Kettle Bottom


The characters of Diane Gilliam Fisher's poems range from the children, wives, and family of the coal miners, the immigrant works, the company owners and operators, to the news reporters who were brought in to report on the rebellion. One of the most compelling persona poems in the collection tells the life story of an Italian immigrant who came to America with the dream of becoming an expert stonecutter and architect:


At home, in Carrara, Papa he is mastro

di tagliapietra, master stonecutter, maker

of beautiful buildings and bridges. Rich men

they knock on our door, asking licenza

to enter our house, to talk with Papa

about a portico, or a piazza.

Papa he love the stone.

He takes me to see the David, for what

is Michelangelo, he tells me, if not a stonecutter.

La differenza, he says, is that when Papa

sees a stone he sees inside it the face

of a beautiful building. Michelangelo

he sees a beautiful man.

Then he cuts away from the stone

everything that is not David.

Papa wants to come here because America

is a land of beautiful buildings still

hiding in their stones. He believes

be can uncover those buildings,

scoprire la belleza nascosta nella pietra.

When we arrive, he tells the men with the books -- roccia, pietra—and he makes

the motion of hitting the stone. They point

to a train. When the train stops, they give Papa

not a chisel, but a shovel. He shakes his head, no,

no, no—but already we owe for the train.

Papa tries to pay, he goes every day

into the mountain, into the stone. It seals

him in. Sealed in, the men from the company

they tell Mamma the roof it fell, they are sorry.

No survivors, too dangerous to try to bring

the bodies out. The rich men here, they see nothing

in the stone but money. Non c'e nessuno che vede

ill mio papa e gli altri nella pietra. No Michelangelo

here to cut the stone away from the beautiful men.[6]

By using persona characters such as the Italian immigrant in David, Diane Gilliam Fisher conveys in Kettle Bottom the emotional truth of West Virginia's coal mining history.[7]

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