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Bootleg by Annie Woodford
"There is an abiding and holy truth—the very gospel of the earth—in Annie Woodford's soulful Bootleg. These are poems that dazzle with their sonic authority: ' … creak / of hinge, Mama / singing … an angel / yell behind the clay- / cutting plow.' There is the sough of wind, the plaintive whisper of the very ether that hovers Appalachia, the very silence of altitude—a sound all its own that Woodford so cannily captures. Her language is rooted in a land she been informed and inspired by, that she has made wholly her province by naming it at every turn, and gazing at it season upon season with an acolyte’s steadfast devotion. Opening this book is like prizing the lid off a precious archive—the living consorting with the dead, 'tugging back / and forth between eternity and earth.' What a splendid volume. What a splendid poet."
—Joseph Bathanti, North Carolina Poet Laureate, 2012-2014
"Like the title of one of her poems, Annie Woodford’s Bootleg is a conflation, a union of spirit and flesh, wrecked environments and Mister Lincoln roses, Wiz Khalifa and Bill Monroe. In the ancestral landscapes where these ingenious poems live, the wild places have merged into the bypass and the ghosts of valley residents haunt the waters of man-made lakes. Yet while the cornfields are readied for fracking and the crush of poverty fills the ditches with debris, there is still a song to be found. Woodford unearths the tunes line by line so that the collection turns 'sacred, eternal, humming with love.' Above it all floats the apparition of her hometown luminary, Charlie Poole, the Piedmont musician with a busted hand who perfected an influential banjo technique but spent most of his short life as a drunken millworker. He’s a perfect symbol for these hymns of delight and damage that twist through 'each branch and blade and grimy scrap' of a disappearing wilderness. Memory, unlike the textile mills, has not been abandoned here, and Woodford’s 'songs grown in mountain coves' ring down through the generations like a melodious antidote for this tough old world."
Bootleg uses the life of North Carolina banjo revolutionary Charlie Poole as its organizing principle, both sonically and thematically. These are poems bound by familial roots to a geography and a culture that gives them both their accent and their song as well as their fatalism and their sorrow.
A native of Bassett, Virginia—a mill town near the North Carolina border—Annie Woodford now teaches community college English in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. She was named the runner-up in the 2019 Randall Jarrell Poetry Competition and her poetry has appeared in The Greensboro Review, One by Jacar Press, The Carolina Quarterly, Appalachian Journal, Cold Mountain Review, Blackbird, The Southern Review, The Rumpus, The Sewanee Review, Rattle, and Prairie Schooner, among others.
A winner of the Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets, she has also been awarded scholarships from the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop and the Bread Loaf and Sewanee writers’ conferences.