The Song of North Mountain and Morgan Golladay

Hi lovely AE readers, Dianne here. I run the publishing company Current Words Publishing, which is partner publishing company. In addition to doing partner publishing my company also founded and supports Old Scratch Press (OSP), a poetry/short form collective. In 2025 OSP and its members are going to open up more opportunities for people not in the collective to have a chance to have their work in poetry or short form published. Currently there are opportunities remaining this year through Current Words Publishing’s literary magazine INSTANT NOODLES.

Recently Morgan Golladay, an author I have worked with many times, has recently won a few awards for both her fiction and her poetry, 

photo of Morgan and an article in the paper on her awards

and through OSP has just published her first book, THE SONG OF NORTH MOUNTAIN which she both wrote and illustrated. 

I sat down to talk with her ( her book and her work.


Current Words Publishing (CWP): What inspired you to write "The Song of North Mountain," and why did you choose poetry as the medium to express your connection to Appalachia?

Morgan Golladay (MG): I have a long-term relationship with nature – trees, plants, rocks, rivers. Growing up in the Shenandoah Valley, I saw Great North Mountain daily for all of my childhood and young adulthood. Watching the change of seasons, weather, skies, listening to my neighbors and family, I realized that place was as important as people. 


CWP: Why did you choose poetry as the medium to express your connection to Appalachia?

MG: Poetry has always been my first choice to express my emotions, my thoughts, my values. It seemed the perfect choice for this book. I tend to write short, tight poems, and my style seemed best suited to getting my thoughts across without tiring the reader or listener.


CWP: As both a poet and visual artist, how do you find these two forms of expression intersect or influence each other in your creative process?

MG: In all of my work illustrating either my poetry or anthologies, I tend to want the art to inform the piece, rather than the art to be the star of the book. It is primarily about the writing¸ you know. I always read the pieces first, looking for imagery and ideas.


CWP: North Mountain seems to hold a significant place in your heart and creative work. What draws you to this particular landscape, and how does it inspire your poetry and art?

MG: North Mountain was a visual reminder to me that regardless of weather, fire, storm, seasons, the mountains endured. The Appalachian Mountains are the oldest mountain chain in the US, over a billion years old. Scientists have recently determined that this range also extends into Great Britain, Greenland, Norway, and the west coast of Africa. To me, they embody patience, persistence, endurance, and recovery. To look at them, especially from my back yard, they seemed small and insignificant. They didn’t have the crags and peaks of the Rockies, the extremes of seasons, or the innuendos of danger and watchfulness. North Mountain, the Blue Ridge, and the mountains that lay behind North Mountain all seemed old, worn, unassuming, and very quiet. And the poetry mirrors the languidness and quiet solitude of these mountains.


CWP: Many readers are often curious about an author's writing environment. Can you describe your ideal setting for writing poetry?

MG: My first drafts of poetry are usually hand-written in a copy book, or, more likely, scrawled. That first “getting down on paper” contains an urgency - to form the basic idea or message I want to convey. When I am alone in the woods or at the river, I am struck by how the life continues around me, whether I pay attention or not. My poems, particularly in The Song of North Mountain, are about paying attention and listening. Too often in conversation I find myself hearing, but not listening. When I am in the mountains, alone, I am forced to really listen. What are the trees saying? Where are the birds? How high is the river? What is rustling in the leaves? It becomes a whole, new experience, one that is not centered around me.


CWP: Could you share a bit about your artistic process in designing the cover and creating the interior art for your book? How did you ensure that the visual elements complemented the poetry within?

MG: I’ll share a secret. I do not have a vast repertoire of images I have sketched. As an artist who has discovered pencil and sketchpad only in the last third of my life, I can guarantee there has not been enough time to generate my own references. Other sources, books, magazines, art, photographs, internet images, these generate ideas.

Time and size constraints for the finished work also play an important part. Because the interior art is printed in a maximum 6x9” size, both the layout and the simplicity of the art become most important. The interior artwork is also without color to aid the printing process. Developing contrast while keeping the image crisp requires concentration and attention to how much detail is included. The cover art is about 13x9,” and it can include color. The cover of THE SONG OF NORTH MOUNTAIN is done with oil pastels on black cover stock. The interior art is a combination of graphite, pencil, ink, and white charcoal on black cover stock, hot press watercolor paper, sketch paper, and multimedia paper.


CWP: Your poetry captures the essence of Appalachia beautifully. How do you see the region reflected in your work, and what aspects of its culture and landscape do you hope to convey to your readers?

