Bless Its Heart: The Irony of Appalachian Literature

A Ramble to Yonder England in which the Author Discovers the Romantic Roots of Appalachian Literature

In June 2009 I was doing field research in England around Nether Stowey, the village in the county of Somerset where Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his young family were living in 1797. It was in this place that Coleridge first met William Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy. I was armed with a topographic map and a sheaf of antique poems. My goal was to take the very same poetry-inspiring walks Coleridge and the Wordsworths took more than 200 years ago. I realized what they were trying to do: to write poems whose rhythms and process of thought matched the up-and-down geography of the setting. They wanted the physical, exterior world to initiate and influence whatever happened in the co-creating, interior world of the mind.

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Maurice Manning’s most recent books are The Gone and the Going Away, his fifth collection of poems, and The Rag-Picker’s Guide to Poetry, co-edited with Eleanor Wilner. A former Guggenheim fellow, Manning has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and is a member of The Fellowship of Southern Writers. He teaches at Transylvania University and in the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

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