“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 and Render / An Apocalypse 

“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.

Maurice Manning, author of Lawrence Booth’s Book of VisionsThe Common Man, and The Gone and Going Away

“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

“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.
Davis McCombs, author of Ultima Thule and Dismal Rock

“Our readers were haunted by the vocabulary of place, the granularity of diction, and the variation in form and motif sustained throughout. The duties, forebodings and recollections passed between Ora and Eli offer a cadence for our own excavations and nurture. Life above and below stone reclaims the radiance of your title.”

-editors, Airlie Press

“We’re in love with the links to the land, coal history, and the language in this collection. It evokes Kentucky coal and so many references to folklore… we’re quite simply in love with this manuscript.”


editors, Porkbelly Press

“…[T]hese poems are excellent… They present vivid images of Appalachian life, occupational lore, food lore, and place lore, in language that is precise, immediate, emotive, and sensuous. I would say that they measure up well to the standards of a regional or national literary journal, even as their subject matter places them well within the radius of concerns of contemporary folklore and ethnographic arts.”

Journal of American Folklore

“We thought the language was evocative and the subject very haunting…”

–editors, Indiana Review

“The human lives so realistically depicted in these skillfully crafted poems are as humble, difficult, and tenuous as the lives of the creatures of the natural world which appear, powerfully wrought in luminous language, throughout the entire collection. The brutality of life ‘on the wrong side of the river’ is brilliantly counterpointed by the elegance of lyrical diction and the unforgettable imagery the poet brings to each and every page of this memorable collection.”

-Larry D. Thomas, Member, Texas Institute of Letters, 2008 Texas Poet Laureate

“All of these display a wonderful attention to the physical world. The details are concrete and specific. The verbs are alive. And there is, above everything, a deep connection to place and to the land that I found quite gorgeous. I found “Abyssal Plain” to be a heart-breaking account of how domestic abuse traps people and silences the witnesses as well.”


–editors, Inch Magazine

“We were immediately taken with the ritual and superstition driving your poem, and loved that we were immediately situated within the first two lines while being introduced to such a wonderful image as ‘Dead Man’s Bells.’ We all agreed that your use of language and diction were tightly controlled and compelling, and unanimously voted that the off-set blackbird verse was incredibly visceral and mysteriously appealing.”

–editors, Rappahannock Review

“We were quite impressed by your writing—its imagery and its buried narrative…”


–editors, American Short Fiction

“We admired these poems. We found so many intriguing lines and ideas here. For example, we loved the opening to ‘Fractureslip,’ when the speaker says, ‘I imagined the flood beginning with our children / how they made the river at the beginning of time.’”

-editors, Iron Horse Literary Review

“I admire how rough concrete language takes flight in this poem, floating as if it’s been inflated with some dark divinity. Part of this is due to the poet’s expert use of the page. The weighty landing of the ending is surprising and lovely.”


-Kathleen Driskell, author of Blue Etiquette and Next Door to the Dead

“Stonelight offers the striking vocabulary of mineral, stone, earth, and the tunnels we dig into such material, literally and metaphorically.  It creates a compelling story in glimpses: letters, voices, people and landscapes surface and resurface through a richness of language that recollects the complexity of all places and lives and how they form each other through both damage and nurture.”

–Kelly Terwilliger, author of Glimpse of Oranges

“…her visualized poems become vinyl linguistic maps. I’ve been a fan of her work for some time (if you’re a fan of naturalist poetry and haven’t read Children Born on the Wrong Side of the River, put it on your to-do list).”

-Megan Bickel, art critic