Songs on Mill Hill
In her debut book of poems, Southern story-teller, Kimberly J. Simms, chronicles the lives of textile workers in the rural Piedmont region with historical accuracy and imaginative insight. These are poems of sorrow, joy, and redemption that linger in the heart.
The 54 poems bring to life the social fault lines of textile mills in the rural Piedmont — themes of child labor, the changing roles of women, of a fading way of life where isolation is juxtaposed against a strong sense of community. Part history, part poetry — this collection is peppered with the poignant, rarely seen photography of Lewis Hine (1874 – 1940). With Lindy Lee, Kimberly finds the vast and profound in the smallest of domestic spaces. In the words of William Wright (2016 Georgia Author of the Year), she celebrates and records in vivid imagery “the joys and hardships of a charged, mythic, and sweat-soaked place.”
Fingers of frost stretch across the windows.
Seasoned wood crackles in the wood stove
while I stir the last salty pork knuckle
with a handful of beans, wild greens
into a pot of creek water just off the boil.
Fall’s harvest now a collection of empty jars.
The cupboard’s breathing heavily with despair.
Each stir is more a wish as the day considers
getting warm, sweet herbs summon cravings.
Morning casts its pink sap over frost-risen clay
As I shepherd this thinly-feathered brood
Towards the cotton-strewn spinning room.
Today we will make cloth from broken strings,
We will weave scraps to make them something whole.
Kimberly J. Simms is an award-winning poet whose literary voice is rooted in the Southern tradition of storytelling and informed by her British and Southern lineage. She is recognized as a performance artist who entertains and educates through poetry that is both poignant and inspiring. A graduate of Furman University (BA) and Clemson University (MA), she was the 2016 Carl Sandburg National Historic Site Writer-In Residence. Her poetry has appeared in over 30 literary journals. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and her literary work is included in the South Carolina Poetry Archives at Furman University.