From Casey Shay Press: The ballads and folklore of Appalachia led Sarah McCartt-Jackson to write her poetry collection Children Born on the Wrong Side of the River, winner of the 2015 Mary Ballard Poetry Prize.
“I consider myself a naturalist, observer and educator of the world around me, so it makes its way into all of my poems–almost as another character entirely,” McCartt-Jackson said. “Many of the folklore elements stem from sayings I heard growing up: don’t look into a mirror after dark, don’t name your children before they are born, don’t weed when the moon is in the heart.”
Larry D. Thomas, former Texas Poet Laureate and member of the Texas Institute of Letters, judged the contest and found the collection both realistically and luminously depicted. “The brutality of life is brilliantly counterpointed by the elegance of lyrical diction,” Thomas said. “It’s a memorable collection.”
The poems form a narrative about Ora, a woman living a hard existence, who works through the loss of her children, a grief that McCartt-Jackson calls, “unending but not life-ending.”
McCartt-Jackson, who is the current poet-in-residence for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, recognizes that a lot of people don’t read poetry. “I knew I wanted to make a collection with a narrative arc to show readers, even non-readers of poetry, that reading a collection of poems can be equivalent to–or even better–than reading a novel.”
Fellow Kentuckian and prize -winning poet Darlene Franklin-Campbell said that rarely had she read poems that touched her so profoundly.
“Children Born on the Wrong Side of the River is a poignant collection of haunting spells spoken in southern dialect,” Franklin-Campbell said. “Earthy, rich, alive: they have the power to transport a person to a time before now.”
When writing, McCartt-Jackson often reflected on the lessons from her grandfather, who died before the poems were published. “It was a difficult time for our family to lose the backbone who had been present for all of our lives. I hope that Ora’s grief in the poems shows that we don’t simply move on; we move on and take our grief and losses with us, holding their hands or knowing they are watching us through the trees somewhere.”