John Clare: Poems Selected by Paul Farley

John Clare, Paul Farley, ed.
Published by Faber & Faber in 2017

The Shepherd’s Life: A Tale of the Lake District

James Rebanks
Published by Penguin-Random House in 2016

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

J. D. Vance
Published by HarperCollins in 2016

Charles Taylor identifies a shift in Western culture in the 18th century around the idea of “authenticity,” a shift toward valuing individual people for their original perspectives, their unique ways of being human.[1] As Western thinking was making this shift, a brother and sister in northern England began packing picnic lunches and wandering around some mountains and lakes, observing shepherds and other rural laborers and writing poems and journals about the experience. They then invited their friends along on the picnics, and the brother, William Wordsworth, began publishing poems in a clear and simple, song-like style about these rambles. Literary Romanticism was born.

Wordsworth’s poetry created a vogue, not just for picnics, but for literature about ordinary life and a literary marketplace for ordinary people to express their perspectives. The more ordinary the better. And what could be more ordinary, more authentic, than the unmediated voice of a laborer himself? Ever since Romanticism got rolling as a cultural movement, the marketplace has demanded authentic voices—particularly rural voices, voices that can interpret the world from a place seemingly removed from the urban context of most literary readers. The desire for encounters with the simple and the authentic leads to a desire to hear from people who are closely associated with rural landscapes: peasant laborers, shepherds, hillbillies. The Scottish poet Robert Burns is one of the earliest and best-known examples of this phenomenon. He was called the “heaven-taught ploughman” and championed as an authentic rural voice.

Paradoxically, however, the more famous and well-published one of these voices becomes, the less we trust it as an authentic representation of rural experience. The process of being discovered by the literary world and successfully navigating the system for getting published increases the perceived distance between the writer and his or her authentic experience. So, after an initial flurry of excitement about these writers and the authenticity that we so value, the public may reject them for being not authentic enough representatives of their place or class. Or, we may lose interest in what they have to say as they become just more voices in the literary marketplace. More rarely, if a voice is distinctive enough and gives us a perspective that no one else can, it may be continually rediscovered.

John Clare, a rural laborer who published his poetry in the first part of the 19th century, is the textbook case of a marginal voice that has found an enduring niche in the literary canon. In the past two decades, Clare has benefitted from the rise of ecocriticism and a vogue for finding voices to speak for nature. A recent edition of Clare’s poems, published by Faber & Faber in their Faber Nature Poets series, demonstrates the enduring popularity of the idea of the “peasant poet.” The slim volume, sturdily bound in paper, and ideally sized to be slipped into a backpack for a walk through the English countryside or sold in a National Trust gift shop, is edited by Paul Farley, a contemporary British poet.

Farley frames Clare’s poetry in the way that much “nature writing” is presented to the public: for tourists who want to connect the physical landscape to the literary one. He begins his introduction to Clare’s poetry with a narrative of his own visit to Clare’s rural home region and then tells the story of Clare’s remarkable transition from rural laborer to literary fame.

Clare’s story is a fascinating one. Born in 1793 in Helpston, England, a tiny village northwest of Cambridge, Clare worked many different jobs: as a laborer in the gardens or grounds of the prosperous local estate, or burning lime for use in mortar or fertilizer, or, for a time, as a soldier in one of the militias preparing to defend England against a Napoleonic invasion. His parents were often on the edge of extreme poverty, and Clare’s work helped pay the rent on their cottage and keep the family out of the workhouse. But he also occasionally attended school, and read, and then started to write poetry—secretly at first, hiding scraps of paper in a hole in the wall of his cottage.

Clare’s poetry was first published by a local printer, Edward Drury, who saw in Clare the opportunity to publish another “peasant poet” like the enormously popular Burns. Eventually, he connected Clare with his cousin John Taylor, a London publisher who had recently published John Keats’s first volume of poems. Drury and Taylor knew that they had something potentially valuable on their hands: an authentic peasant poet, a man who could write with authority about rural life, who could meet the public’s longing to be connected to a purer, simpler, more rustic place. Clare wrote his poetry in a mixture of the formal diction and vocabulary of eighteenth-century verse and regional dialect and, while he permitted his publishers to edit his poems to render them with standard punctuation and grammar, he wrote his original manuscripts with neither. Editors like Farley have ever since struggled with the conundrum of how to retain Clare’s original messiness while making his poems readable.

