Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

Planted by the Signs

By Misty Skaggs

“Last night I was reading these poems, sitting in a chair in my city living room. As I did, clover sprouted, enfolding my toes, rug turned meadow. Gooseberries draped my shoulders. Thorns pricked my neck. The heat pump blew honeysuckle and tobacco, lilac and pine. A super moon, a woman’s face, broke through the window, bidding me to do right. It was weird. I recommend it.”

Robert Gipe, author of Weedeater: An Illustrated Novel

“(Skaggs) has a fine ear for rural storytelling tradition, and her language, tales, and recollections thrum with authenticity….Wherever Misty Skaggs’s poetry takes her, I want to be there to read it.”

The Rumpus

“If the reader can embrace even just one-fourth of the gratefulness that this speaker has for the basic pleasures in life, then she will come away from this collection with a deeper sense of contentment and reverence.”

Rosemary Royston, Journal of Appalachian Studies

“These are the poems we need—their surprise, their shine, their fearlessness, their joy, their brazen and unrepetant love of women the world has tried (and failed) to render invisible. If ever there was an example of the political and the personal merging with pure fearlessness and urgency, it’s happening in this book by Misty Skaggs. Give yourself over to them. You'll be grateful you did.”

Chanel Dubofsky, journalist & activist

Planted by the Signs brings us the contemporary Appalachian poetry—cultivated in the dirt of Elliott County, Kentucky—of Misty Skaggs. With an eye for details that exquisitely balance personal and social observation to communicate volumes, she tells the stories of generations of women who have learned to navigate a harsh world with a little help from the Farmers’ Almanac and the stars. The collection is separated into three sections that reference the best times to grow and harvest. Knowing and following these guidelines—planting by the signs—could mean the difference between prosperity and tragedy in the lives of Appalachian families.

Personal, political, and passionate, Planted by the Signs also explores what it means for Skaggs to care for her great-grandmother at the end of her life. Color photos by the poet further showcase her sidelong and fierce outlook. The images and poems together deliver an intimate look into the day-to-day reality of a backwoods woman embracing barefooted radicalism in the only place she could call home.

Misty Skaggs was born and raised in the backwoods of Eastern Kentucky. She still lives in and works from a holler in Elliott County, where she tends to her poetry, her Mamaw, and her garden. Skaggs is an artist and activist as well as an author and editor, and her Appalachian roots are tightly entangled with all of her work.   More info →


Table of Contents


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Retail price: $17.95, T.
Release date: September 2019
20 illus. · 112 pages · 5½ × 8½ in.
Rights:  World

Release date: September 2019
20 illus. · 112 pages
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for Planted by the Signs

“These poems are 100 percent hillbilly and smart and beautiful. Skaggs writes contemporary Appalachia with the power and grace of a young woman who knows it in her heart and her bones.”

Crystal Wilkinson, author of The Birds of Opulence

“I love (Skaggs’s) reverence for life and the irreverence for the status quo. These are strong poems from a woman who knows what it means to truly bloom where she is planted…. (An) extraordinary collection.”

Roberta Schulz, WVXU, Cincinnati NPR

“The land of the southern Appalachians presents a forbiddingly stony countenance, but for those unafraid to turn over the rocks, to work the dark earth underneath, to follow the signs of the sky, the creatures of the earth, and the whisperings of the heart as they plant their seeds, the results are not only nourishing but filled with powerful beauty. Misty Skaggs is one such poet, and here she shares her bounty.”

Ronni Lundy, author of Victuals: An Appalachian Journey with Recipes

“Misty Skaggs is more than an artist. She is a writer, a gardener, a caregiver, a photographer, and an all-around lover of the Eastern Kentucky mountains where she was born, raised, and lives. This book is the closest thing to a ‘zine’ that I’ve seen a university press publish.”

Appalachian Mountain Books

“Skaggs vividly portrays life in the Highland South, impressively moving from the poignant to the wildly amusing and back again. Like an Appalachian Anne Sexton, she bluntly and ironically examines female experience. There’s a down-to-earth edginess to many of the poems in this collection that I have rarely seen before in Appalachian poetry.”

Jeff Mann, author of Loving Mountains, Loving Men

“She loves what the rest of us would do away with: weeds, peach trees without harvest, lard, the back road, our grandmothers. In Biscuits and Blisters we have the first work of what will surely turn out to be a lifetime of beloved and wrought poetry from Skaggs.”

Rebecca Gayle Howell, author of American Purgatory

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