April 12, 2016

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

50 State Tour: West Virginia

West Virginia is the 35th state (6/20/1863).

It's a popular retirement spot for Marylanders -- nearly  75% of the state is covered by forests. The golden delicious apple originated there.

But it's not all idyllic. There are some strange laws in West Virginia.Whistling underwater is prohibited, so watch yourself. And do not walk your lion, tiger or leopard -- even if it's leashed -- in the city of Alderson.

West Virginia's state poet laureate is Irene McKinney, who has held the position since 1994. There's a wonderful interview with her here. It gives McKinney's background and she speaks about the writing process.

In the introduction to the anthology Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia (2003), McKinney said, “I’m a hillbilly, a woman, and a poet, and I understood early on that nobody was going to listen to anything I had to say anyway, so I might as well just say what I want to.”

She's a fitting PL for the Mountain State, who's motto is "Mountaineers are always free."

Don't you love that quote? For me, it shows McKinney's connection to another woman who wrote what she wanted to, convinced nobody cared enough to listen. Here is McKinney's portrait of Emily Dickinson.

The Only Portrait of Emily Dickinson

by Irene McKinney

The straight neck held up out of the lace
is bound with a black velvet band.
She holds her mouth the way she chooses,
the full underlip constrained by a small muscle.

She doesn’t blink or look aside,
although her left eye is considering
a slant. She would smile
if she had time, but right now

there is composure to be invented.
She stares at the photographer.

Read on! The rest of the poem is at the Poetry Foundation.

Nevada is up next. It's been a while since we've visited a Poetic Wall of Shame state. Nevada has that dubious honor.

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