I was thinking about Appalachian literature and this book, and realized that maybe the thing about Appalachian literature is that it's so much about the things that are gone, the empty spaces, the abandoned coal mines and lost futures and carved-out mountainsides. In a way, it can't help being haunted, metaphorically and, I think, sometimes literally - ghost stories sound perfectly set in some wafty mine shaft. In her poem "Ghosts for Dinner", Hadaway makes this connection on both levels:Get up to turn your chair away from her
a few degrees. And look at me. I may
be someone else's longed-for phantom. Pour
me some more wine; tell me the story; listen:
it's a dreary wish to want the whole globe ghostless.
It reminds me of something said about digital vs. analog film, that the split-second void between frames in traditional film projections engages the mind subconsciously and draws us into the experience further. Maybe that same quality captures our imagination here.
Hadaway's poems are written in the vulgate, everyday country language, about everyday country places, like the Magic City Mortgage Co, or the Kmart, or the hardware store. They're written about that tearing of leaving vs. staying, being "from here" or an outsider. Often, they are about choosing how to survive, "extermination or education" people are said to say. But at her heart, Hadaway says that her home is carried with her, as in the poem "Fancy Gap" about a mountain descent road that winds and curves dangerously:When I left Fancy for that fellowship
in the far west, I thought it was the end
of her influence. She was passe, parsnip
abandoned in and old root cellar, wind
in rotten chestnut trees. [...]
And then I looked up from a restroom sink
at Fort Kearney, Nebraska, and I saw
my collarbone was Fancy's collarbone.
The mirror showed me with her tilted jaw,
my long brown hairs hers, gnarly and windblown
But at the same time, it's not so simple as that. Whether Hadaway has survived is not clear, whether she feels complete away from home undetermined. The exploration is beautifully made and rewarding to follow, in plain but elegant language, recalling her Virginia mountains homeland.