Back Talk from Appalachia: Confronting Stereotypes

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While writing his book, Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness, Erik Reece spent a great deal of time studying strip mining and its effect on the environment and surrounding communities. After a year of exploring the ugliness of a rapidly disappearing landscape, Reece felt a strong need to celebrate the wonder the Eastern broadleaf forests still have to offer. The result is a collection of poems by individuals who share Thoreau's belief that the natural world is "an unroofed church, a place of reverence." Field Work: Modern Poems from Eastern Forests seeks an answer to Frost's question, "What to make of a diminished thing?" by contemplating work from some of the twentieth century's greatest nature poets. Reece frames contemporary American poems with a rich selection of Chinese poetry from the T'ang Dynasty, written by poets who produced what many consider the first great nature writing. More than 1,300 years ago Li Po, Tu Fu, Wang Wei, and Han Shan described a landscape in southern China remarkably similar in landscape and ecology to the forests of Appalachia. Consequently, their work has inspired many of the American poets featured in Field Work, including Hayden Carruth, Mary Oliver, A. R. Ammons, Jane Kenyon, and Denise Levertov. The modern poets in this collection share the eastern reverence for the natural world -- they desire to create a poetry of belonging, of elemental contact with something much larger than the self. These poems ask the reader to turn away from urban landscapes in an effort to better understand the natural world as a spectacular, profound organism. Wendell Berry, for example, praises the quiet and solitude of nature, inspiring the reader to experience each poem in the setting for which it was written. In Field Work, Reece brings together a collection of poetry that calls readers out of doors as these poems become gateways to a natural world we are often too distracted to see.

 

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Contents

Introduction
3
Diversity and the History of Appalachia
21
Speaking of Hillbillies Literary Sources of Contemporary Stereotypes
45
Narratives of Exploration and Travel in Early Appalachia
47
Rebecca Harding Davis and the Myth of Unionist Appalachia
67
William Faulkner and the Mountain South
85
John Fox Jr and the Southern Mountaineer Motif
98
Mountain Feuds and Appalachian Stereotyping
119
If Theres One Thing You Can Tell Them Its that Youre Free
191
Sometimes Actions Speak Louder than Words Activism in Appalachia
201
The Grass Roots Speak Back
203
Labor Activism in Southeastern Kentuckyin 1922
215
Coalfield Women Making History
228
Urban Organizations and the Image of Appalachians
251
Stories of AIDS in Appalachia
267
Recycling Old Stereotypes Critical Responses to The Kentucky Cycle
281

Tracing Sources of the Comic Hillbilly Fool in Literature
138
Speaking More Personally Responses to Appalachian Stereotypes
151
Whats So Funny and Not So Funny about Redneck Jokes
153
A Personal History
161
Up in the Country
174
One Affrilachian Womans Return Home
184
Appalachian Stepchild
187
The Case of The Kentucky Cycle
283
Reflections on the Kentucky Cycle Phenomenon
300
The Appalachian Connection in an Anxious Nation
313
Notes on The Kentucky Cycle
327
Contributors
333
Index
336
Copyright

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