Category Archives: Appalachiana

Read a little James Dickey, shed a little tear, do a little dance

James Dickey: Poems 1957 – 1967. Wesleyan University Press. First Edition.


Photo of James Dickey’s Poems 1957-1967 from Wesleyan University Press

I almost always crack each book I list, unless it is just a numerous and easily available edition of a well known title.

Today I took a minute to randomly read a James Dickey Poem. It was Buck Dancer’s Choice, from the section of the same name.

Then I had to go listen to the song, in several varying styles by several artists. Then I had to go look at videos of buck dancing, which according to Emmylou Harris’ teacher is NOT the same as clogging.

Then I had to wipe a tear.

And now I need some tap shoes. I want to wear them all day all around the house.

The poem and links to some of what I found in my explorations below.

Buckdancer’s Choice


So I would hear out those lungs,
The air split into nine levels,
Some gift of tongues of the whistler
In the invalid’s bed: my mother,
Warbling all day to herself
The thousand variations of one song;
It is called Buckdancer’s Choice.
For years, they have all been dying
Out, the classic buck-and-wing men
Of traveling minstrel shows;
With them also an old woman
Was dying of breathless angina,
Yet still found breath enough
To whistle up in my head
A sight like a one-man band,
Freed black, with cymbals at heel,
An ex-slave who thrivingly danced
To the ring of his own clashing light
Through the thousand variations of one song
All day to my mother’s prone music,
The invalid’s warbler’s note,
While I crept close to the wall
Sock-footed, to hear the sounds alter,
Her tongue like a mockingbird’s break
Through stratum after stratum of a tone
Proclaiming what choices there are
For the last dancers of their kind,
For ill women and for all slaves
Of death, and children enchanted at walls
With a brass-beating glow underfoot,
Not dancing but nearly risen
Through barnlike, theatrelike houses
On the wings of the buck and wing.

James Dickey, “Buckdancer’s Choice” from The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992. Copyright © 1992 by James Dickey. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press,

Source: James Dickey: The Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1998)

A variation of the tune by the great Taj Mahal
Emmylou and Bill Monroe buck dancing to Scotland
 The Meaning of Buck Dance sponsored by The Kennedy Center
Directed by D.C. choreographer Emily Oleson, this work features Urban Artistry with Good Foot Dance Company and Baakari Wilder. The piece investigates the origins behind the term “buck dance,” which in tap dance history is used to describe an early American percussive dance style. Drawing on a short video of buck dance taken by Thomas Edison in 1894, the dancers use the technique of freestyling to compare different dance styles in conversation. Part of Local Dance Commissioning Project.
And this is how cataloging and listing a single book can take up my entire morning.
Off to buy me some cowboy boots with taps.

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Filed under Appalachiana, Poems and Poets, Southern

Must read all of these

This is the hell of the bookseller.

Today I have cataloged and placed for sale:

The Innocent, Ian McEwan– the end of the Cold War, Electronic surveillance, Berlin, British-American technology collaboration, a young British post office technician and the clash of the private and political

Defend the Valley a Shenandoah Family in the Civil War, Margaretta Barton Colt- extensive primary source documentation of the Civil War experience of the Barton and Jones family in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

Secrets of the Jews, Stuart E. Rosenberg – policies and persecution toward Jews throughout history – theological discussion of how they survived

The Changing of the Guard President Clinton and the Security of Taiwan – “Considering the difficult issues President Clinton must weigh, Lasater provides a timely analysis of Taiwan’s security in the 1990’s within the broader context of Sino-American relations.”

Murder by the Book: Short fiction includes stories by Dorothy L Sayers and James Thurber, two enduring favorites of mine

How will I read them all? Ah, the Humanity!


Music for a dreary Wine Country Morning

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Filed under American, Appalachiana, Civil War, Cold War, electronic surveillance, History, Judaica, social currents, the book business, women

Am I selling or collecting?

Some books which I will not let go, or at least not at a price which would allow them to sell:

My Dad’s Vietnam collection


Southern authors

Beautiful children’s books with African American themes by the likes of Jerry Pinkney or the Dillons

Library and information science books

Books I want to read someday (like I will ever get to them, EVER)

Laura Esquivel’s Law of Love with the accompanying cd of arias

Contemporary fiction, first edition signed, which isn’t worth much right now but ‘might be worth something some day’


Librarians and booksellers must apply a rigorous calculus of keep due to intrinsic worth or ‘might be worth something later’/ reduce price or reposition to sell or check out/ just go ahead and discard / donate. (And of course ocd not only requires me to create that incredibly complex calculus, but to then overturn its results. Every. Time.) Reasons include the scarcity of my most precious resource, time- it is a waste of time to list something that won’t sell, or something I refuse to price to sell- and the need for space so that I can get out there and start purchasing books that will sell.

Then I hold in my hand a book from the estate of The Minister from Denbigh, or Miss Margaret, or a feminist coed of the jazz age, with name and the date in spidery or beautiful cursive of days gone by… 1907? 1924? And I think to myself- without collectors I would not have this treasure in my hand. Personal libraries are almost as revealing as diaries, I think.

So is the book a treasure if it won’t sell? Is the book’s worth solely based on what it will bring when it sells?

It just reinforces a stunning and painful truth. The worth of a book is purely situational, subjective, and arbitrary. Which is fine. I am glad to build my personal collecion. But I am supposed to be a bookseller.

Mama said there’d be days like these. Well, what she said was, there were some books she just didn’t want to let go, and she finally learned that if she thought that way, she would never sell a book. My dad didn’t express the sentiment… he just priced ’em so high they wouldn’t sell. Heh.

Matoaka A Story of the Fight for Americanism by William Grant Burleigh, 1924

Matoaka A Story of the Fight for Americanism by William Grant Burleigh, 1924

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Filed under Antiquarian, Appalachiana, Shop, Southern