Drawing on the scholarship of Jonathan Bate, Farley offers a version of the poems that is readable but attempts to retain some of the freshness of the original manuscripts’ raw style.[2] Because Clare’s original manuscripts eschew punctuation, heavily use dialect, and employ creative spelling, Farley joins most editors in adding some punctuation, fixing spelling, and selecting poems that are less packed with unfamiliar dialect terms. The authoritative transcriptions edited by Eric Robinson include poems like “Rural Morning” which introduces “Young hodge the horse boy with a soodling gait” and continues delightfully to describe this figure “with slop frock suiting to the ploughmans taste/Its greezy shirtings twisted round his waiste/And hardnd hilowes clenchd with nailed around/Clamping defiance oer the stoney ground.”[3] Farley avoids poems like these and chooses instead poems that are more immediately accessible. Clare’s “The Sand Martin,” for example, will remind readers of John Keats’s nightingale and thus put them in familiar poetic terrain: “Thou hermit haunter of the lonely glen/And common wild and heath—the desolate face/or rude waste landscapes far away from men.”[4]

Clare’s opportunity to communicate to a wide audience was always carefully managed by the people around him who understood that there was a market for peasant poets. As Bate relates in his biography of Clare, when Drury (the local bookbinder) was selling his cousin Taylor on the idea of publishing Clare, he embellished the tale of his discovery of the untutored genius. Taylor writes: “It was an accident which led to the publication of these Poems. In December, 1818, Mr. Edward Drury, Bookseller, of Stamford, met by chance with the Sonnet to the Setting Sun, written on a piece of paper in which a letter had been wrapped up.”[5] Drury and later Taylor make it sound like the poem was hand-written on a scrap of paper, rather than printed on a prospectus that was circulating as Clare sought subscribers. An undiscovered genius sells better than an ambitious man working hard to get his poetry published.

Taylor also dramatizes the poverty of the Clare family, arguing that it gives John Clare an “advantage” in his poetry. He writes:

One of our poets has gained great credit by his exterior delineations of what the poor man suffers; but in the reality of wretchedness, when “the iron enters into the soul,” there is a tone which can not be imitated. Clare has here an unhappy advantage over other poets. The most miserable of them were not always wretched. (7)

Taylor contends, in other words, that it is John Clare’s constant state of wretchedness that gives his poems a special quality of authenticity. Other poets, although they have experienced periods of misery, did not have the advantage of the constancy of poverty and malady: “Penury and disease were not constantly at their heels, nor was pauperism their only prospect. But [Clare] has no other, for the lot which has befallen his father, may, with too much reason, be looked forward to as his own portion” (3).  Taylor assumes that his readers want to learn about the lives of the poor, that this is one of the proper subjects of poetry, and that the more authentic the voice of the person speaking about poverty the better. And who better to describe extreme poverty than someone in extreme poverty? Taylor does not note the irony that if his promotional efforts succeed and Clare’s poetic career with them, Clare might be relieved of the “constant wretchedness” that gives his poetry its inimitable tone.

Taylor’s publication of Clare’s Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery in 1820 brought Clare some measure of fame and patronage. He took trips to London, sponsored by his publishers, to socialize with the literary establishment and visited his aristocratic patrons in their homes (although he would customarily eat in the servants’ hall rather than with his hosts). Until his death in 1864, Clare continued to write; the body of poetry he produced over his lifetime is impressive both in its quantity and quality. Into the 21st century, he is anthologized as one of the important English poets of the 19th century and receives significant scholarly attention. New editions of Clare’s poetry are still being published and, like the Faber Nature Poets collection, for a general audience (at least a general audience of poetry readers and nature tourists—which is, admittedly, small).

But this narrative is only part of Clare’s story—and the happiest part. Here is the rest. The early 1820s were the peak of Clare’s success as an author. He continued to write and publish – both in periodicals and in volumes of poetry and prose – but his writing never sold well after his initial launch into the public eye. And his financial obligations continued to grow with his growing family. Both his personal habits and his mental health put pressure on Clare’s ability to sustain himself and his family. Clare drank too much, had love interests outside of marriage, and increasingly suffered from significant mental illness. Clare’s moral failings would need to be hidden from an audience looking for a voice representing the simple purity of rural life. And fairly early in his publishing career, Clare’s publishers were aware of his fragile mental health. Even though he was given a large and comfortable cottage in Northborough, some 20 miles away from his childhood home of Helpston, critics and biographers have speculated that Clare’s mental stability was disrupted by even this short move away from the landscape of his childhood. He was soon committed by his family to a mental institution in Epping Forest. He escaped this institution and walked 90 miles home, but after five months was recommitted to the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum where he lived until his death.

