A splendid poet with an unbelievably powerful lyrical line. From first to last, this book is a treasure. Kudos to Maggie Anderson for bringing the almost-lost poems of this passionate, gifted woman into light.
Musically complex and intellectually sophisticated, Louise McNeill’s imagery and rhythms have their deepest sources in the West Virginia mountains where she was born in 1911 on a farm that has been in her family for nine generations. These are rooted poems, passionately concerned with stewardship of the land and with the various destructions of land and people that often come masked as “progress.”
In colloquial, rural, and sometimes macabre imagery, Louise McNeill documents the effects of the change from a farm to an industrial economy on the West Virginia mountain people. She writes of the earliest white settlements on the western side of the Alleghenies and of the people who remained there through the coming of the roads, the timber and coal industries, and the several wars of this century.
The reappearance of Louise McNeill’s long out-of-print poems will be cause for celebration for readers familiar with her work. Those reading it for the first time will discover musical, serious, idiosyncratic, and startling poems that define the Appalachian experience.
Louise McNeill's poems arise from the country of the rock and the hard place. Many of them, like fine mountain fiddling and picking, raise the hair on the back of my neck.
What I like in the book is the thing itself, the texture. Like a good Harris tweed: you can feel the hands that made it and the loom—you can smell the island peat smoke.
Louise McNeill has published, in addition to her several books of poetry, short stories and essays. She has been poet laureate of West Virginia since 1979, and in 1988 she was awarded the Appalachian Gold Medallion by the University of Charleston.
Maggie Anderson is the author of several poetry collections including, Years That Answer, Windfall, and A Space Filled with Moving. She is the editor of Hill Daughter: New and Selected Poems of Louise McNeill, and co-editor of A Gathering of Poets, and Learning by Heart: Contemporary American Poetry about School. Anderson has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the MacDowell Colony. She teaches creative writing at Kent State University where she directs the Wick Poetry Program and edits the Wick Poetry Series through the Kent State University Press.