Author of novels WAYLAND, HIDING EZRA & poetry collection THE MAD FARMER'S WIFE

Rita Quillen’s novel Hiding Ezra is forthcoming in 2014 from Little Creek Books; it was a finalist in the 2005 DANA Awards competition, and a chapter of the novel is included in the new scholarly study of Appalachian dialect just published by the University of Kentucky Press entitled Talking Appalachian.

One of six finalists for the 2012-14 Poet Laureate of Virginia, her poetry received a Pushcart nomination as well as a Best of the Net nomination in 2012. Her most recent collection Her Secret Dream, new and selected poems, is from Wind Press in Kentucky and was named the Outstanding Poetry Book of the Year by the Appalachian Writers Association in 2008.  Previous works are poetry collections October Dusk and Counting The Sums, as well as a book of essays Looking for Native Ground: Contemporary Appalachian Poetry.

 She lives and farms on Early Autumn Farm in Scott County, Virginia.



SORRY-having trouble with these links?-the book is available for purchase, but out of print:


SORRY--I cannot get AMAZON to link here, but if you go to their site and search for this title, you can purchase it in paper or hardback.






I used to be a teacup

Bone and gold-rimmed

Thin-lipped and light


Easy to hold.


Then I became a mug

Heavy and practical

People warmed their hands on me

Warm steam rising

Scented the air

With home and good.


If I live, I’ll grow to be

A gravy boat

Sailing around

Smug and self-satisfied

Filled with an imperfect, lumpy mixture

Comforting and familiar

Only brought out on special occasions.






May the weeds grow into heart-shaped hedges

Giving symmetry and order to ragged fields

That August sun has turned loose and ugly.


Let sunburned calves and their tired mothers

Find a pool of winter-cool shade

Between woods and creek at our world’s edge.


I am lost on a heat-shimmering quilt

Just yards from an open door where

My children watch for the relief of nightfall

And aimless bees and flies look to me

Saying, “You must know something.”


Let there be silence once again

As voices dwindle to snowsoft murmur,

My life rising anew from behind the mountain.





The spring burst of white blossoms

Keeps its promise.

My mother’s tree is a good one.


October’s cool blue sky

Lures out the wooden paddle and kindling,

The black kettle nesting in the basement

A congregation of clean jars

Ready for the yearly rite.


While the fire licks the kettle clean

Burns the cinnamon smell into our clothes

My mother’s hands

Smooth the last quarter-moon apple

Out of the pan.

I think of the mounds of peels

                      Worm holes

                      Rotten places.

My mother’s knife cuts true.


We wait silently side by side


When the bubbles and steam are thick

She signals

It’s ready.

The jars are lined up


To receive the blessing.

This year I am old enough

To fill them up.


We pour.

In the thick smell

Spring comes to fall.

We carry each jar to the basement;

They wait to be called up

A reserve of past plenty

Denying the power of winter

Down in the dark cool heart

Of the house.

Recommendations for "COUNTING THE SUMS'


"The quiet simplicity of the title of Rita Quillen's second collection of poems gives onto dark and rending scenes, where the lightning of joy strikes just often enough.  Her gifts as a poet are many:  a fine ear for those subtleties of rhythm and sound variation that delight the ear; a grounding in both classical and native traditions of verse and storytelling; a piercing awareness of her place between the sorrows her mother could not speak and the unknowns her daughter must face; and above all a heart-lifting courage in the face of hard death, harder life, and the demon demands of art.

                                                                --- Dr. Larry Richman, Editor-Sow's Ear Press

Rita Quillen "shines with truth, even in her darkest lines, and what she says is as true as the world's unceasing breath....Never forget these poems."

                                                              ---Fred Chappell

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