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Foreword The title of Jane Hicks’s second collection puts you on notice that you’re about to read a book about loss. What it doesn’t tell, however , is what distinguishes these poems: the lessons and wisdom the poet reckons from that loss. Hicks clearly declares her purpose in “A Poet’s Work”: “the naming of what matters.” Hers is not art for art’s sake. She speaks out of the pain of the moment—meth labs, farm foreclosures, mountains devastated, mothers leaving for war. She also speaks against the greed at its root. Fiercely set in Appalachia, these poems claim personal and cultural history, even as they speak out against forces that threaten both. “North Fork of the Holston 1962” evokes the river as Daniel Boone, the Cherokee, and A. P. Carter knew it, as well as the “green history” Hicks fished in as a child. But her gaze is not nostalgic . She goes on to name the businesses that have poisoned the Holston: Olin Saltworks, Eastman Chemical, Bemberg Rayon. She takes Big Coal to task in two poems dedicated to Jeremy Davidson, the three-year-old crushed by a boulder that broke loose from an illegal strip mine operation and crashed through the roof while he slept. Similarly, she names those traveling with her who were lost to war: ancestors in the Great War and World War II, friends in Vietnam, folks called up by the National Guard today. Hicks cannot ignore “death’s grotesque planting” and its harvest. But the world in these poems is not without joy. In “What Matters,” Hicks catalogs pleasures from country ham to “flannel sheets,” from “rusty dogwood” to “my chair near yours, a good poem.” And always in her world, there is music. In “Poor Valley Pilgrims,” she narrates the Carter Family’s journey to make their first recording; “jolted,” “rattled,” “desperate,” and “soggy,” they come “to score/ the soundtrack of a nation.” She glories in the “acoustic paradise” of “The Ryman Auditorium, 1965,” where Mother Maybelle pulls her back to the heritage she was ready to throw off in favor of Elvis and the Beatles. In that moment, she is repatriated. What she says outright in “A Transplant Leaves Minnesota, 1973,” is a characteristic gesture of this collection: I gleaned the remains of my life, turned toward the hills that give me help, give me shelter, hold the sky where it belongs. With her grandmother’s blood strong in her veins, her role as poet/seer affirmed by teacher and tradition, Jane Hicks speaks out for what matters most in “praise and remembrance.” George Ella Lyon xii  Foreword Driving with the Dead ...


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