Mountain Heritage Literary Festival Appalachian Book of the Year, poetry
Weatherford Award winner, poetry
This collection of poetry by West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman explores the difficulty of living with an awareness of the eventual death of all living things. Each of its four sections suggests a coping mechanism for this inevitable predicament, from storytelling, to accepting darkness and death as a creative force, to enjoying disruption and chaos, and finally to embracing the mystery of life as the most triumphant story of all.
These difficulties come “not quite haphazardly” and not without a “last light”—something “beyond” and as “sweet as apples.” With these moments of grace, Harshman taps into the satisfying richness that comes from unexpected revelations, helping us rise above the fragile recesses of life and death, all while portraying the lost rural worlds of the Midwest and Appalachia in ways untouched by sentiment or nostalgia.
Marc Harshman is the poet laureate of West Virginia. He is the author of Green-Silver and Silent and Rose of Sharon. His thirteen highly acclaimed children’s books include The Storm, a Smithsonian Notable Book. He is the host of The Poetry Break, a monthly show for West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
“To enter this work is to remain open to the haphazard, the lopsided, the fragile, and the bracing details that tell our times as we both know and fear them. Believe What You Can is an astonishing and generous book that gives a credible 'map of true witness.'”
Maggie Anderson, author of Windfall: New and Selected Poems and Dear All
“Believe What You Can overflows with rich lines and vivid images as the poet laureate of West Virginia speaks to classic concerns of loving the land, struggling to thrive, and holding on to what can be believed.”
Ron Houchin, author of The Man Who Saws Us In Half: Poems
“Harshman manages to get to the heart of the matter in this collection—less like an arrow though and more like a mountain stream—winding its way through the Appalachian Mountains to the source of the music.”
“Harshman’s poetic sophistication is clear and shows the insight and wisdom of an experienced poet who treats the forces of death, disruption, and dissonance with the seriousness and humor they deserve.”
Eddy Pendarvis, author of Like the Mountains of China and Ghost Dance Poems