Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place
By Bell Hooks
Author, activist, feminist, teacher, and artist bell hooks is celebrated as one of the nation's leading intellectuals. Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, hooks drew her unique pseudonym from the name of her grandmother, an intelligent and strong-willed African American woman who inspired her to stand up against a dominating and repressive society. Her poetry, novels, memoirs, and children's books reflect her Appalachian upbringing and feature her struggles with racially integrated schools and unwelcome authority figures. One of Utne Reader's "100 Visionaries Who Can Change Your Life," hooks has won wide acclaim from critics and readers alike. 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. Touching on such topics as the marginalization of its people and the environmental degradation it has suffered over the years, hooks's poetry quietly elegizes the slow loss of an identity while also celebrating that which is constant, firmly rooted in a place that is no longer whole.
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About the Authorbell hooks is the author of more than thirty books, including Ain't I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the twenty most influential women's books of the last twenty years.
"Winner of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association's Best Poetry Award for 2013" --
"The collection reflects aesthetic and linguistic choices based on the thinking and feeling of someone who has made important contributions to contemporary thought and who thinks and feels deeply about what Kentucky -- as 'here' and home -- means to her." -- Edwina Pendarvis, Professor Emeritus at Marshall University and author of Like the Mountains of China
" Appalachian Elegy has the heft and expressiveness of a unified book; it is not merely a collection of poems, but a book of poems that accumulates meaning and pathos, wisdom and grief, as it proceeds...That is a quality I desire in all poetry, and Appalachian Elegy supplies it with a kind of incantation and dance that I find deeply satisfying." -- Maurice Manning, finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize and winner of the 2000 Yale Younger Poets award
"bell hooks is one of our most important dissidents. Here she radically reinvisions the history of Kentucky, lowering a plumb line of stark and insistent language into the depths of Appalachia. Her poetry seeks to unearth suppressed communities, to recover a vital sensibility, 'until history/rewritten resurrected/returns to its rightful owners.' hooks forces us to hear her 'fierce, deep grief' for, and attachment to, Appalachia; if we listen we will be the richer for it." -- Naomi Wallace, Obie-award-winning playwright and winner of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize
"'I will guide you' bell hooks promises, and delivers, in her remarkable collection Appalachian Elegy. In meditations intimate and clear, with 'radical grace, ' she negotiates 'beauty and danger, ' the animal and human worlds, the pain of history, the dead and the living. With wisdom and courage, she moves through lamentation to resurrection, the worlds she unearths an 'avalanche of splendor.'" -- Paula Bohince, author of The Children an d Edge of Bayonet Woods
"Readers who know and love bell hooks will discover the source of her strength. New readers will find a unique voice and the universal strength of our natural world. All of us will find the wild within ourselves." -- Gloria Steinem
"Hush arbors were safe places in the deep woods where slaves could commune with each other to lift their choral voices to the heavens as they tarried for freedom. bell hooks comes from a people who deeply connected with this country's 'backwoods' and hills in Kentucky and decided to stead in these spaces. Tending and tilling the land that afforded them independence and the freedom to unmask in isolation. They were 'renegades and rebels' who didn't seek to civilize Kentucky's wilds, instead developing a besidedness with the land that informs bell hooks' sense of self and belonging. This collection of poems is a departure for the important polemicist, a place where she is able to roam her boundless imagination using her emotional intelligence as her primary compass. Praise songs for her ancestors sit beside her meditations on turtles. Here is a rare glance into the soul of our beloved, prolific, yet private bell hooks, who took her mother's surname as her nom de plume. Here she returns to her mother's woods, to the 'wilderness within.'" -- dream hampton, writer and filmmaker
"bell hooks has crafted a lyrical, sweeping panorama, deftly conjuring the tangled root and insistent steam of Appalachia. In these lean, melodic poems, she holds the land close; it's achingly apparent how essential these memories are to the raw, unleashed spirit that typifies her body of work. These communiques, from an elsewhere the mind visits too rarely, reside in that constantly shifting space between melancholy and celebration. No one but bell hooks could have taken us there." -- Patricia Smith, four-time National Poetry Slam individual champion
"hooks' distilled lyrics possess the weight of stones in a foundation and logs in a cabin even as they sing and soar." -- Booklist
"Through her poetry, hooks entreats readers to remember and mourn Kentuckians whom history has forgotten and gives a voice to the voiceless rural African Americans of the region." -- Broadway World
"Famous as an outspoken and astute cultural critic, bell hooks is one of this generation's best-known intellectuals. In Appalachian Elegy, she turns her sensibilities and creativity to poetry about Kentucky, her home state. She dispenses with punctuation and capitaliztion in aesthetic choices that argue for naturalness, community, and openness to wonder." -- Now and Then; The Appalachian Magazine
"bell hook's poems grab us with an impatient sense of urgency to be active participants in environmentalism and sustainability in the Kentucky hills. It's a slim volume to which you may return often." -- Rita Kohn, NUVO
"Powerful and clear, the book celebrates the area while simultaneously mourning its ongoing losses." -- Shana Raley-Lusk, At Home Tennessee
"Throughout, the poems rely on the energy of the short line and expressive, simple adjectives, frrequently colors. They hum with the melancholy of lamentation for what is lost, not merely in the Kentucky hills, but also the loss of the ancient and undisturbed all over the world." -- Mary Ellen Miller, professor of English, Western Kentucky University
"The fact that Appalachian Elegy is as clear and spare and elegant as the images and ideas hooks depicts reveals that her verse also offers anhommage to craft, creativity and hope. Appalachian Elegy radiates energy, empathy and intelligence." -- Linda Elisabeth Beattie, Louisville writer and reviewer, chairs Spalding University's Adult Accelerated Program
"In these meditations -- bold, significant and large -- [hooks] lifts us into a world where the land shapes feeling and wounds us into the compressed grace of an appreciation for that land's history. Appalachian Elegy is above all, a meditation on time and place as experienced on a fragile earth, and, as such a mediatation, it teaches us how to appreciate our responsibility to our origins no matter where we come from." -- Sonja James, Martinsburg Journal (WV)
"Her elegy does not signal a final ending, but is rather only one part of the process of renewal and rebirth.
The koan-like rhythm of hooks' elegy tells us that even in loss there is hope and evidence of rebirth. She comes home, finding death and destruction, yet there is evidence of a cyclical process in the wildness of nature." -- Brandy Renee McCann blog