“Where I Come From It’s Pronounced ‘App-a-lach-a’!”
For well over a century, people from Appalachian regions have been marginalized and stereotyped. This deliberate ploy has affected multiple generations and was intended to dehumanize and belittle so that major U.S. coal companies could gain access to Appalachia’s immense coal reserves. Appalachians began to be characterized as barefoot, undereducated and undergroomed (“hillbilly,” “hick”). The land was consumed by coal removal and our people left to defend our true identity. Much has been written about how dreadful Appalachia is. This exposé will offer a contrasting perspective by way of discussion and use of poetic forms, lifting up the perseverance of Appalachia’s people, despite Big Coal’s despicable tactics, government oversight and mainstream media’s exaggerations—highlighting the beauty, honor and pride embedded in the culture, and the strength and endurance of Appalachia’s female population, who have always been the backbone of its survival.
Kari Gunter-Seymour is Ohio’s Poet Laureate, a 9th generation Appalachian, the author of three books of poetry, editor of ten anthologies, a 2021 recipient of an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship Award, the 2020 Ohio Poet of the year, an Ohio Creative Aging Teaching Artist and the founder/executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project. She is an artist in residence at the Wexner Center for the Arts and a 2021-22 Pillars of Prosperity Fellow for the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.