Thank you, Casey Shay Press and thank you, Jay Parini.
I am absolutely thrilled, very humbled and honored to have received notification that I’ve won the Mary Ballard Poetry Chapbook Contest held by Casey Shay Press in Austin, Texas. This means so much to me as much of my poetry goes to raise awareness about mountain top removal and also, because I feel like I’m contributing something positive to the lives of my fellow Appalachians, in particular, women.
When I was a kid we had two books in our house that I can remember. One of them was the Bible that Momma kept up on a shelf and the other was an old high school literature book that she kept in the kitchen closet above the deep freezer. I asked permission to see the book one day and Momma got it down for me. I turned through its yellow pages until I came to a poem entitled “Annabellee” by Edgar Alan Poe. I was maybe nine. I read it and reread it. I told Momma that it was I loved that poem. That poem was a song in my heart and it made me want to sing. So, I starting writing poems. I wrote them on scraps of paper, on the insides of Little Debbie Cake boxes, on the bottoms of cardboard boxes, on rocks, on Granny‘s squash and as I got older, on paper plates and napkins, on evelopes and then I tucked them away in drawers and behind mirrors. I feared that someone would find these bits of my heart and laugh at them. I wasn’t sure my psyche could handle that. I loved poetry, but I didn’t know if it would love me back.
Then one day in 2003, I used a pen name and posted a poem on a writer’s website. I received an email from the editor a small online Canadian e-zine, asking me if he could publish my poem. I said yes but used a fake name. I was still terrified of the internet and of people laughing at my poetry. I continued to write poems under the pen name and I continued to get solicitations from small online ezines. Then I got brave enough to submit to magazines and finally to use my real name. The next thing I knew I was sitting in a writers workshop along side George Ella Lyons and Kate Long, with Anne Shelby and Sherry Chandler, Charlie Hughes, Leetha Kendrick and Gurney Norman. I was sitting in a room with some of the best poets I knew and I was humbled by that experience. Then I started Raven’s Shadow and joined some online poetry groups [just a couple]. I was writing poetry and getting emails and private messages from people who said my words had touched them.