Tag Archives: poems

Driving with the Dead

We hope we haven’t spooked you too much with our “Haunted Lexington” story from yesterday. To keep up the creepy Halloween spirit, we decided to switch it up and give you some poetry today. Today’s excerpt comes from Driving with the Dead by Jane Hicks. While it’s not exactly a ghost story, the book laments the struggles and loss of the Appalachian region, which is all the more scary to us in a much more realistic way.

Certainly, Appalachia is no stranger to loss. The region suffers regular ecological devastation wrought by strip mining, fracking, and deforestation as well as personal tragedy brought on by enduring poverty and drug addiction. In Driving with the Dead, Appalachian poet, teacher, and artist Jane Hicks weaves an earnest and impassioned elegy for an imperiled yet doggedly optimistic people and place. Exploring the roles that war, environment, culture, and violence play in Appalachian society, the hard-hitting collection is visceral and unflinchingly honest, mourning a land and people devastated by economic hardship, farm foreclosures, and mountaintop removal. So without further introduction, today’s excerpt is the book’s title poem:

Driving with the Dead

The little bus ate the road, rose toward the sky,
topped the mountain, perched on the edge before
falling toward the valley, white lines clicked
in rhythm to Mickey’s drums, tape deck humming,
there is a road, no simple highway,
between the dawn and the dark of the night.

The mist gathered, fell in a steady drum
on the roof, merged to rivers on glass.
Truck tire spray, like white angel wings,
washed us, on our flight through the dark.

For more poems like this one, be sure to check out the rest of Driving with the Dead.


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!


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


all fields
of tobacco
growing here
gone now
man has made time
take them
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!

Poetry Spotlight: George Ella Lyon

Many-Storied House

As you know, April is National Poetry Month, so let’s continue to honor some of Kentucky’s great poets. George Ella Lyon is an award-winning poet and novelist from eastern Kentucky. Her latest book of poetry, Many-Storied House, was inspired from an assignment Lyon gave her writing students to write a poem based on memories from a house where they had lived. Lyon worked on the assignment as well, and wrote several poems for each room in her home as a way to answer questions about herself and her family. Her poems explore the nature of memory and relationships as well as the foundations of love, family, and community. Below is an excerpt from the “Downstairs” section:


This is the window
they put a kid through
when they lock their keys
in the house. It was
my brother till he got
too big, then my wiry
cousin David, then me.
No screen or storm window,
so once they haul up
the sash, somebody (not
Daddy because of
his back) puts hands on
both sides of your waist
and lifts you straight up
like a post hole digger,
then eases you through
the slot. Your task is
to find the linoleum
with your Keds, steady
yourself, go out the
bathroom door—avoiding
the scary faces in
the varnished pine—
step into the hall,

turn the latch left (that’s
toward the train track),
and let your keepers
back in the zoo.

National Poetry Month Coming Soon

National Poetry Month is almost here! Created by the Academy of American Poets, National Poetry Month has been held each and every April since 1996. It is a month-long celebration of all kinds of poetry, whether it be written, spoken, slammed, or even sung. Publishers, libraries, schools, universities, writing groups, and others come together to share and express themselves through poetry. It is a time to rejoice in our country’s poetic heritage, which includes poets such as Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, and Sylvia Plath. It serves as an opportunity to increase Americans’ awareness of this heritage as well as their knowledge of poetry crafted today.

What are ten ways that you can get involved with National Poetry Month? Below is an excerpt from “30 Ways to Celebrate,” a list made by the Academy of American Poets. The full list can be found here.

  1. Take a poem out to lunch or put a poem in your lunchbox
  2. Get out the sidewalk chalk and commit a poem to pavement
  3. Leave a copy of a poem in an unexpected place
  4. Write a letter to a poet
  5. Watch a poetry-related movie
  6. Visit a poetry landmark
  7. Listen to poetry on your commute
  8. Attend a poetry reading
  9. Buy a book of poems for your local library
  10. Subscribe to a literary magazine

Another way to celebrate and prepare for National Poetry Month is to read George Ella Lyon’s Many-Storied House: Poems (University Press of Kentucky, 2013). If the walls of Lyon’s childhood home could talk, they would tell stories of her brother waking everyone in the middle of the night by playing the trumpet, describe the various contents of the junk drawer, and reveal Lyon’s intimate discussions with her mother. Since walls cannot speak, Lyon speaks for them, writing about such memories in a collection of poetry centered on the love and hardships shared by a family.

So think about how you will enrich your life and the lives of others through poetry, and consider using poet George Ella Lyon’s words to do so. You only have five days left before April arrives—get ready!


Happy Birthday James Still!

On what would be the 107th birthday of the Dean of Appalachian Literature, we present our favorite titles by Mr. Still and a few other tidbits to remember a great American writer.

View all titles by James Still at the University Press of Kentucky

View a documentary from Western Kentucky University and WKYUJames Still: Man on Troublesome Creek

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Take this opportunity to explore a glossary of regional dialect and terms used in Mr. Still’s works

Compiled by Tiffany Williams of McRoberts, KY for The Hills Remember: The Complete Short Stories of James Still edited by Ted Olson

Some of our favorite words:

Big Thick: noun An unabridged dictionary. “My old teacher used to say that once a body breathed chalk dust and pounded the Big Thick Dictionary he was spoiled for common labor.” (pg. 285). (POM)

fat mouth: noun One who talks too much or blabbers. “I might do ’er, fat mouth.” (pg. 355). (DARE)

grands and greats: noun One’s descendants; thus, a profusion of people. “It would take Adam’s grands and greats to rid that ground in time for planting.” (pg. 231).

light a shuck: verb phrase To run fast, leave in a hurry. “I whistled up Trigger and lit a shuck down the road.” (pg. 179). (DSME)

piddle: verb To deal or work in trifling or petty ways; to act idly or inefficiently; to loiter. “Bot was company for Uncle Mize, with me in the fields trying to conquer weeds, and Broadus and Kell piddling.” (pg. 84). (MW) Hence piddling, adjective Trifling, insignificant, paltry. “A mighty piddling few.” (pg. 162). (DSME)

sheep’s eyes: noun Presumably, the bubbles that form on the surface of a liquid that are comparable in size to a sheep’s eyes and indicate that the liquid is at a boil. “Stir till it ’gins making sheep’s eyes, and mind not to over-bile.” (pg. 247).

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.


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!