In this asylum, he was encouraged to write poetry and given freedom to spend time outdoors. From this period came his most anthologized poem, which displays both his poetic craft and his sense of mental alienation, “I Am!”: “I am—yet what I am, none cares or knows;/My friends forsake me like a memory lost: /I am the self-consumer of my woes—/They rise and vanish in oblivious host,/Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes—/ And yet I am, and live” (114).

It’s not clear in Clare’s story whether being “discovered” as a peasant poet made his life better or worse. His mental illness may have plagued him equally if he had stayed a gardener or a lime burner. But it is clear that the nineteenth-century literary marketplace could not sustain its interest in his poetry beyond his first volume of poems, no matter the quality of his later work. The initial rush of interest could not support a poetic career. So even though the public, then as now, longed to hear from an authentic rural voice, the details of Clare’s situation did not fit with Romantic conceptions of the simple, virtuous life that his readers expected from their peasant poets. Clare’s poetry survives today, but we can hardly claim that he had a successful career in his own time.

In the twenty-first century, it is similarly possible to leverage an authentic rural experience to launch a publishing career. It remains equally ambiguous, however, whether being an authentic voice is enough to sustain a career as a writer. Two years ago, when my family was wrapping up a semester of teaching in London and preparing for a family holiday in the Lake District in northern England, I picked up a paperback copy of The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks as some light reading for the trip. I was attracted by the fact that the memoir was set in the part of England I would be visiting and also by the cover, which told me that this book, according to the Daily Mail, was the “The surprise hit of the year.” A best-seller about the life of a shepherd? Sounded like promising vacation reading, at least.

What was I expecting? I thought it would be a memoir full of loving depictions of Lake District scenery and earthy details about the shepherding life. And it was. Here’s a typical passage from the second chapter, in which Rebanks reflects on his participation in the neighborly ritual of gathering the sheep down from the common lands on which they’ve been grazing all summer so that they can be cared for through the winter by individual shepherds:

And then we do it all again, just as our forefathers did before us. It is a farming pattern fundamentally unchanged from many centuries ago. It has changed in scale (as farms have amalgamated to survive, so there are fewer of us), but not in its basic content. You could bring a Viking man to stand on our fell with me and he would understand what we were doing and the basic pattern of our farming year. The timing of each task varies depending on the different valleys and farms. Things are driven by the season and necessity, not by our will.

Sometimes you are left alone somewhere on the mountain, waiting for the others, alone in the silence. Skylarks rise, ascending in song. Sometimes there are moments when not a sheep or a man can be seen. Away in the distance you can see the main roads and the villages. No one really knows how long this fell gathering has been happening, but quite possibly for as many as five thousand years. (20)

This is exactly what I expect from contemporary writing about rural life. Gently reflective celebrations of the natural world and rural labor with a slightly elegiac tone.

What I was not expecting was Rebanks’s surprising narrative of how he came to write this book. And I was not expecting to find that alongside the tone of contemplative celebration, there was also a tone of defant determination to preserve rural ways of life and anger about the forces, including tourism, that threaten them. 

Rebanks begins with a story about himself as a teenager sitting in a school assembly listening to a teacher talk about how he and his classmates should “aim to be more than farm workers, jointers, brickies, electricians, and hair dressers” (xii). The teacher went on to talk about a place that Rebanks did not really know although he had lived there all his life; it was, in his paraphrase of her lecture, “a playground for an itinerant band of climbers, poets, walkers and daydreamers … people who, unlike our parents, or us, had ‘really done something’” (xv). She mentioned names like Wordsworth in reverential terms. Rebanks had never heard of him. Although Rebanks’ family had lived in the Lake District and had made their livelihood for generations by shepherding, until that moment he had not understood that there were two Lake Districts: the one of the shepherds and laborers and the other of the poets and tourists.

Rebanks stopped attending school when he was 15 and only sat for a couple of the exams that would give him the equivalent of a high-school degree. He narrates his thinking at the time:

This crappy, mean, broken-down school took five years of my life. I’d be mad, but for the fact that it taught me more about who I was than anything else I have ever done. It also made me think that modern life is rubbish for so many people. How few choices it gives them. How it lays out in front of them a future that bored most of them so much they couldn’t wait to get smashed out of their heads each weekend. How little most people are believed in, and how much it asks of so many people for so little in return. (96)

This is not the story of a William Wordsworth or even a James Herriot. This is the story of a John Clare.

