It all starts with the weather. Comes a day when summer…
In his poem “Digging,” the Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney depicts a writer at his desk,
a pen resting “Between my finger and my thumb,” ready to begin his day’s work. But the narrator becomes distracted by the sound of a spade striking gravel, and he looks out to find his father’s “straining rump among the flowerbeds,” digging away. The sight of his bent father floods him with a vortex of memory—of his father digging potatoes, of his grandfather cutting the turf of a peat bog, of the narrator himself carrying a bottle of milk to his working grandfather.
“But I’ve no spade to follow men like them,” the speaker mourns, before turning his attention to the “squat pen” in his hand. “I’ll dig with it,” he concludes, a precise summation of the writing life.
Like the poem’s narrator, the authors in this issue have chosen to excavate through their writing. They know how to handle a pen, using it to plough their memories, subconscious, and imaginations, tending to their vocation as faithfully as any farmer or field hand. And in this issue, they have gathered their harvest for us here, a farm-to-table gift for us to admire and savor.
As our featured author for this issue, Barbara Kingsolver has brought us a beautiful crop of writing and observations that spans literary genres. She starts with her essay “Where It Begins,” originally published in Orion Magazine, and from which she read as part of her keynote at the 2013 Appalachian Writers’ Workshop at the Hindman Settlement School, captivating everyone in the room. Kingsolver also contributes two poems, a short story that has not been published prominently, and a craft essay taken from an unpublished journal entry titled “Riding the Elephant.” Finally, award-winning fiction writer Crystal Wilkinson interviews Kingsolver on her body of work, writing process, and deep Appalachian roots.
Also wielding their pens are Jordan Farmer, whose story “Lost in the Flood” was a finalist for the CutBank literary magazine’s 2014 Montana Fiction Prize. Amy Clark, nonfiction writer and editor of the anthology Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity, and Community, makes her fiction debut in this issue. Creative nonfiction writers Angel Sands Gunn and Erica Langston contribute evocative essays. Joseph Banthanti, Marc Harshman, Amy Wright, and others burrow down deep in their poems. And acclaimed
photographer Lauren Stonestreet provides beautiful visual context to our theme of digging.
Like the narrator of Heaney’s poem, I hope you are carried away by these writings, transported to distant memories and places—and inspired to do some digging of your own.