Explosion at Winco No. 9
Delsey Salyer knowed Tom Junior by his toes,
which his steel-toed boots had kept the fire off of.
Betty Rose seen a piece of Willy’s ear, the little
notched part where a hound had bit him
when he was a young’un, playing at eating its food.
It is true that it is the men that goes in, but it is us
that carries the mine inside. It is us that listens
to what they are scared of and takes
the weight of it from them, like handing off
a sack of meal. Us that learns by heart
birthmarks, scars, bends of fingers,
how the teeth set crooked or straight.
Us that picks up the pieces.
Us that picks up the pieces. I didn’t have
nothing to patch with but my old blue dress,
and Ted didn’t want floweredy goods
on his shirt. I told him, It’s just under your arm,
Ted, it ain’t going to show.
Ted, it ain’t going to show. They brung out bodies,
you couldn’t tell. I seen a piece of my old blue dress
on one of them bodies, blacked with smoke,
but I could tell it was my patch, up under the arm.
When the man writing in the big black book
come around asking about identifying marks,
I said, blue dress. I told him, Maude Stanley, 23.
“Students immediately engaged with the poems; faculty found the poems a productive way of exploring issues of class, of race, of history and who gets to tell it, of suffering, of moral choice, and of resilience.”
—Carol Christ, President of Smith College
“In Kettle Bottom, Diane Gilliam Fisher probes the emotional truth of coal camp history, and then extracts it — holds its darkness in the light of her brilliant lines.”
“Kettle Bottom is a one-woman rescue operation accomplished in words that say plainly, as the miners might have, yet eloquently, as only a gifted poet can, that these men and women and children were once here in the same world as ours, that they gave up the breath in their lungs and even their very daylight to fuel this world, and that their hopes for their lives and the terrors they endured, who they loved and so often lost too soon — that all of it mattered. As it matters that after so many years someone finally heard their faint tapping and, with the urgency of love, went tunneling toward them.”
“Kettle Bottom serves as a reminder that everything in life can be the stuff of poetry, that every life is extraordinary in some way and has something to teach us.”
“The poems in Kettle Bottom deliver, with the simplicity of homespun, details about coalfield faith, childhood, family, workplace danger, bias, marriage and — again and again — economic injustice. Fisher’s collection is a profoundly human portrait that rings out beyond the folds of a lost Appalachian story. [It is] an inquiry into coal that returned with diamonds.”
—Daily Hampshire Gazette
“Fisher’s little book held me like a vise, touched me like a prayer. It made me feel like I had lived and walked with the people in its pages.”
—The Transylvania Times
Teow Lim Goh wrote an essay for Tin House (Winter 2016, #70), on Kettle Bottom:
Listen to a selection from Kettle Bottom:
Kettle Bottom: A CD recording based on the book
“An hour-long mini-masterpiece.”
First broadcast on West Virginia Public Radio, this CD gives listeners a vivid glimpse into coal camp life. Native West Virginians read selections from Fisher’s poetry book. Producer Kate Long wove their voices with history of the mine wars, music, and conversation with the author. The result is a portrait of people who insist on their own dignity as they walk the fine line between life and death.
An excellent companion to the book!
Winner, A Room of Her Own Foundation
$50,000 Gift of Freedom
Winner, 2008 Thomas
and Lillie D. Chaffin Award
for Appalachian Writing
American Booksellers Association Book Sense
Top Ten Poetry Book for 2005
Winner, Ohioana Library Association
Poetry Book of the Year
Finalist, Weatherford Award
of the Appalachian Studies Association
Selected for inclusion in
The Pushcart Prize XXX:
Best of the Small Presses
96 pages, $18.00
On Sale for $16.00