Rebanks himself makes the comparison explicit when he writes about the freedom of traditional rural life: “This is an ancient, hard-earned, local kind of freedom that was stolen from people elsewhere, the kind of freedom that the nineteenth-century ‘peasant poet’ John Clare wrote about” (284). He does not explicitly claim an identity as a peasant poet, but he claims the same relationship to the land as Clare, a relationship of desperate but heroic struggle to hang on to something beautiful that is under threat.

The Shepherd’s Life is divided into four sections following the seasons, and Rebanks alternates paragraphs of past-tense memoir with paragraphs of present-tense description of the details of the shepherd’s life. Although the book is filled with gritty details of what it takes to make a living (or not quite) breeding sheep in the fells of the Lake District and these are interspersed with lovely naturalistic descriptions of the landscape, those are not the elements that make the book a “surprise hit.” What makes Rebanks’s memoir so compelling is the story of how a high-school dropout who had never heard of William Wordsworth could come to write this book.

Rebanks, at the encouragement of his then-girlfriend (later wife), went back to school in his early twenties to finish his high-school degree by taking night classes. One of his teachers, impressed by his intelligence and his performance on exams, urged him to apply to Oxford. Rebanks does not give a very high-minded version of his motivation for getting higher education. He says:

[Professional people] seem to earn more money in a week than I did in months, and it looked as if you had to get an education to play their game. So I decided to play along. I was going to whore myself in a world I didn’t like. And I figured that if you are going to be a whore you should be a high-class one. I decided to do something I didn’t really want to do. I would apply to university and see if I could get into Oxford. If I could, I would consider going. If I couldn’t, I would bin the whole idea. (138-39)

He got in. Although he could initially write only in block capitals, Rebanks learned how to navigate the academic world successfully, earned a degree in history, and eventually landed a job as a consultant to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris.

But Rebanks did all of this while continuing to work with sheep on his family’s land. And so he keeps the authentic credibility of his tales of what it is like to be out in the elements with his sheep and dogs, but tells those tales in a way that is appealing for the literate audiences who read his books during their Lake District holidays.

Part of what makes this work for Rebanks in a way that never would have been possible for Clare is the technology that gives him intimate access to his audience even as he stays close to his sheep. Before he published his bestselling memoir, Rebanks had built a “platform” (something publishers say is now essential for all aspiring writers) by his very popular Twitter account (herdyshepherd1) and Instagram feed, featuring pictures that he takes on the farm, mostly shot with his smartphone.

Whether Rebanks will be able to navigate successfully the tension between actually living the life of a rural laborer while (in the best sense) exploiting this life for publication is yet to be seen. His life and writing career so far is a variation on the “peasant poet” trope. The literary public longs for writers to tell us about rural life, or at least for people who can tell us their stories of coming from a rural place; it will be interesting to see if Rebanks can continue to meet that demand. Now that he has told his story of going from high-school dropout to literary success, will the public continue to be interested in more books that are just about sheep or about the struggles of rural families to do what they have done for generations? Perhaps Rebanks is not interested in a publishing career. The wild success of this one book may have given him exactly what he wanted: the financial security to run a small-scale sheep-breeding operation.

The market for John Clare types does not appear to be limited to the UK or to books that support rural tourism. In North America, where people seldom hike across farm fields on their summer vacations, there is nevertheless demand for a kind of peasant poet. In our search for authenticity, we too are delighted to find someone who has escaped an indifferent education in an out-of-the-way place and can thus reflect on the conditions of contemporary rural life.

In the summer of 2016, just as many of the educated elite in the United States were reeling from the news that Donald Trump had secured the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, J. D. Vance was hitting the interview circuit to promote his new book. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis describes his childhood in a steel town in southern Ohio and how he was raised, in part, by grandparents from the hills of Kentucky. This past December, I was surprised to find a copy of Hillbilly Elegy on the rack in the hardware store of my father’s small town in northern Wisconsin, prominently displayed next to popular thrillers and romances. Vance’s book has been a huge publishing success.

