#Poetry Wed: “Appalachia” by Muriel Miller Dressler

“I am Appalachia. In my veins
Runs fierce mountain pride; the hill-fed streams
Of passion; and, stranger, you don’t know me!

…How can you find rapport with me –
You, who never stood in the bowels of hell,
Never felt a mountain shake and open its jaws
To partake of human sacrifice?…

You, who never stood on a high mountain,
Watching the sun unwind its spiral rays;
Who never searched the glens for wild flowers,
Never picked mayapples or black walnuts; never ran
Wildly through the woods in pure delight,
Nor dangled your feet in a lazy creek?
You, who never danced to wild sweet notes,
Outpouring of nimble-fingered fiddlers…

I am Appalachia; and, stranger,
Though you’ve studied me, you still don’t know.”

Read the entire poem at WV Encyclopedia.

Jennifer Lawrence & Bradley Cooper’s New Movie Serena is Appalachian Noir

Ignore the NYC and LA critics giving Serena bad reviews, particularly those complaining about it’s “lack of humor.” They must prefer vapid comedies over sophisticated, character-driven drama. They certainly don’t understand the gritty, loyal nature of Appalachian culture nor appreciate the rugged, spectacular beauty of its mountainous wilderness. They haven’t even read the book on which the movie was based — Ron Rash’s eerily intriguing, Appalachian noir novel about the Macbeth-like owners of a Depression-era timber empire.

Serena is a brilliant, suspenseful, slow building drama of Shakespearean proportions.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The film reunites David O’Russell darlings Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, who were perfectly cast as the dastardly and passionate Pembertons.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Director Suzanne Bier did a phenomenal job reflecting the moody atmosphere and rustic panoramas so masterfully conjured by Ron Rash’s novel. Prague and the foggy, mountainous Czech Republic countryside were surprisingly worthy stand-ins for Appalachia.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

The movie doesn’t quite flesh out the individual characters as well as the book, but that’s typical for a film adaption. The only real misstep was the casting of Toby Jones as the local Sherriff. His failed, somewhat Australian attempt at a Southern accent is unintenionally comedic.

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Reading some of the more ridiculously scathing and innaccurate reviews, I was reminded of lines from Muriel Miller Dressler’s poem, “Appalachia”:

“I am Appalachia…
and, stranger, you don’t know me!…
You, who never stood in the bowels of hell,
Never felt a mountain shake and open its jaws
To partake of human sacrifice?
You, who never stood on a high mountain…
You, who never danced to wild sweet notes…
You, who never once carried a coffin
To a family plot high up on a ridge
Because mountain folk know it’s best to lie
Where breezes from the hills whisper, ‘you’re home'”

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Following the successful Veronica Mars multi-format release model, Serena is now available On Demand, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes and Google Play in advance of its March 27th theatrical release. Please see it in whatever form you can and I hope it eventually makes its way into WV cinemas. This film deserves every bit of attention that was lavished on Birdman and Boyhood. Serena has the substance and unique style so desperately needed in the movie industry.

Serena Movie Official Site


Nappy Roots: New Song “Party for the Ages”

Kentucky rappers Nappy Roots will release their new album, The 40 Akerz Project, on March 3rd. Their 2002 song “Po’ Folks” (feat. Anthony Hamilton) connected with this lifelong poor, Appalachian girl in a way that not many popular songs do. Even over a decade later, I still find myself singing the song’s resigned lyrical refrain “all my life been po’ but it really don’t matter no mo’” when facing adversity (such as last year’s WV water crisis.) That, in my opinion, is the mark of a great song — that feeling of recognition.

My excitement over Nappy Roots’ album news quickly turned to trepidation, though, when I saw their new song title “Party for the Ages.” Had my beloved Nappy Roots abandoned their own authentic, poetic, real life rap style in favor of the more popular, party lifestyle brand of rap? Thankfully the answer is a resounding no.

The song’s arrangement and chorus do have a more modern, ambient sound, but the verses show Nappy Roots are still rapping from their hearts.

Nappy Roots Official Site


Crystal Good: Appalachian Blackface (Poetry)

West Virginian poet Crystal Good debuted her amazing new poem “Appalachian Blackface,” a commentary on political pandering to coal miners as well as racism, at last night’s Summit on Race Matters in Appalachia and she received a well deserved standing ovation for it. Crystal’s powerful, brilliant spoken word performance begins around the 18:50 mark on the following video, but I highly recommend watching the entire video no matter who you are or where you are from. Then share it. This poet, and this subject, should be nationally known.