The fact that this book is part of a tangled web of relationships fraught with creativity and rare distinction should be viewed as a positive. Groundhog Poetry Press was founded in 2016 by R.H.W. Dillard not long before his 80th birthday. He is a Roanoke native who has been a mainstay of the Hollins University faculty since Lee Smith and Annie Dillard were roommates there. In fact, Richard and Annie were married – hence the same last name - before his subsequent marriage and divorce with Cathryn Hankla, a Hollins University faculty member who Dillard published first upon establishing his press in 2016. Susan Hankla is Cathy’s sister. The sisters were raised in Richlands, Virginia, in the coal fields, where their mother was the town librarian. The 300-mile-long Clinch River flows through Richlands on its way to Kingston, Tennessee, its confluence with the Tennessee River. “There ought to be some hoopla for Susan Hankla’s Clinch River. Her pure Americana—ghosts, abandoned houses, unfinished dreams, and censored lives . . . can really move mountains and sing.” – Richard Peabody. “Wry humor and colloquial tone . . . characterizes her collection. Here everyone is connected: by poverty and history, by region and community, by shared stories, and by slant, often wildly funny, perceptions. . . . The author’s sense of the absurd and her love for all that is odd, original and spare animates this memorable, voice-driven, debut collection. – Joan Houlihan. “These sound-loving poems of the Appalachian South give us the truth of place and memory. They tangle coming-of-age stories with hard times in coal country. They juxtapose the girl who cannot leave, clinched by poverty’s snares, with the girl who goes away and can return for the treasure, the gold that lies buried in her childhood: these poems, these golden apples. Take them!” – Marly Youmans.
Roanoke, Virginia: Groundhog Poetry Press, 2017. 81 pages. Trade paperback