The Monday Book – Revised Light by Sharon J. Ackerman

Sharon Ackerman is a child of the Appalachian migration whose summer visits to Perry County, in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, affected her powerfully and provide the material for almost all of these poems.

Thank you Sharon for sharing an overview of your collection with us!

When asked what led to my poetry collection Revised Light, the word that springs to mind is ancestors. And inseparable from ancestry is place.  I am a child of the Appalachian Migration and though I’ve lived a good many years just outside Appalachia proper, the place I first identified as home calls me back to its doorstep. This collection of poems came about because the oral histories I’ve heard, the summers spent visiting southeast Kentucky, the particulars of old speech passed down to me through my parents, and the sheer pull of ten generations of ancestors rooted in eastern Kentucky, declared their presence in my writing and insisted that I tell the story of migration before anything else.

Around 1936 my grandmother was widowed with seven children after my grandfather died from digging coal. In many ways, all the migrations of her children and grandchildren stemmed from that event.  I had to reach across the many “dispossessions” as writer Steven Stoll once defined it and exhume that heritage and somehow knit it together with my current life in Virginia. It’s like reconciling cum laude and a country accent; the world at large just doesn’t get that. And though Revised Light is just a short meditation of heritage and displacement, I could not have written it if outstanding poets of voice and place like Ron Rash and Maurice Manning had not shown me how stories prop up the present, giving us perspective and meaning.

I think it’s fair to say that when you have roots in Appalachia, there are two voices writing inside you. There is the native cadence and then there is the public one brought about through schooling and societal pressure.

I think it’s fair to say that when you have roots in Appalachia, there are two voices writing inside you. There is the native cadence and then there is the public one brought about through schooling and societal pressure. I wanted to let the stories within the poems travel through the lens of their inherited vision and co-exist amicably with the migratory spirit that is also very much part of modern Appalachia.  If I’ve done that in some small way, then it is what I intended in this work.

Bad Language?

The usual weekly guest post from Wendy’s husband Jack Beck –

I’m sure I’ve covered this before, but it’s worth repeating.

I am Scottish and my natural language is Scots-English. By that I mean standard British English, but with a lot of Scots mixed in. But what is ‘Scots’? It’s a language that developed in parallel with English, but headed off on its own, rather in the same way that Scandinavian languages did, as well as Spanish versus Portuguese.

An example: ‘Ah widnae hae screivit that hid a kent ye’d hae bin affrontit.’ In English that would be ‘I wouldn’t have written that if I’d known that you’d have been offended’.

Because English and Scots have shared words pronounced differently it’s very common to see what’s often termed an ‘apologetic apostrophe’ – a’ for all or ca’ for call. It took me a while to realize just how insulting that term was and I never do that anymore. Never apologize for your indigenous speech.

Following the publication of the King James Bible and its adoption by the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, the language became spoken rather than written and different versions evolved in different areas. At the same time children were ‘encouraged’ to speak ‘proper’ English and often punished for speaking Scots.

However, all is not lost. Scotland’s National poet Robert Burns wrote in Scots and his popularity kept the language going and then the publication of Lorimer’s New Testament in Scots kept the flame alive. More recently Matthew Fitt and others began writing and publishing children’s’ books in the language.

Finally, like many others, my language has been nurtured by my involvement in traditional Scots songs and the current champions of the leid are also from the same background. They are pushing the Scottish Government to recognize and support Scots to the same extent as they do the other indigenous language – Gaelic.