Poetry. In the poem "Things We Knew," author Vickie Cimprich lists as the first of these: "How Contrary worked cause we was a part of it." Here "Contrary" is the name of the creek pictured on the cover that flows through part of the Appalachian country of East Kentucky; but it is as well an attitude and state of mind, and through the poems in this collection Cimprich makes us all "a part of it." Her affection for the land, the people, the culture, the plants and animals that make up this place is palpable throughout, as is the strength she draws from her roots there, and that she shares with us as readers. One of the "contraries" is to the received wisdom about East Kentucky at the heart of the book is the story of Catholicism in this precinct of Appalachia, and in this way Cimprich makes a valuable contribution to the dispelling of regional stereotypes, never more important than in this time of simplistic political and cultural narratives. Some poems relate the story of St. Therese Church in Lee County, the oldest Catholic church in this part of the state, relocated and rebuilt by the hands of its poor but devout parishioners seventy years ago. Others deal with the sometimes uneasy relations of "Cat-licks" and their neighbors. In one poem (that alone justifies reading the book), a nun confronting some anti-Catholic spectators at a ball game suggests, "Why don't you go to hell? They don't have any there." Contrary, indeed! But like the neighbor described in one poem who was never the same after a limb fell on his head, but was "always pleasant", Cimprich's meditations here are pleasant even when poignant or pointed. At the end she observes, "Nothing has changed, / everything has been changed. // Let the stove coals burn out." Still, we can enjoy the last warm moments as they go. And even if, as one ancient Greek observed, we cannot step twice into the same river, there is yet a creek running through the mountains, inviting us to wade into its waters and its history.
Northern Kentuckian Vickie Cimprich writes of many good and interesting times in the Eastern Kentucky mountains. Her poetry collection Pretty Mother's Home — A Shakeress Daybook (Broadstone Books, 2007) was researched at the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky with support from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Her creative and scholarly writings appear in a variety of journals, exploring themes ranging from African-American Shakers to French Cistercian abbeys. She's taught English at Lees College, Northern Kentucky University, and the University of Cincinnati.
Author City: FT MITCHELL, KY USA