Vance tells the story of his childhood: growing up with no biological father in the picture, raised by a mother who moved from one short-term partner to another and eventually into drug addiction. His loving grandparents, who were self-described hillbillies from Kentucky had moved to Ohio for work years before, were a source of stability in his life but also initiated him into a culture of violence, anger, and bitterness to those outside of their tribe. Like Rebanks, Vance tells the surprising story of a kid who had little connection to formal education or to the publishing business who nevertheless went on to success at the very pinnacle of that world: in Vance’s case, a degree from Yale Law school and a book contract with HarperCollins.

The timing of Vance’s memoir could not have been better. He is a self-described conservative, but living in the cultural bastions of liberal America. He does not support Donald Trump himself, but his family members and childhood neighbors are among those who propelled Trump into the White House. Vance’s role is thus that of a translator from Red America to Blue America. And people like myself eagerly went out to buy his book to find out the answer to one of the past two years’ most perplexing questions: why did so many Americans think that making Donald Trump president of the United States was a good idea?

Just like Clare and Rebanks, it is Vance’s credibility as one who was not raised within the educated elite which gives his voice authority. In his opening chapters, Vance describes a summer job he had at a carpet warehouse. He notes the lack of ambition of his fellow workers: in the culture of rural poverty in which he was raised, “too many young men [are] immune to hard work. …There is a lack of agency here—a feeling that you have little control over your life and a willingness to blame everyone but yourself” (7). Vance can make this claim because he also relates his own sense of helplessness and need for blame. Vance blames individuals in his life for the violence, neglect, and addiction that surrounded his childhood, but he refrains from blaming institutions—the government, the media, big corporations. His narrative is ultimately a very personal one about individual guilt and individual responsibility.

Given the cultural and geographical differences between Rebanks’s and Vance’s narratives (northern rural England vs. Midwestern American city), there are surprising similarities in the tone and even content of these books. Both narratives are tinged with anger. Rebanks writes with a barely-suppressed rage at the tourists and commuter-residents who populate his home district. Vance writes about the constant, low-boil anger that he was raised to cultivate toward people who were outside of his circle of kin. Both tell stories of learning, as children, to engage in fistfights with other kids and about how this violence was encouraged and rewarded by their culture. In Vance’s case, the encouragement was overt. For Rebanks, it was more a matter of not seeing alternatives. Both men, however, are self-reflective about learning to resist these impulses. Rebanks learns to temper his response to the tourists who walk their dogs off-leash near his sheep, and Vance learns to control his road rage.

A feature present in Vance’s book that is largely absent both from Clare’s writing about rural life and from Rebanks’ narrative is reflection on religion and rural life. Nineteenth-century religious culture is such a given for Clare that it hardly comes up in his poetry. Rebanks mentions attending church on Christmas Eve and that he “enjoys singing those carols that are about shepherds” (221), but otherwise religion is absent from his narrative. Vance, however, devotes some space in his book to analyzing the religious practice of his grandmother, who believed in a personal, omnipresent God but not in the church. She also strongly inculcated in Vance the idea that “God helps those who help themselves” (87), one of the themes of his conservative analysis of rural social conditions. Vance’s narrative also includes his reunion as a teenager with his biological father, who practices a fundamentalist, evangelical Christianity. Although Vance is critical of his father’s Biblical literalism, he is appreciative of the social stability provided by evangelicalism. He concludes that “religious institutions remain a positive force in people’s lives. … Dad’s church offered something desperately needed by people like me” (93-94).

In contrast with Rebanks whose book was met with universally positive reviews, Vance’s narrative is receiving more critique. Two strains of criticism are particularly interesting. Some of Vance’s critics make the point that he has not read enough experts on white rural poverty. Vance’s voice should not be trusted because he is not a scholar of Appalachian culture. Bob Hutton of the left-leaning Jacobin magazine, writes:

Even if he truly believes that Appalachian poverty is somehow exceptional, [Vance] did not delve into the wealth of scholarship on the subject. Sociologists Dwight Billings and Kathleen Blee’s meticulously researched study of Clay County, Kentucky, The Road to Poverty: The Making of Wealth and Hardship in Appalachia, demonstrates that elite families dominated local industry and politics, laying the groundwork for a permanent low-wage economy before the Civil War.”[6]

Hutton accuses Vance of being an insufficiently informed hillbilly, and thus not being entitled to interpret his experience as he does. On the other side, there are responses like Brandon Kiser’s editorial in the Lexington Herald. Kiser’s thesis is, “Vance isn’t a hillbilly at all.”[7] Kiser goes on to say that “as a critique of hillbilly culture, Vance’s story falls flat because he isn’t one.” Kiser points out that he himself is writing “this review in an Appalachian hollow on the hillbilly highway 20 minutes from the largest city in Eastern Kentucky of only 20,000 people.” Kiser claims more hillbilly cred and thus dismisses Vance, who was merely raised by ex-hillbillies.

