Monthly Archives: February 2013

Sherrell Wigal

Sherrell Wigal, long time West Virginia Poet from the Parkersburg area, answers some questions about her writing habits and what inspires her. You’ll find her answers inspirational as well. And speaking of inspiration,  Sherrell’s poem “I am the Daughter” fed the editors the anthology’s title and the poem’s mood and tone speaks to the sensibilities of the works included.

Where is your favorite place to write?

This may sound a little crazy/dangerous but I do a lot of traveling and this leads me to do a lot of drafting while driving.  The majority of the drafting is in my head, and I do carry a portable recorder to get a few initial thoughts down.  I then do most of the “work” on my computer at home – In a nice quiet room upstairs, a room overlooking the street where I currently live.  Sometimes this makes me feel a little like The Lady of Shalott (Tennyson was one of my first poetry loves early in my life).

What inspires you?

Wow, what a wonderful question.  There are so many things that inspire me, but I guess if I were to try to distill it down I would say that I am primarily inspired by life, the sun, the moon, the seasons and their constant turning and then by  people who participate in this life and their reactions to their everyday lives.   I am also greatly influenced by the resiliency of the people from this area (because these are the ones I know on a personal basis).  To quote John Lilly I would say “the extraordinary lives of ordinary people.”

What made you decide to perform poetry?

From an early age my Mother’s family also loved poetry and would recite poems from their childhood.  Long poems, short poems, epic poems, even poems they had written themselves.  I fell in love with the cadence, rhythm and words.  One of my favorite later memories was sitting on a farm porch, my Mother was in her late 80’s and my Uncle, her brother, was past 90.  They spent the entire afternoon as a thunderstorm was rolling in reciting poetry back and forth between each other.  If one forgot a word or line, the other would chime in with the missing phrase and they kept going for almost three (3) hours.  Poetry is meant to be spoken, to be an audio and emotional experience!

Performance poetry was not something that I consciously made a decision to “take-up,” and I do not consider myself a “performance poet” but rather a poet who also performs her work.  Performance seemed rather to fall into place for me.  I believe you must put poetry in your own mouth in order to experience it completely.  That poetry lives best beyond the page.  I have always loved poetry and when one hears a poem directly from the poet’s voice (or anyone’s voice, for that matter) it opens so much more to the experience as I then experience the breath of the reader and their inflections for each word.  Once I hear someone else read their work, if I then read it on the page I always hear that voice, inflection, cadence, accent, and breathing in my head.   Also, whenever I read a poem on the page, I then like to read that poem out-loud as it brings even more to the poem.  On several occasions in the past, I experienced someone else reading some of my poems out-loud, and I was a little disconcerted, not with the reading but rather, with the inflection given various words.  So I knew that if I wanted a reader to breathe when I did and inflect when I did, to know my cadence, I’d have do it myself first.  Kirk Judd definitely was an influence in my deciding to “go public” with my own voice, and he was a great encouragement to me and provided me my first opportunities at performance work.

Tell us about your current/recent class(s) in poetry.

I have taken many poetry classes throughout my lifetime.  I have also conducted several creative writing workshops throughout the State of West Virginia over the years.  Currently I participate in a weekly poetry workshop in Parkersburg, West Virginia, with the Sacred Way Poets which is moderated by Susan Sheppard.  This workshop has been one of the most beneficial workshops I’ve participated in over the years.  This workshop focuses on work in progress, rather than completed work for which one is seeking approval.

Who do you write about the most?

This is a difficult question to answer as it varies each time I sit down to write, but I guess I can say that whatever the subject, I seem to draw on my family and my life.  I am drawn to writers who speak to the spirit in everything and try to use that a lot in my writing also.  Nature and people seem to be a central theme in my writing.

Speak to this: Rust/gold leaf just floated past you on a soft-spoken West Virginia wind. Who or what is it?
The soft-spoken wind which winds sometimes through West Virginia,

Carries every breath and memory, every tear and joy,

Every gospel tune and ballad.

And once on the ridge of an un-named hill, a rust leaf floated down

Into the holler carrying my name, as only my family can call it.

