has inspired me because of her service and activism. And so many scholars who have done good work…too many to name.

 

UPK:       Have you ever been a victim of linguistic bigotry?

AC:           I’ve experienced regional bigotry, which likely had a great deal to do with my accent because that’s the first indicator of where I’m from. It surprises me that denigrating Appalachia is still not taboo, and it surprises me when the bigotry comes from highly-educated or high-ranking people.

 

UPK:       What are your responsibilities as the founding director of the Appalachian Writing Project?

AC:           My primary responsibility is growing a network of teachers who are good role models for their colleagues in progressive ways to teach writing in all disciplines, at all levels. I write grants to support my leadership team of teachers, who train a new batch of teachers every summer to develop workshops that we offer in public schools. We also have Young Writer’s Camps and Writing Retreats. As co-founder/Director of our new Center for Appalachian Studies, I’m including the AWP as part of the CAS outreach, and there will be more opportunities for teachers to integrate Appalachian studies into their curriculums.

 

UPK:       What have you learned from working with the Appalachian Writing Project?

AC:           I was a public school teacher at the beginning of my career, so I know how hard it can be. There are so many excellent, hard-working teachers in our system who-if given the resources, support, and time-are willing to go beyond the call of duty in the classroom and share their good practices with colleagues. So many of them are good writers, too, but like their students, they have trouble acknowledging it. We spend time in our writing institutes working on that insecurity. Several of our teachers, like Rebecca Elswick, author of Mama’s Shoes, have gone on to publish their work.

 

UPK:       What do you most look forward to at the 2014 Appalachian Studies Conference at Marshall University?

AC:           I’m doing a workshop on Friday about teaching writing to vernacular speakers, which is based on my chapter in the book, so I’m excited to have that opportunity (see my answer to 7 for more about that.) I’m looking forward to catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while, and hearing about the new work that’s being done.

 

UPK:       What advice would you give a teacher from outside of the Appalachian region who might be teaching in Appalachia for the first time?

AC:           Come with your cup empty and learn as much as you can about our histories. And because most teachers aren’t well-versed in sociolinguistics, I would urge them to learn more about the dialects-where they come from, why people speak them, and how best to teach bi-dialectal speakers. Contrary to institutionalized ideas about a “right” and “wrong” English, we speak on a continuum of Englishes. So I would advise them not to simply dismiss what is nonstandard as wrong or incorrect, but instead, appreciate the historical significance of it and then teach students how to sensitively shift into a standard spoken and written version when they need it, but understand that they don’t have to deny their “first” voices.

 

UPK:       What was it like to have your co-edited book, Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity, and Community, be used as a dialect resource for actors during the filming of Big Stone Gap?

AC:           It was thrilling. Adriana Trigiani called me when she saw a piece I had written about Appalachian dialects and she said she wanted to use the book. She also asked me to do a phonetic rendering of the script so actors would know how to pronounce some of the words, so we met and talked about that once the movie was underway. I was able to watch Patrick Wilson and Ashley Judd (who Tweeted about the book) as they filmed a scene, and our dog, Sadie, ended up in the scene with them.

 

UPK:       What other successes has Talking Appalachian seen in the past year? Has it been used as a resource in other areas?

AC:           It is being taught in several university classrooms, such as University of Kentucky and UVa.’s College at Wise, and it was recently nominated for the Library of Virginia Literary Award in Nonfiction. I’ve received some wonderful feedback from readers, especially after a recent piece I published in the New York Times about writing in a vernacular voice. I’m also happy to report that it will be released in paperback this fall.

 

UPK:       Did you have any favorite Appalachian traditions or pastimes growing up in Virginia?

AC:           My family made and sold molasses on my great-grandmother’s farm, and I have good memories of participating every fall. They harvested the cane, which was crushed in horse-drawn mill. We boiled it in pans flanked by benches that someone had taken out of old school buses. The kids used hole-punched pie pans nailed to broomstick handles to skim the batch as it cooked. Then, the pan would be hoisted on chains so the molasses could be poured into mason jars. My family took orders and sold out before a batch was even finished. I can still remember the smell of smoke in my hair every night, and the older folks sitting on the bus benches near the evaporating pan, smoking and listening to the high school football game on the radio. I’m quilting now with my mother and grandmother, and my four-year old daughter watches and pretends to help. I’m eager to start new traditions with my own children that they will carry forward.

To delve deeper into the life of Appalachia and Amy Clark, check out her book Talking Appalachia!

Don’t miss this week’s giveaway!

Appalachian ElegyWe are still going strong with this week’s book giveaway, featuring bell hooks’s Appalachian Elegy. Known for her strong activism on issues such as gender equality, Appalachian culture, and African American heritage, this collection perfectly showcases the influential writer’s views in a compilation of beautiful, emotional poems. Of the 66 poems, we love so many. One of our favorites is number four, an eloquently written piece describing the earth, the transformation of land by humans, and how the earth returns back to its natural state, ready for new beginnings.

4.

earth works
thick brown mud
clinging pulling
a body down
hear wounded earth cry
bequeath to me
the hoe the hope
ancestral rights
to turn the ground over
to shovel and sift
until history
rewritten resurrected
returns to its rightful owners
a past to claim
yet another stone lifted to
throw against the enemy
making way for new endings
random seeds
spreading over the hillside
wild roses
come by fierce wind and hard rain
unleashed furies
here in this untouched wood
a dirge a lamentation
for earth to live again
earth that is all at once a grave
a resting place a bed of new beginnings
avalanche of splendor

If you’re interested in her other beautiful poems, don’t forget to enter the giveaway by Friday, February 8th, at 1 pm!