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Edited by
Irene McKinney
PB: 978-0-937058-72-5



"The connection is not so much in mutual influence, though there is some of that, but in each writer’s total immersion in place. Even those writers who no longer live in the state remember the feel, the physical texture, the overwhelming and enfolding vegetal surround of the place." 
Irene McKinney, West Virginia Poet Laureate

This is as closely-knit an anthology as you are ever likely to see. It is as though a large, extended family were drawing on the same store of family stories, jokes, symbols, landscapes, animals, trees, language, and vernacular. How many snakes are in this book? How many foxes, possums? Fossils? And how very many coal mines? But it is not merely local references that unites these writers. There is a larger vision that ties these works together.

ForeWord Magazine Finalist


  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction
  • Maggie Anderson
    • Marginal
    • Independence Day, TerraAlta, West Virginia 1935
    • Among Elms and Maples, Morgantown, West Virginia, August 1935
    • Mining Camp Residents, West Virginia, July, 1935
    • Spitting in the Leaves
    • Long Story
    • Ontological
  • Mary Lee Settle
    • From Addie: A Memior
  • Mark DeFoe
    • Late Winter Snow: South of Morgantown, WV
    • Leaving the Hills
    • Driving the Gauley River, Listening to the Radio
    • The Former Miner Returns from His First Day as a Service Worker
    • Air
  • Pinckney Benedict
    • The Sutton Pie Safe
    • Odom
  • Tom Andrews
    • Hymning the Kanawha
    • Evening Song
  • Lisa Roger
    • Extended Learning
  • Louise McNeill
    • Memoria
    • The Roads
    • Granny Saunders
    • The Long Traveller
    • The Road
    • The River
  • Meredith Sue Willis
    • Family Knots
  • Timothy Russell
    • In Dubio
    • In Aegri Somnia
    • In Consideratione Praemissorum
    • In Actu
  • Lee Maynard
    • From Crum
  • Llewellyn McKernan
    • Aunt Anna
    • The Peaceful Kingdom
    • The Only Old Timer in the Neighborhood
    • In Spring
  • Denise Giardina
    • Rondal Lloyd
  • Davis Grubb
    • The Burlap Bag
  • AE Stringer
    • Ruins in Reverse
    • Listen
    • My Friend Told Me
  • Richard Currey
    • The Wars of Heaven
  • John McKernan
    • On the Edge of Highway 10 North
  • Breece D'j Pancake
    • Trilobites
    • Fox Hunters
  • Victor Depta
    • The Mad Whore of Peachtree
    • It Didn't Come from Hallmark
    • When Your Ego Bloats
    • Charlenes Ex
  • Ann Pancake
    • Jolo
  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr
    • Sin Boldly
  • Irene McKinney
    • Twilight in West Virginia: Six 0'Clock Mine Report
    • Deep Mining
    • Visiting my Gravesite: Talbott Churchyard, West Virginia
    • Fodder
    • For Women Who Have Been PatientAll Their Lives
    • Viridian Days
  • Jayne Anne Phillips
    • Cheers
    • Bess
  • Louise McNeill
    • A Patch of Earth
    • Night At The Commodore
  • About the Contributors


This anthology of contemporary fiction and poetry from West Virginia writers titled Backcountry: Contemporary Writing in West Virginia is edited by our state’s poet laureate, Irene McKinney. It features a wealth of fiction and poetry by some of the best writers in West Virginia over the last half century. More of West Virginia’s writers will be featured in future collections of contemporary writing published by the WVU Press.

The authors included in Backcountry are Maggie Anderson, Tom Andrews, Pinckney Benedict, Richard Currey, Mark DeFoe, Victor Depta, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Denise Giardina, Davis Grubb, Lisa Koger, Lee Maynard, Llewellyn McKernan, John McKernan, Irene McKinney, Louis McNeill, Ann Pancake, Breece D’J Pancake, Jayne Anne Phillips, Timothy Russell, Mary Lee Settle, A. E. Stringer, and Meredith Sue Willis.


"With collected works, there's always a temptation to look for the common vein. If such a thread exists, it lies in the impression, the imprint, that West Virginia has shaped. From start to finish (still the best way to read a book), this compilation holds its images; and a careful arrangement of the selections leaves the reader rocking between poetic and concrete high notes. Editor Irene McKinney, whose writing competes with all the rest, has assembled a marvelous vision of West Virginia."
Cyns Nelson, The Bloomsbury Review

"...a wonderful collection."
Paul Nyden, The Charleston Gazette

"An exemplary anthology of regional writing."
Appalachian Heritage