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Eddy Pendarvis

Edwina Dawn Pendarvis

Born in Weeksbury, Kentucky, Edwina (Eddy) Pendarvis spent her childhood in coal towns in eastern Kentucky and southern West Virginia, until the family moved to Florida—part of the out-migration of Appalachians that has gone on for the past three-quarters of a century. Now retired from Marshall University, Eddy lives in Huntington, where she does some adjunct teaching and consulting, free-lance writing and editing, and serves as book review editor for Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine.  Her poems, essays, and stories appear in anthologies and periodicals, such as Appalachian Heritage, Appalachian Journal, Café Review, Indiana Review, and Louisville Review. Her most recent poetry collection, Like the Mountains of China, and a book of family memoirs, Raft Tide and Railroad:  How We Lived and Died, were published by Blair Mountain Press. She has written several young-adult biographies of Nobel Prize Laureates in Literature, published in dual language editions by Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press. Her writing in these and other works reflects her commitment to the Appalachian region and its egalitarian spirit.

Explain “Hallowmas.”

Hallowmas is an old word associated with Halloween. It referred to October 31, now our Halloween, and the two days after it.  These church feast days honored the saints (on November 1, All Saints Day) and, more broadly, all dead loved ones and, later, all the dead, beloved or not (on November 2, All Souls Day). The pagan traditions that cling to Halloween suggest that it was an ancient celebration that predated the masses and rituals established by the church.

 What inspired you to write this story?

An image of a pale, beautiful teenage girl with black hair blown in strands across her face as she stood on a front porch on Halloween night came to me for some reason.  I think she appeared like one of the supernatural creatures from the world beyond this one to right some wrong.  There’s little in the story to suggest that the people she hurt deserved to be hurt.  I’m not even sure she hurt them on purpose or knew what happened to them as she washed their clothes.  But I think that the three parts of the story—her appearance out of the night, her boiling the clothes on the stove in the kitchen, and the priest who blesses her with the sign of the cross at homeless shelter—are linked to the three days of Hallowmas and especially to the idea that the church co-opted an older, pagan celebration when it declared those as holy days.  This is a long explanation of a very short story!

 Have you written other Halloween/spooky-type pieces?

No, my nightmares stay mostly confined to my sleeping hours.  I usually write realistic stories set in the mid-twentieth century and based on real life in the eastern Kentucky coal fields.

What other types of writing do you write? Tell us about your other publications.

I write mostly poetry, essays, and book reviews.  Poetry comes most naturally to me, though, and any other kind of writing is a real struggle between my natural laziness, fear of failure, and the desire to put into words on paper the things I think are beautiful or important.  A list of my publications would include nine nonfiction books, authored or co-authored; two poetry collections; and hundreds of poems, essays, and book reviews—these numbers mostly just let you know I’m old!

What inspired you to write about Pearl Buck?

I read The Good Earth years ago, in college, and admired it; but when I read it again, about ten years ago, after visiting Buck’s birthplace in Hillsboro, West Virginia, I was amazed at how modern her thinking was.  She was so far ahead of her time, and yet also in possession of an old wisdom.  A little later, I happened to observe a classroom—I think it was in a middle school in Richwood—and the students were reading Buck’s story “The Old Demon.”  Those eighth-graders cared so much about whether the old woman died at the end that I knew the story had to be powerful, so I found it and read it.  To me, it’s one of the greatest short stories any American author has ever written.  I wanted everyone, especially young people in West Virginia, to know about her.  I was busy with other projects, so, I tried to convince Christina St. Clair, who had written an article on Pearl Buck for Wonderful West Virginia magazine, to write a children’s biography about Buck.  Christina kept being stubborn and not doing it (she had other projects too), so I finally told her if she wasn’t going to write it I was, but I’d like for her to write it with me. And she did!

 Why did you decide to send this for consideration in Fed from the Blade?

I selected this story mostly because I wanted to submit things that were a little different from what I usually write.

How often do you write creatively and where is your favorite place to compose?

The creative part is debatable, but I write almost every day, usually in a focused way in the morning and just editing—between other chores—in the afternoon.  My desk sits in front of a beautiful Japanese screen, black with greens, blues, gold, and some touches of white and brown.  When I look up from my work, I see a lovely and mysterious world with bamboo fronds, mountains in the distance, and one bird perched on a branch in the foreground.

What advice would you give someone who wants to write a spooky story?

One piece of advice I’d give West Virginia writers especially is to read Davis Grubb’s collection of stories, You Never Believe Me, which has some fine spooky stories in it.  Another good collection is the anthology, American Gothic, which includes among many great stories, one by Hawthorne, one by Melville, and one by Breece D’J Pancake, from Milton, West Virginia!

Do you think you’ll write more spooky stories in the future?

The teenage girl in “Hallowmas” intrigues me, and I think she’ll haunt another story or two.

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