Poetic Appalachia

Every part of the world speaks in its own way. Just as each country has a primary language, Southern Appalachia has developed a way of communication all its own. This style is certainly embedded in native mountain speech, but most importantly, the meaning behind the words conveys an intense devotion to the mountains which every true highland yokel has within themselves. This is clearly seen throughout the poetry produced from the inspiration of the mysterious hills. The poems and songs “Smoky Mountain Memories” by Dolly Parton, Linda D.

Wilkerson’s “Smoky Mountain Beauty,” Loretta Lynn’s “High on a Mountain Top”, and “Our Home” by AB Moss emphasize natural mountain beauty as well as the attachment highlanders have to the hills through the voice of diction, imagery, tone, and the author’s own personal experiences. The literary devices, the poems’ topics, and the poets’ histories all play a huge part in the overall interpretation of these literary works. These selections are better understood when the literary devices are uncovered. In “High on a Mountain Top,” Lynn uses mountain diction to make the reader feel as if he is actually present on the mountain top, hearing the residents speak. Lynn employs words such as “folks”, “fearin'”, and other phrases of the Appalachian dialect.

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Also used, repetition of the words “high on a mountain top” reiterates the fact that this land she speaks of is far removed and close to heaven. This idea is again heard in the hyperbole that says “’cause up here, folks, heaven’s not that far”. “Smoky Mountain Beauty” and “Our Home” has imagery to describe the lovely isolated land of the Smokies that the previous poem describes. “Smoky Mountain Beauty” and “Our Home” have phrases such as “mist-filled morns filled with chirps and twitters” and “cool waters twist through the land” that paint a picture in the reader’s mind. Also, “Smoky Mountain Beauty” exercises the device of apostrophe when the poet says “I miss you so much” to the mountains. This alludes to the idea that the mountains are alive and have a spirit.

This idea is paralleled by Parton’s “Smoky Mountain Memories” when she says that the mountain memories keep her strong, just like memories of a dear friend would. These four poems all deal with the same topic. They all are about the intense love highlanders have for their home in the hills. In “Our Home”, Moss tells about how much she enjoys being in the serene mountain atmosphere of the hills through the phrase “Dixieland in the highlands, as beautiful as can be”. The tone of this poem is protective of the mountains and their customs, and accentuates the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge and the fun times the author has there, as does “High on a Mountain Top”.

In “High on a Mountain Top”, Lynn relays the jovial times she had in her home in the highlands to her reader through the line “we’re high on life and rich in love”. Unlike the optimistic tones of the other two poems, “Smoky Mountain Memories” and “Smoky Mountain Beauty” tell more sad tales of loneliness. These poems evoke a feeling of pathos from the reader, as they are both about the authors missing their homelands. In “Smoky Mountain Memories”, the tiredness of the author achieves sympathy from the reader, and in “Smoky Mountain Beauty” the heartbreaking remembrance of the author’s home makes the tone one of sad admiration. The authors of these four works of literature all wrote about their hills for a reason.

Loretta Lynn grew up in the coal mining community of Van Lear, Kentucky in Butcher Holler. She recalls a hard childhood, but also remembers much pleasure. She wrote this song in order to share her memories with her audience. Dolly Parton also grew up in the Smoky Mountain town of Sevierville, Tennessee, in a destitute family of fourteen. Although her song “Smoky Mountain Memories” is not true of her family, Parton, now living in Nashville, says she can just close her eyes and go home to her log cabin.

She draws strength from that exercise, which is what this poem is about. AB Moss, who penned “Our Home”, wrote her poem to celebrate her mountain heritage and annual family camping trips in Whittier, North Carolina. Moss’ family is originally from Dillingham, Buncombe County, North Carolina, and she calls the mountains her home. The poetry of the Southern portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains retains its own life and character. Appalachian poems utilize many literary devices and different writing styles to convey their message.

“Smoky Mountain Memories” by Dolly Parton, “Our Home” by AB Moss, Loretta Lynn’s “High on a Mountain Top”, and Linda D. Wilkerson’s “Smoky Mountain Beauty” all use much imagery, diction, tone, and personal lessons to add to the poems’ deep meanings. For when an author is trying to capture something as grand as the Supreme mountain range into writing, it takes time, critical thinking, and, most of all, a passion for the rich highland of the Smokies.