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 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.