Monday, March 24, 2014

The Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center will host a special event in April honoring the work of acclaimed poet Maggie Anderson and the legacy of former West Virginia Poet Laureate Louise McNeill.

At 2 p.m. Sunday, April 27, as part of the Folklife Center Lecture Series, Anderson will present a talk titled “Plumbing the Depth of Water: A Tribute to Louise McNeill.” Prior to her presentation, Anderson will be honored for her outstanding cultural contributions with the 2014 B.B. Maurer Folklife Scholar Award named in honor of Dr. B.B. Maurer, considered the “father of cultural studies in West Virginia.” Following her presentation, a reception is planned to allow guests to meet the poet and enjoy light refreshments and music from The Kennedy Barn String Band. Also during the reception, the public is invited to tour the exhibit in the second floor Musick Folk Gallery titled “Pearly Everlasting: The Life and Works of Louise McNeill Pease 1911-1993.” Admission is free and open to the public.

Anderson spent part of her life in West Virginia and acknowledges the influence of former West Virginia Poet Laureate Louise McNeill on her own career as a poet from the moment she first heard her poetry. She served as editor for two books by McNeill: “The Milkweed Ladies,” a memoir, and “Hill Daughter: New and Selected Poems.” She also has written a number of articles about the work of Louise McNeill and about other writers of the Appalachian region. 

Maxine Kumin wrote the following about “Hill Daughter”: “Louise McNeill transcends the regional to shock and delight us with vivid portraits and wonderful, wild music. She is a splendid poet with an unbelievably powerful lyrical line. From first to last, this book is a treasure. Kudos to Maggie Anderson for bringing the almost-lost poems of this passionate, gifted woman into the light.”

Anderson is the author of five poetry collections—“Cold Comfort,” “The Great Horned Owl,” “A Space Filled with Moving,” “Years that Answer” and “Windfall: New and Selected Poems.”

Anderson wrote in a brief essay for “Maggie Anderson: Greatest Hits 1984-20014: “West Virginia has not been my only home, but it has been the deepest one for me. It is the place my parents and grandparents came from, the place I lived as a child and young adult. Although I have no family living there now, I continue to feel a strong connection to the land itself, to the lush vegetation, the fast rivers, and the mountains. This landscape is the source of most of my poems, even when they are located elsewhere.”

She has edited several thematic anthologies, including “A Gathering of Poets,” a collection of poems read at the 20th anniversary commemoration of the shootings at Kent State University in 1970, as well as “Learning by Heart: Contemporary American Poetry about School” and “After the Bell:  Contemporary American Prose about School.” Her awards include two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts; fellowships from the Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania Councils on the Arts; and the Ohioana Library Award for contributions to the literary arts in Ohio.  

In 2005, Anderson was honored by Emory and Henry College at its annual Appalachian Literary Festival and “The Iron Mountain Review” is dedicated to essays and interview on her work.  Most recently, Anderson edited and wrote an afterword for the posthumous collection of poems by former West Virginia Poet Laureate Irene McKinney titled “Have You Had Enough Darkness Yet?”

The founding director of the Wick Poetry Center and of the Wick Poetry Series of the Kent State University Press, Anderson is Professor Emerita of English at Kent State. Since 2013, she has lived in Swannanoa, N.C., where she is working on a new collection of poems and a book of essays and giving occasional readings and workshops.

The exhibit at the Folklife Center, “Pearly Everlasting: The Life and Works of Louise McNeill Pease 1911-1993,”was researched, designed and constructed by students Tiffany Martin, Jennifer Cogar and Jessica Kennedy, as well as students in “FOLK 2230 Museum Exhibit Design and Construction” taught by Noel W. Tenney and “FOLK 4401 Folklore Application” taught by Dr. Judy P. Byers. As her capstone project for her Folklore Studies minor, Martin created a corresponding exhibit guide and biography.

McNeill was a history professor at Fairmont State and was a friend to Dr. Ruth Ann Musick, who was also a professor at Fairmont State and whose efforts to preserve West Virginia folklore led to the creation of the Folklife Center. The West Virginia Literary Map, created by the Folklife Center, is titled “From a Place Called Solid: West Virginia and its Writers.” The wording “From a Place Called Solid” comes from McNeill’s memoir “The Milkweed Ladies” and reflects the long and deep history and culture of the mountain state and its people. Phyllis Moore is the author of the Literary Map, and Dr. Judy P. Byers is the editor. Copies of the map are available for purchase at the Center.

To become a member of the Friends of the Frank and Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center, an annual gift can be made to directly support the mission of the Folklife Center and provide funding for educational programming and community outreach that preserves and promotes West Virginia’s rich heritage and tradition. Multiple giving levels are suggested: $25 a year for a Friend Membership, $50 a year for a Collector Membership, $100 a year for a Preservationist Membership and $300 a year for a Visionary Membership. Checks can be made payable to the Fairmont State Foundation, Inc. For more information about the Folklife Center, call (304) 367-4403.