A! Magazine for the Arts

Regional poetry celebration at Sunday with Friends

April 23, 2018

The annual celebration of regional poetry is held at the Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, Virginia, May 20 at 3 p.m., as part of the “Sunday with Friends” literary series sponsored by the Friends of the Washington County Public Library.

The headliner poet is Rita Quillen. Her “The Mad Farmer’s Wife,” is a response to a life lived on a mountain cattle farm in Scott County, Virginia, as well as to a poetic persona created by noted Kentucky poet and essayist Wendell Berry: the Mad Farmer. In a world increasingly detached from the land that supplies all of our essential resources, Quillen’s poetry helps us understand the complexity and challenge of living a rural life in today’s economy.

Quillen has also published two previous volumes of poetry, “Counting the Sums” and “Her Secret Dreams,” as well as a novel “Hiding Ezra,” set in Southwest Virginia, about a man during World War I who has to choose between participating in World War I or taking care of his family. She has just finished a sequel to the book.

Quillen is retired from a career in teaching English at Northeast State Community College and Mountain Empire Community College.

“The Mad Farmer’s Wife,” was a finalist for the prestigious Weatherford Award in Appalachian Literature from Berea College. Her novel “Hiding Ezra,” released by Little Creek Books, was a finalist for the 2005 DANA Awards, and a chapter of the novel is included in “Talking Appalachian,” a scholarly study of Appalachian dialect. The sequel to the first novel, “Wayland,” is awaiting publication. She also published a poetry chapbook titled “Something Solid To Anchor To.”

One of six semi-finalists for the 2012-14 Poet Laureate of Virginia, she received a Pushcart nomination in 2012 and 2015, and a Best of the Net nomination in 2012. She has served as Writer-in-Residence or presented workshops at Radford University, Roanoke College, Shephard College, Cumberland University, Bluefield College and others.

Her full-length collection, “Her Secret Dream,” is from Wind Press in Kentucky and was named the Outstanding Poetry Book of the Year by the Appalachian Writers Association in 2008. Previous works are poetry collections “October Dusk” and “Counting the Sums,” and a book of essays “Looking for Native Ground: Contemporary Appalachian Poetry.”

She lives and farms on Early Autumn Farm in Scott County, Virginia. You can learn much more about her at her website www.ritasimsquillen.com.

Area poets Daryl Ann Beeghley, Henry McCarthy, Warren Harris and Deborah Ledford join her.

Book sales and signing as well as a reception follow the reading. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.wcpl.net.

What the Creek Says

You look to the clouds

To the blue blankness overhead

Cross yourselves, fall to your knees

Talk to sharp shards of stars

Brittle black emptiness.

No, look down at your toes in the silt:

God says “Good morning.”

His creatures waste no time looking up.

The rippling speech of the creek,

The rhythmic grinding of the foraging cows,

Heads all bowed to their green

Are the liturgy and homily of this, the richest cathedral.

When everything else has changed, even the heavens,

I have not. I will stay water, no matter what comes.

There is a reason I am ritual,

Every kind of metaphor,

The only balm for every kind of sore.

Rita Quillen
(reprinted by permission)