Appalachia is no stranger to loss. The region suffers regular ecological devastation wrought by strip mining, fracking, and deforestation as well as personal tragedy brought on by enduring poverty and drug addiction. In Driving with the Dead, Appalachian poet, teacher, and artist Jane Hicks weaves an earnest and impassioned elegy for an imperiled yet doggedly optimistic people and place. Exploring the roles that war, environment, culture, and violence play in Appalachian society, the hard-hitting collection is visceral and unflinchingly honest, mourning a land and people devastated by economic hardship, farm foreclosures, and mountaintop removal.
With empathy and a voice of experience, Hicks offers readers a poignant collection of poems that addresses themes of grief and death while also illustrating the beauty, grace, and resilience of the Appalachian people. Invoking personal memories, she explores how the loss of physical landscape has also devastated the region's psychological landscape.
Graphic, bold, and heartfelt, Driving with the Dead is an honest and compelling call to arms. Hicks laments the irreplaceable treasures that we have lost but also offers wisdom for healing and reconciliation.
"Winner of the Appalachian Writers Association Book of the Year for Poetry" --
"In an interview, the late Seamus Heaney once spoke of how the voices in his poems rose up from the ground on which he stood. So it is with Jane Hicks's poems in her new collection. They come together in 'Summer Rain' as a 'pooling of memory,' Even the ancient oaks have voices in this poem, and why shouldn't they? They are ancestors, too. Hicks's poems gather up the stories of family, those lost in war, a child killed by a boulder from an illegal strip mine, even the Opry's pickers and singers. Around them the mountains 'hold the sky where it belongs.' They hold these poems where they belong, as well, the bedrock of Hicks's language and vision." -- Kathryn Stripling Byer, former North Carolina poet laureate
"Hicks knows the idiom and flavor (and humor) of the mountains... This is a strong collection whose vitality derives from its crisp and particular language, its ample detail, its sense of perspective and wholeness, ultimately its artful rendering of experience that are authentically and memorably human. [These poems] are an appreciation of the sorrows and complexity of life not only in Appalachia, but anywhere." -- Richard Taylor, former Kentucky poet laureate
"Jane Hicks' poems are a "fierce serenade" paying homage to the world with compassionate observation and vivid, exact detail so achingly real we recognize our own in it, even as we are drawn to the particular people, places, and stories of Hicks' part of Appalachia: the Carter Family, an early twentieth century woman missionary, the enchantments of "deep hollows and steep fields," the devastation of illegal strip mining, the abiding influence of a grandmother whose "blood... flows strong" in the poet. These poems are beautifully, painstakingly crafted from the "heart-cache" of Hicks' life and words." -- Lisa Williams, author of Woman Reading to the Sea: Poems, the winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize
"Jane Hicks's new book is a wonderful collection of tightly written poems that do more to capture contemporary Appalachia than any book in a long while. This is a place of WalMarts and quilts, meth labs and country ham biscuits, a place where schoolteachers read Gerard Manley Hopkins to their students and where dignity is found in hard work. Driving With the Dead is a book about longing and loss but it never wallows in either. Instead it is a book that is just as much about hope, strength, survival, and the great pulsing beauty of a poet at the height of her powers writing about the lush complexity of her place and its people." -- Silas House, author of Clay's Quilt and Eli the Good
"'Go to the heart of things, therein irony does not reside,' Rilke tells us. Jane Hicks does that very thing in this stunning new collection, which ranges from the intensely personal to the political. Beautifully rendered, unfailingly wise, profound but never pretentious, Driving With the Dead is a book to be read and reread." -- Ron Rash, author of Serena: A Novel
"In Driving with the Dead, what's lost is evidenced everywhere: 'pink house planks strewn for miles.' Jane Hicks illuminates each site of absence. Grief echoes in the hollows, the fluidity of connections filtered through landscape. When trust in a father dissolves, the image of the 'shimmering green convertible/cool as lake water,' holding the woman that lures him, hearkens to the cemetery of the collection's opening poem and the speaker's missing 'love that tasted like lake water and Juicy Fruit.' Loss locates and dislocates us, coloring perception. Note the grandmother, who 'drifts off and and appears to ungrow,' Hicks insists. Note the 'defiant dahlias /grown/big as dinner plates.' Hicks lays claim to an inheritance of roaming, exposing how movement revises and transforms our sense of what surrounds us. Yet she never loses the threads of work and music, of tradition that binds us to place." -- Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, author of Open Interval, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and National Book Award finalist
" Driving with the Dead is one amazing trip for the reader and for those who love this region." -- Appalachian Journal