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Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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Kentucky Poet Connects with Appalachian Students

Nickole+Brown+read+her+poetry+in+Drinko+Library+for+the+A.E.+Stringer+Visiting+Writers+Series.
Baylee Parsons
Nickole Brown read her poetry in Drinko Library for the A.E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series.

It’s okay for a person to appreciate where they come from, even when they know it’s not perfect, a Kentucky poet said after her reading at Marshall on Wednesday, March 27.

“I think it’s more important to love a place that’s flawed,” Nickole Brown said, “because if you abandon it and leave it behind, well, then nothing ever gets fixed.”

Brown, author of collections “Sister” and “Fanny Says,” visited the university as the second guest for the A.E. Stringer Visiting Writers Series for the Spring 2024 Semester. 

Although she now resides in Asheville, North Carolina, several of Brown’s works focus on growing up in Kentucky and critique the state’s general practices and attitudes— particularly about nature. 

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“Her work speaks in a sort of Southern trash talking way about Appalachian nature as beautiful, damaged, dangerous and in desperate need of saving,” said Ryann Province, a sophomore creative writing major. 

Brown read excerpts from her essay, “Rise,” as well as her poems “A Vegetarian’s Guide to Table Manners in Kentucky,” “Anthem” and “Parable,” her only poem of 2023.

An avid animal lover, Brown’s inspiration for “Parable” came from her time spent sitting with horses on Shaman Hill in North Carolina; the poem is a cry of sympathy for animals – specifically the horse, cicada and rooster – mistreated by humans, especially due to climate change.

Even so, Brown said she would not have the kind of literary material she employs without her Kentucky upbringing.

Referring to her hometown outside of Louisville, she said, “Once I stepped away from it, I realized I’d severed my roots, and I needed to go back to the way I spoke when I was a child. I needed to go back to those stories and the place from which I came because that’s where the complexity and the stories are.” 

Brown added that even though the “cards are stacked against” Appalachians, there are advantages to growing up in the region as well.

“There are some things you have in your favor: you have perseverance, you have the stories– I mean, this is a storytelling culture, and this is not the kind of culture that gives up easy,” she said. 

Brown urged students to fight for what they want and to push back against Appalachian stereotypes.

Professor Sara Henning, the coordinator of the series, said she invites writers like Brown to the university in an attempt to inspire students.

“It is my belief that bringing writers to campus creates a transformative learning experience for students over and over,” Henning said. 

“A student may realize the worth of their own words,” she added, “or feel a sense of inspiration and motivation that they one day too could be on a stage sharing words that inspire their own generation and the generations which come after.”

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