One of Everything
One of Everything
Diane Gilliam Fisher
Diane Gilliam Fisher, whose family was a part of the Appalachian outmigration from West Virginia and Kentucky, was born in Columbus, Ohio. She has a Ph.D. from the Ohio State University and an M.F.A from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. She received an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council in 2003, and Kettle Bottom received the 2004 Intro Award from Perugia Press, a poetry publisher based in Florence, MA.
“In a down-home vernacular recalling her elementary school do’s and don’ts, Fisher writers: ‘It’s not allowed telling what you dreamed / for sharing, you have to bring something / people can see.’ This could double as her own arts poetica—the way her language carriers a particularizing, living presence, stripped of everything false. These deeply-felt, wide-awake, powerful poems are a touch-stone for the genuine.” –Eleanor Wilner
“Diane Gilliam Fisher’s first book of poems goes straight to the heart of a family, and a woman’s place at the heart of it. ‘The heart gets a hankering, some days,’ she says, ‘for a new sentence to sing // but an old rhythm thrums / and drums through her rooms, // a bass line, a syntax whose momentum / the heart is hard-pressed to overcome.’ In this lovingly gathered collection of poems, Fisher’s voice sings both the heart’s hankering after new songs, and that old thrumming syntax of mother and daughter that underpins and holds up a woman’s life. Motherhood uses up all of your emotions, a friend once remarked. Fisher takes on all of them, and renders them believably and memorably—the fear as she sits with her baby daughter, hearing the diagnosis of cystic fibrosis, or anger and despair as she listens to her daughter’s friend relate tales of family abuse…and here is her response to her own heart’s wondering how to overcome, how to sing, language pieced together like a Jacob’s Ladder, dark pieces stair stepping up across the quilt: ‘I know this quilt won’t save anyone, but I don’ t know / what else to do,’ she concludes in ‘Every Rung is Higher, Higher.’ Like every poet, she is looking for a new sentence to sing, regardless of the syntax, and like every real poet, she wrestles with her angles, staying up nights, rehearsing that ancient story until she is blessed.” –Kathryn Stripling Byer
“Music as wild as a dance tune on a country fiddle and as slow and sad as a shape note hymn informs Diane Gilliam Fisher’ s complex poems. In One of Everything, she gives us a world in which it seems that one of everything goes wrong: illness, violence, tragic, and premature death. This narrative of three generations of women with roots in the coal camps and prayer meetings of the southern Appalachian mountains is ‘. . . one / long history / of the verb / to bear.’ It is as if this poet has made a pact with her art not to flinch from any terror as long as the poems agree to keep on coming. And in return for her allegiance, they do. With metrical precision, these often-formal poems work out their rhythms through a Keatsian understanding of human mortality and the endurance of art. Fisher is loyal to the objects of this world — ‘. . . porch and stove, the smell // of coffee and old paper / cold morning air and coal oil. . .’ And she writes of ‘fist and floor . . .shotgun and belt. . .’ without a trace of the romantic or the falsely redemptive. This is a dangerous poetry that ‘in the way of our people,’ speaks hard truth, bears up and, ‘. . . singing praise, palms and face upturned. . .,’ crosses over. I am grateful to welcome this necessary book to the table.” — Maggie Anderson