Wendy Brenner’s classic 2005 profile of snake enthusiast Dean Ripa, who died Saturday. By now I’ve grown accustomed (and rather devoted) to Dean’s rhetorical style—outrageous overstatement, subsequent qualification—but I think I recognize something else, something authentic here: a certain strain of introverted misanthropy… by Wendy Brenner | May, 2017

In his project I Need Some Rest, Florida photographer Carson Gilliland seeks the “clues locked in a profound stillness of primeval night bathed in sodium vapor glow and humid sky.” by Carson Gilliland | May, 2017

The artist works in a style he calls “romantic realism.” In his paintings people are twenty pounds thinner and twenty years younger, often surrounded by heavenly light, riding exotic animals, or framed by mountain ranges. This willingness to flout the… by Nicole Pasulka | May, 2017

Photographs from This Land: An American Portrait. Jack Spencer spent thirteen years working on the project and traveled more than eighty thousand miles across all forty-eight contiguous states looking for scenes and moments that he says are “an expression of the… by Jack Spencer | May, 2017

The introduction to a previously unpublished poem by Margaret Walker.  Nearly twenty years after her death and seventy-five years after the publication of For My People, this magazine sent me a previously unpublished poem of Walker’s. The poem, “An Elegiac Valedictory,” is… by Kiese Laymon | May, 2017

A previously unpublished poem by Margaret Walker.  For a dozen wonderful writers:Goodbye to all you girls and guyswho walked this weary way who climbed these hillsand walked these milesthis rocky wooded chase.A dozen wonderful writers by Margaret Walker | May, 2017

My mother was an instinctive cook. Words and directions did not hold much for her. She was a keen observer. She learned to cook from watching her aunts; her grandmother, Maw; her own mother. She loved recipes. Clipped them from the… by Ronni Lundy | Aug, 2016

May 26, 2017

The films and young filmmakers of the Summer Documentary Institute at Appalshop’s Appalachian Media Institute.

Generations of eastern Kentucky youth have had to contend with the question of whether to leave, alongside the demeaning narrative of the rural “brain drain.” This reductive theory posits that the best and brightest minds leave rural communities for urban communities. This simplification of data ignores the stories of those who choose to stay or are not able to leave. For many young people here, it is an act of resistance to stay in the community they love.

May 25, 2017

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

The Kentucky I knew looked verdant and sun-dappled as my family drove through the palisades and then the gentle bluegrass on our way to the mountains from the city of Louisville. And even when we reached the mountains themselves, which so physically display the significance of shadow and mystery, I was still in a place that all the grownups around me treasured for its nurturing, its sustenance, its mothering. Even those who’d lived away for decades, in other states, in other countries, still called the mountains “home” because that was what they believed.
April 18, 2017

But those are facts, and “facts” are exactly what I don’t want to know, inasmuch as they will inevitably get in the way of the little fictions I’ve enjoyed telling myself during my walks for most of the last twenty-five years. 

April 17, 2017

Novelist Patrick Wensink believes the home’s backside is where the true self is best seena haunting, colorful, and often humorous world that goes unnoticed, ignored.

April 11, 2017

Here are the facts: In the first Kentucky Derby run in 1875, thirteen of the fifteen jockeys were black, including the winner, Oliver Lewis on Aristides. Black jockeys won fifteen of the first twenty-eight derbies. Isaac Murphy, whose winnings built a mansion in Lexington near the old Kentucky Association racetrack, won the derby three times and had an overall win record of 34.5 percent. Jimmy Winkfield, who was born in 1882, won the derby twice. He went to Russia to race and then fled the Bolshevik Revolution, leading a band of Thoroughbreds to Poland. Winkfield lived the high life as a trainer on the tracks outside Paris, France, but when he returned to Kentucky in 1961 at the invitation of racing journalists, he was turned away at the door of the Brown Hotel because he was black.

March 31, 2017

He was a modernist scholar, one of the earliest, and for decades a leading translator of ancient Greek poetry; but he also wrote with authority on the social history of the pear, Mother Ann Lee and Shaker aesthetics, Dogon cosmogony, the anthropology of table manners, 2 Timothy and the Pauline doctrine, Louis Agassiz, Eudora Welty, geodesic domes, the paintings of Balthus, and the behavior of wasps—which he fed in his home from a saucer of sugar water. He himself subsisted on fried bologna sandwiches and Marlboros.

March 02, 2017

In “A Town Under Trial,” from our Spring 2017 issue, reporter Nick Tabor relates how an unsolved 1994 double murder continues to haunt a small town in southwest Kentucky. To capture Oak Grove and its trailer parks and “commercial strips of liquor stores, topless bars, and cash-advance shops” familiar to military towns across the country, we enlisted Nashville-based photographer Tamara Reynolds, who was already familiar with the area. Her images convey the tenuous, transitory nature of habitation and commerce in Oak Grove and the unavoidable influence of the military-industrial complex on life there.

March 02, 2017

In the early 1990s, New Life Fitness & Massage kept its lights on twenty hours a day, closing at five every morning and reopening at nine. Everyone in Oak Grove knew it was a brothel. Fort Campbell, one of the nation’s largest Army posts, sits on top of the Kentucky-Tennessee border, and New Life stood right outside its northern gates next to Interstate 24. Many of its clients were Screaming Eagles: paratroopers from the famous 101st Airborne Division. Most of the others were truckers off the highway and locals of all stripes; some say judges and other dignitaries would come up from Nashville, an hour down the highway, to be ushered in and out covertly.

February 06, 2017

When Prince sang “Soft and Wet” from a 45 on my record player, the lyrics were hidden beneath the funky beat. My grandparents never knew what I was listening to. Prince and his doe eyes and big Afro and glistening lean body stared back at me from the pages of Right On! magazine. We lived far out into the woods, on a gravel road. My grandparents were farmers. Books and magazines and television told me that normal black girls did not live like this. But I did. Prince was the sex I knew nothing about. Prince sealed my fantasies about a larger world.

January 17, 2017

The 2016 news cycle published many articles and images of Eastern Kentucky as both white and poor. However, the town of Lynch, an historically African American community in Harlan County that was established in 1917 by the U.S. Coal and Coke Company, stands strong.

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