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It provides the most comprehensive collection of his poetry ever published, spanning five decades of his literary career. It also includes the first comprehensive and annotated collection of West's nonfiction essays, articles, letters, speeches, and stories, covering his role at the forefront of Southern and Appalachian history, and as a pioneer researcher and writer on the South's little-known legacy of radical activism. Drawing from both primary and secondary sources, including previously unknown documents, correspondence, interviews, FBI files, and newspaper clippings, the introduction by Jeff Biggers stands as the most thorough, insightful biographical sketch of Don West yet published in any form.

The afterword by George Brosi is a stirring personal tribute to the contributions of West and also serves as a thoughtful reflection on the interactions between the radicals of the s and the s. Moreover, footnotes are provided to help readers engage leftist and Appalachian history.

To read No Lonesome Road is to explore how one man manifested his belief in people and their capacity for change from The book begins with Biggers's thirty-five page biography, which clarifies the basic facts of West's life. Therein, Biggers seeks to provide a framework so removed readers can feel West's power:'"West didn't wish to elevate his folk traditions—oral traditions of poetry, storytelling, songs, and even preaching—to a— 'higher art' Such a rendering would have transmuted the essence of 'folk' culture of 'living word'" xxviii.

And even then, West's writing calls for nuanced explications. Yet Biggers' urge to help readers understand West succumbs, at times, to a validation of West that becomes problematic when it revises history. The prose selections begin with West's introduction to Clods of Southern Earth , which is an apt choice as this piece might well serve as West's ars poetica',and it is rhetorically brilliant crafted to reach readers who felt alienated by literature. In the next essay from , West tells a key childhood memory of overcoming fear, and the fourth essay in the collection recounts his relationship with one of his mentors, Harry Harrison Kroll.


With this introduction to West's self-vision, the seventeen prose pieces which follow come in chronological order from his master's thesis on Hindman Settlement School to his renunciation of copyright from his selected works s, speaks out against fascism in the s and McCarthyism in the 94 s, while speaking for interracial working-class unity—and argues for the implicit revolutionary nature of southern and mountain Access options available:.

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Forged from a partnership between a university press and a library, Project MUSE is a trusted part of the academic and scholarly community it serves. You Cumberlands, tender and terrible! You give men life and beauty, take life and leave desolation! Lying motionless in the misty moonlight, fringed by a gloaming sylvan green, streaked by streams of silver song. This much was clear for the next six decades: West pressed that question on everyone he ever met, with little mercy. He had been beaten, jailed, burned out, blacklisted, and despised much of his life for his beliefs; he had allowed hurt and heartbreak among his family.

Fairly or unfairly, he demanded the same commitment from anyone who claimed to be an activist or a writer or an Appalachian. The rest of us were dilettantes. He was also deeply caring and personal. I often tagged along with Don as he took his truck into rugged back hollows and abandoned coal camps and delivered food and books. I marveled at the way he would quietly listen to the travails of folks living on the edge of despair. He was never patronizing.

No Lonesome Road: Selected Prose and Poems

I think it still matters today. Bones rest here of a mountaineer. His place another fills. He gained from life all that he sought. The friendship of the hills. He regularly blogs for the Huffington Post. This essay first appeared in the Fall issue of Appalachian Heritage. Be the first to know. Get our free daily newsletter.

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No lonesome road : selected prose and poems, Don West ; edited by Jeff Biggers and George Brosi

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No Lonesome Road: SELECTED PROSE AND POEMS by Don West

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