Reciprocal Chicken Soup

Not that I was having a bad day, mind you–anything but–and yet, getting Dana’s kind words and book comments in the email just after the Family Turkey Dinner the day after Christmas was a wonderful lift–a little chicken soup for the soul.

Dana Wildsmith, Georgia poet and teacher, on the other hand, was recovering this week from a spell of gray days, and it was good to hear that Slow Road carried her a little ways back towards wholeness and health.

It wasn’t until the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative in October that I actually met and got to know Dana, though her face was familiar from a dozen meetings and conferences in the few years since becoming an attendee at Appalachian writing events.

What I discovered at SAWC was that Dana is one of the few poets I consider “accessible”. Another is Colleen Redman here in Floyd. Turns out I had two copies of Dana’s newest book of poetry, One Good Hand, and gave one of them to Colleen recently. That exchange felt like connecting two live wires, completing a kind of circuit between poets, growing new synapses in the collective mind.

I will tell you something: I sat down a month ago and read Dana’s book, front to back, aloud. I got started, and couldn’t stop; it just begged to be heard that day here alone. And after that, I had hoped to do something I’ve never done at the Spoken Word at Cafe del Sol a few weeks back: read another person’s work than my own. Didn’t make it to that meeting, but I still have and highly value One Good Hand (many of the poems are dog-related, for those of you who have affinities that way.)

I put Dana’s kind words up over on the book website, if you’d like to read it.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Oooh, her words gave me a chill, or your words within hers did.

    The Christmas season has slowed my reading activities, but I have read enough of Dana’s book to know that her voice speaks to me as well, Fred.

    Thank you!