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Friday, April 04, 2008

West Virginia Public Radio Broadcasts Poems from 'Kettle Bottom'

West Virginia Public Radio Broadcasts Poems from 'Kettle Bottom'

On April 10 at 9 p.m. (and a repeat on May 22), West Virginia Public Radio will air a riveting radio version of Dianne Gilliam Fisher's poetry collection "Kettle Bottom." The broadcast was produced by Kate Long and funded by the West Virginia Humanities Council. The 14 readings provide highly personal glimpses into realities of life in a coal camp. The poems they read reflect the thoughts and emotions of children, miners, mothers, immigrants, and sons of freed slaves speaking from the height of the West Virginia Mine Wars when, as one character said, "that old kettle bottom is just waiting to drop."

Written in the voices of people living and working in the coal camps during the West Virginia coal mine wars of 1920–1921, 'Kettle Bottom' shows how a community responded to a time of danger.

These vivid poems imagine the stories of miners, their wives, children, sisters, and mothers; of mountaineers, Italian immigrants, and African American families — people who organized for safe working conditions in opposition to the mine company owners and their agents.

Fisher, who has a Ph.D. in romance languages and literature from Ohio State University, wrote her poems in the language of the time. "That is the language that was spoken in the house where I grew up," she said. "It is a beautiful language. When you take a language that is commonly thought of as unbeautiful, and you put it in a poem, I believe that is a political act. You say `This language is poetry.' And it is."

Fisher considers herself a displaced West Virginian. Like many mountain families, her parents families went north to Ohio in the 1940s to work. "But I grew up in an Appalachian household," she said.

In 2005, "Kettle Bottom" was named one of the nation's top 10 poetry books by the American Bookseller's Association. It has been adopted for the reading list at more than 30 colleges and universities nationwide.

Kate Long also produced the 2002 award-winning radio series In Their Own Country, which highlighted 14 of the state's best authors.

Tune in to WV Public Radio on April 10 and May 22, (or to WV Public Radio's streaming site online), at 9 PM to hear poems from Diane Gilliam Fisher's poetry collection 'Kettle Bottom' (Perugia Press, 2004).