What else Nikky Finney had to say about mountains

One of the challenges of newspaper writing is deciding what to cut. With any good topic, there is always more interesting information than newsprint space. My Sunday column about Kentucky’s fine writers mentioned many of them, past and present. But within minutes of it being posted online, readers were pointing out other good writers I left out.

What I really hated to leave out of the piece — but did, both for space and because it was a slight diversion from topic — was everything poet Nikky Finney had to say about the influence of the mountains on Kentucky and Kentucky writers.  Here are Finney’s full comments, which were sent as an email following up on our conversation the evening before:

 When speaking of the greatness of Kentucky writing I often hear people say, “must be something in the water!” I don’t think so. I think it’s in great part due to the mountains that rise and stretch out all around our homes and farms. Our greatness as writers has to do with the land. Our connection to it. A wonderful old man in South Carolina once told me this wonderful thing, “God ain’t making no more land.” He was right. He was trying to tell me to remember what was important in this life. We don’t really own the land. The land owns us. Mountains that have been with us here in Kentucky for a million years. We never credit the mountains enough for helping shape who we are, for giving us a specific lens through which to see the world, a lens to nurture what we have to say about our human presence in it. We never credit the mountains enough. We think that they are tough and resilient and can take care of themselves but more and more we know that is not true. We have to be better caretakers of this landscape that is so particular to our sensibilities. We act as if the mountains will always be there — surrounding, protecting, helping to situate our contemplative nature, and yet we know it just takes a little dynamite and greed to change all that. The history of Kentucky writing has been what it has been because the mountains that inhabit so much our our particular skyline have long been our favorite horizon; that wondrous place where our eyes land and lift.

If you agree with Finney about the importance of protecting Kentucky’s mountains from destructive surface-mining, you might want to be in Frankfort on Tuesday for the annual I Love Mountains Day march and rally. Click here for more information.



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