MG: While THE SONG OF NORTH MOUNTAIN seems to single out Great North Mountain as the focus of each poem, this book includes my experiences of being on and near many of the individual ridges and waterways in this area of the Appalachians. My ancestors on both my dad’s and mom’s sides have lived in the northern Shenandoah Valley since before the French and Indian Wars. In my hometown, I have actually walked the same paths that my Grands did for the last 225 years. While that heritage and the family stories are seldom talked about, there is an air of rootedness to the land that exists among all the old families. It’s not an interred feeling, but one of belonging to a place. “Family Lines,” one of the poems in the book, shows that the land, the “place,” carries those memories, both ethereally and physically.


CWP: Are there any specific themes or messages that you aimed to explore or communicate through THE SONG OF NORTH MOUNTAIN? If so, could you elaborate on them?

MG: This world is a great place! We have trees, and cats, and gravy, and rain! But so often there is a distraction – the electronic device, the next thing on our “to-do list,” the noise on the street, you must buy this! where are the kids? What’s for dinner. All of these distractions keep me from paying attention to what is more important: we have trees! Isn’t the rain great (boy, did we need this rain)? Sitting on a rock, listening to the river run. Just listening. Not just hearing, but listening. Paying attention to what is going on around me, around us.


CWP: Poetry often carries emotional weight and personal significance. Can you share any anecdotes or experiences that influenced the poems in your collection?

Ha ha! Every poem in this collection relates a personal experience I’ve had, and in most poems, I’ve combined many memories to describe the experience. As an example, “Mooring” describes an actual event, when our camp dock broke loose during a heavy storm and floated down river, and our efforts to retrieve it.

MG: Several years ago, I located the site of the house where my 3G-Grandparents lived in 1800. I felt an immediate emotional link to them, made stronger because I knew that place, the hills behind them, what the skies looked like, as well as the town streets. “Family Lines” was the result.


CWP: In your opinion, what role do you think poetry plays in today's society, and how do you see your work contributing to that role?

We are surrounded by poetry on a daily basis – commercial jingles, song lyrics (don’t we all have our own private playlist that runs in our heads?), even the rhythm of footsteps as we walk to the store. My grandmother often hummed hymns. Music surrounds us, but also contains the poetry of our generation.

MG: Pure poetry entertains us, enlightens us, revives us. My job is to be a truth-teller, to let the reader or listener understand that all poetry tells us something, but mostly a reminder to pay attention to the joyful richness of what this planet has to offer us. THE SONG OF NORTH MOUNTAIN is, actually, a love song.


CWP: Your book includes both written and visual art. How do you envision readers engaging with these different forms of expression, and what do you hope they take away from the experience?

MG: We all understand messages in different ways. I have known a number of people who prefer to hear the words, rather than read them. Some people are better informed when the material contains illustrations. I prefer shorter poems – I think the average poem length in The Song of North Mountain, aside from the title poem, is about 26 lines. I just want to get to the point, give the reader a mental image or two and an emotional connection, and then leave them to their own memories and wonderment. I’d like them to retain a feeling of satisfaction, joy, and peace.


CWP: As an author who has lived through various periods of literary and cultural change, how do you see the landscape of poetry evolving, and what advice would you give to aspiring poets?

MG: When I was in grade school, and we were being formally introduced to poetry, rhyme and meter were the most common elements in what we read. Free verse was not as popular, or even as common. Poetry originated as an oral form, with storytellers relating the stories, history, and myths of their people back to their people. Up until the age of literacy where even the common man could read and write, the oral form continued. Personally, I think all poetry must have this oral impact on the reader, as well as on the listener. 

And some poetry can be extremely difficult to understand when simply read (think about how we studied Shakespeare in school, and how it comes alive when recited well).

My best advice is to be concise, get the point across without using a sledgehammer, illustrate it, keep it short (and more memorable), and get out. And edit, edit, read it aloud, edit, and proof-read. Write. A lot. Find your voice, your style, your themes, your message. You have a unique point of view and experience. Tell us.


CWP: Thanks so much for sitting down to talk with me today Morgan  Finally, what's next for you creatively? Do you have any future projects in mind, either in poetry, visual art, or perhaps a combination of both?

MG: Holy cow! Yes, there’s a lot on my desk. I’m currently editing (yet again) my first novel, The Reluctant Vampire, working on a sequel to Vampire, a third novel on a Puka who turned up one afternoon in my house, another book of poetry, and several short stories. (A Puka, by the way, is a mischievous fairy, who loves pranks and shiny things, and is generally very lonely.) Artwork is always part and parcel of my writing, and may or may not be included in these works.

For anyone in the Eastern Shore area (Southern Delaware, Eastern Maryland, and Washington DC) Morgan is having a live event:

And my company has a few Zoom events coming up, all free to attend, one of which is this:

Thanks for reading, and I hope you love Morgan's book!


Dianne Pearce said…
If you check out Morgan's book, let me know what you think!

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