So Vance is criticized both for not being up on the academic study of hillbilly culture and for being insufficiently authentically connected to that culture. It seems very important to his critics to determine who gets to speak for hillbillies. At any rate, the debate over whether Vance is an appropriate spokesperson for Appalachian culture has not dampened sales of his book. From the shelf of the hardware store in Bloomer, Wisconsin, to my in-laws’ book club in an upscale Minneapolis neighborhood, readers are devouring the story. We were ready to hear the story of white social dysfunction and economic turmoil in “flyover country,” because it is not a story that has often been told. And to Vance’s credit, he tells it well and in a way that appeals to readers from a range of political perspectives.

When I teach Romanticism in a survey of Western culture, I make the point to my students that the legacy of this cultural movement is powerful and pervasive. We have not escaped its basic assumptions about the value of simplicity, of emotional responsiveness, of authenticity. We are all Romantics now.

Readers long for stories of people we see as “authentic,” who have experiences more connected to the land, to labor, to the kind of embodied life that we Romantics value. But we are also quick to judge these people and love to identify their inconsistencies. Our peasant poet is not so virtuous; our Lake District shepherd is often on his smartphone; our Kentucky hillbilly is really from Ohio. We buy their books, we listen to their stories, and we judge.

John Clare’s poetry and his story have had a long life in our literary culture and seem to sustain our interest. Will Vance’s and Rebanks’s books prove to be more ephemeral products of an ever-changing marketplace? Or will we still read their stories decades from now? There is one figure who provides a model for sustaining an authentic rural life and combining it with regularly published insight into rural culture: the grandfather and muse of contemporary rural literary life, Wendell Berry. One measure of success for Rebanks and Vance is whether they can become like Berry.

Rebanks actually spent part of 2016 touring Kentucky and the day after the election of Donald Trump sat down at the Louisville Public library for a conversation with Berry (still available to listen to through the library website).[8] It’s a delightfully frank conversation between two farmers about the things that they worry about and hope for. Rebanks claims Berry as a hero, and Berry wants to know exactly how Rebanks negotiates the price of sheep.

In the meantime, J. D. Vance has moved back to Ohio from the West Coast to launch a non-profit organization trying to find solutions to the opioid crisis. One suspects that he might be positioning himself for a political bid.

Perhaps these books are just the beginning, then. There is still a marketplace for the peasant poet in the publishing world. There is also, moreover, a place for people with strong commitments to the region in which they were raised to tell their stories and to inspire others to value these places—and the people who make their homes and livings there.


[1]Charles Taylor, The Ethics of Authenticity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992).

[2]Jonathan Bate, John Clare: A Biography (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003).

[3]John Clare, “Rural Morning,” in John Clare: Major Works, eds. Eric Robinson and David Powell (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 66.

[4]John Clare, “The Sand Martin,” in John Clare, ed. Paul Farley (London: Faber & Faber, 2016), 52.

[5]John Taylor, “Introduction,” in Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery (London: Taylor and Hessey, 1820), 15.

[6]Bob Hutton, “Hillbilly Elitist,” in Jacobin: Reason in Revolt, October 1, 2016. https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/10/hillbilly-elegy-review-jd-vance-national-review-white-working-class-appalachia/

[7] Brandon Kiser, “Author Too Removed from Culture He Criticizes,” in Lexington Herald Leader, August 21, 2016. http://www.kentucky.com/opinion/op-ed/article96779312.html

[8]Wendell Berry and James Rebanks, “James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd’s Life, interviewed by Wendell Berry,” Louisville Free Public Library’s At the Library Series, November 9, 2016.  http://www.lfpl.org/podcast.html

Cite this article
Susan Bruxvoort Lipscomb, “Peasant Poets, Blogging Shepherds, and Hillbilly Memoirists”, Christian Scholar’s Review, 48:1 , 51-61

Susan Bruxvoort Lipscomb

Houghton College
Susan Bruxvoort Lipscomb is Associate Professor of English; Chair, Department of English and Writing; and Interim Associate Dean for Arts and Letters at Houghton College.