Tag Archives: poem

Graveyards, Infants, and Poems — Oh My!

Back on track with our ghostly countdown, today we have another poem for you that is sure to raise the hair on your neck. But first, a little background information. Graveyards have become one of the most iconic symbols of Halloween today. The idea that the remains of thousands of ancient corpses are resting just six feet below your feet when you are walking through a graveyard can make even the most stoic of people paranoid. Can you imagine living next to one? For Kathleen Driskell, this is a reality.

When Kathleen Driskell tells her husband that she’s gone to visit the neighbors, she means something different than most. The noted poet—whose last book, Seed across Snow, was twice listed as a national bestseller by the Poetry Foundation—lives in an old country church just outside Louisville, Kentucky. Next door is an old graveyard that she was told had fallen out of use. In this marvelous new collection, this turns out not to be the case as the poet’s fascination with the “neighbors” brings the burial ground back to life.

The following poem is an excerpt from Driskell’s book Next Door to the Dead, a compilation of poems that were inspired by her neighborly visits:

Infant Girl Smithfield

My mother
looked at me,
then turned away.

The midwife tried
to hand me
to my da

who shook his head
to say he would not
like to hold me either.

Her rough hands
that swaddled me
were quick
and competent,

and took care to tuck
my blue toes
snug within
a little blanket, soft

and clean

and newly knitted pink

and embellished with rosebuds,
leaves of green,
and bustling honeybees…

but those hands were not
related to me

and neither were
the hands of the man
who lay me
in a narrow box

into the grave he’d dug
no deeper than
his knees

and who with his shovel
had already begun
to return the dirt
over the top of me

when the preacher arrived
and jumped off
his slumping horse
and quickly said his words.

I saw into his withering heart
and knew he thought
he’d come too late
to save my infant soul.

No matter. For now
I sleep, soothed within
the loving arms

of my opening rose
and rest best next to

my blood, my beloved,
my five brothers
and six sisters.

If you enjoyed today’s poem, be sure to check out the rest of Driskell’s collection from Next Door to the Dead by clicking the image below.

We’re Poets and We Didn’t Even Know It

It has been a real treat for us at UPK to share with our followers some of our favorite poems from our authors including Joe Survant, Frank X Walker, and George Ella Lyon for April’s National Poetry Month. I think we can all agree that their amazing talents make writing poetry look easy. Our English professors will tell you on our behalf that it is not.

bourbon poetry

     Images via Google

That rhymes, right?

Today we are spotlighting a Hopkinsville native who has made a profound impact on the country as one of the nation’s leading intellectuals: bell hooks. As an author, activist, feminist, teacher, and artist, hooks’ works reflect her Appalachian upbringing and feature her struggles with racially integrated schools and unwelcome authority figures.

In Appalachian Elegy, bell hooks continues her work as an imagist of life’s harsh realities in a collection of poems inspired by her childhood in the isolated hills and hidden hollows of Kentucky. At once meditative, confessional, and political, this poignant volume draws the reader deep into the experience of living in Appalachia.

Appalachian Elegy

Keep reading for excerpts of this sensational book and collection of poems!

1.

hear them cry
the long dead
the long gone
speak to us
from beyond the way
guide us
that we may learn
all the ways
to hold tender this land
hard clay dirt
rock upon rock
charred earth
in time
strong green growth
will rise here
trees back to life
native flowers
pushing the fragrance of hope
the promise of resurrection

19.

all fields
of tobacco
growing here
gone now
man has made time
take them
surrendered
this harsh crop
to other lands
countries where
the spirit guides
go the way
of lush green
leaving behind
the scent of memory
tobacco leaves
green yellow brown
plant of sacred power
shining beauty
return to Appalachia
make your face known

If you’re interested in reading more from the captivating bell hooks, you can buy the book on our website or check out her Facebook page!

The Poetry of Frank X Walker

Frank X Walker, noted professor and Affrilachian poet, is now Kentucky’s poet laureate. To continue our celebration of National Poetry Month, let’s take a look at some of his poetry published by the University Press of Kentucky. Buffalo DanceWhen Winter Come

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffalo Dance and its sequel When Winter Come both tell the since unheard story of York, who was the slave to Clark on the famous Lewis & Clark expedition. In telling York’s story, Frank X Walker gives a voice to an important figure who would have otherwise gone unnoticed throughout history. Through the poems, we given insights into nature, race, slavery, freedom, and more. Below is an excerpt from Buffalo Dance:

Wind Talker

“I proceeded on the sandy coast and marked my name on a small pine, the day of the month and year…” –William Clark, November 19, 1905

If I could make my words dress
they naked selves in blackberry juice
and lay down on a piece a bark, sheep
or onion skin, the way Massa do.
If I could send a story home to my wife
float it in the wind, on wings or water
I’d tell her about Katonka, the buffalo
and all the big wide and high places
this side a the big river.
How his family, numbering three for every
star in the sky, look like a forest when they
graze together, turn into the muddy Mississippi
when they thunder along, faster than any horse,
making the grass lay down
long after the quiet has returned.
How they lead us through the mountain snow
single file, in drifts up to our necks.
How they don’t so much as raise a tail
when I come round with my wooly head
and tobacco skin, like I’m one a them
making the Sioux and Crow think me
“Big Medicine, Katonka who walk like man.”

Today we stood on the edge of all this
and looked out at so much water, the mountains we crossed
to get here seem a little smaller.

As I watched black fish as big as cabins take to the air
and splash back in the water like children playing
I thought about you, us and if we gone ever be free,
then I close my eyes and pray
that I don’t live long enough to see
Massa make this ugly too.

Poetry Spotlight: The Land We Dreamed

To kick off National Poetry Month, let’s take a look at the recently-published The Land We Dreamed by Joe Survant. In the author’s words, the poetry in the book “attempts to satisfy a long and deeply held curiosity about the early experiences of people in Kentucky, beginning with the first Ice Age hunters who wandered south of the glaciers into what must have seemed a paradise and stretching to the pioneers at the edge of civilization in the late eighteenth century.” Survant writes in the perspectives of the early settlers, missionaries, and Native Americans who populated the region. Survant’s poetry brings us up close to experiences that are so far away in time.

From “Noel, Seul”:

Under an infinite
canopy of leavesThe Land We Dreamed
I enter a mystery

unlike the blank forests
of the north. Stopping
to rest, I find

small wild strawberries
shining like sacred hearts
in their green viny nests,

but tasting not so sweet
as the berries of Dieppe.
I see again their stain upon

her lips and taste the juice
upon my own. I thought
this wild world would divide

me from myself, but
look and find my grief
hiding in these leaves.

I hear it in the
woodpecker’s furious
beating in the trees.

I cannot see my feet.
I turn and stumble
on the mole-molested ground.