Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place

Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place

Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place

Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place

Excerpt

Sublime silence surrounds me. I have walked to the top of the hill,
plopped myself down to watch the world around me. I have no fear
here, in this world of trees, weeds, and growing things. This is
the world I was born into: a world of wild things. In it the wilder
ness in me speaks. I am wild. I hear my elders caution mama, tell
ing her that she is making a mistake, letting me “run wild,” letting
me run with my brother as though no gender separates us. We are
making our childhood together in the Kentucky hills, experiencing
the freedom that comes from living away from civilization. Even as
a child I knew that to be raised in the country, to come from the
backwoods, left one without meaning or presence. Growing up
we did not use terms like “hillbilly.” Country folk lived on isolated
farms away from the city; backwoods folks lived in remote areas,
in the hills and hollers.

To be from the backwoods was to be part of the wild. Where
we lived, black folks were as much a part of the wild, living in a
natural way on the earth, as white folks. All backwoods folks were
poor by material standards; they knew how to make do. They were
not wanting to tame the wildness, in themselves or nature. Living
in the Kentucky hills was where I first learned the importance of
being wild.

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