Glossy Thursday

The best advice that I have ever received was to read — read everything — even poets who don’t write like you or poets you don’t think you will understand.  I’ve just finished a book that falls into the first category.

Ida Stewart’s book, Gloss, won the Perugia Press’s award for 2011, and because I always love Perugia’s books, I ordered my copy right away.  And then I found out that the book was about the Appalachia region, and I got even more excited.  When the book came in the mail, I dove right in.

At first, I must admit, I was a bit disappointed.  I have always loved the work of other West Virginian poets including Irene McKinney and Maggie Anderson, and I guess I was expecting an imitation of their work, which of course, is unfair all around.  Stewart is not a strict narrative poet — although her poems certainly tell stories.  Instead, she evokes a song like, lyrical quality in her work — almost as if she is trying to capture the echoes of mountains.  Her works are full of wild sarsapilla, of “little moons/of deer eyes,” of split-rail fences. Yet, while there is celebration in her work, Stewart does not ignore the politics of her world, often having her mountains celebrate their own presence or speak against the pillaging of their world. 

Although I live in Northern Appalachia, Stewart’s world is not my world.  My mountains, or “hills” are still intact.  (Pennsylvania is wrestling with another environmental issue, fracking, which has not yet entered the poetry world.  Or maybe it has and I just don’t know about it!) But Stewart’s use of language embraces the natural wonder of our land without falling into cliché — her work really deserves a more careful review on my part, but as time is limited right now, I just want to say that Stewart is on my list of poets whose work I will watch for!

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