Stonelight, winner of the 2017 Airlie Prize, will be published by Airlie Press, September 2018.
“Every line in this rich and absorbing book is loaded with unremitting grief. Death is a constant shadow in this rugged land that is itself half-composed of shade. The ever-present underworld of the mines registers, at once, as just another darkness and also as the prevailing dark, because those who know and love their land recognize the fact that, for little money, they have been hired to undo it. That makes every shadow on these pages all the more ominous. The people who populate this intense, unfolding book are desperately caught between knowledge and superstition, hope and fear. And yet all around is the reviving solace of the living earth. Only poetry, alive in the body and the mind, can travel such terrain.”
“Images of explosions or of dynamite being detonated occur throughout this strange and beautiful book and as I read it, I began to think how explosive the poems themselves are, each one an intense, clanging flash of lyric that, taken together and combined with the darkness and silence that surround them, make up a compelling and richly textured narrative of a family, a time, a place, a tragedy. McCartt-Jackson trusts the blast and its attendant light and fire and noise, but she also, very smartly, trusts what goes unseen, unheard, unsaid. Stonelight is dense and earthy, subtle and fresh, felt and true. It’s a wonderful and absolutely authentic first book.”
“The poems in Sarah McCartt-Jackson’s Stonelight are rooted in Kentucky, in the coal mines, the quilting tradition, the family narratives passed on by Ora, a woman who sleeps with a hatchet under her bed to avoid miscarriage, one ‘unafraid of the shadow that climbs up the mountain,’ and her husband, Eli, a coal miner, his ‘voice a bucket rattling with gravel.’ Stonelight weaves the hardboiled realities of life with Kentucky lore, inhabiting the intimate, domestic space just as much as the subterranean mines, and all this layering revolves around the need for remembrance. These lush and often gritty poems speak through a chorus of hardscrabble voices, reminding us that we are inextricably tied to the past, to home, to kin. Stonelight is elegiac, spellbinding, haunting.”
—Andrea Jurjević, author of Small Crimes
“For a century and more, it has been our women, hillbilly women, who—despite corporate warfare and starvation, disease, poverty, abuse—have led the nation to believe in and take up the right we have to our own labor, to believe in and fight for the dignity of work. I actually pray, every day I pray, that today’s generation of women will rise to tell our story, write our story, bearing its mythos and universal power for those who will need it next. Then Sarah McCartt-Jackson’s debut landed in my lap. A true poetry that bends into this history with such precise vision and moral, human clarity—not to mention, beauty—that I am astonished it is her first book. Stonelight is a triumph.”
—Rebecca Gayle Howell, author of American Purgatory