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.


I admire Rita Quillen’s ability to write about landscape and family in such lucid and radiant ways. Textural and touching, her words manage to possess and celebrate the universal, to will the reader in. Indeed, Something Solid to Anchor To is nearly palpable in its weight, solid yet dynamic, a “blood rush pulsing and the words” to create a collection both beautiful and memorable.                                                

                                                         --William Wright,ed.-The Southern Poetry Anthology                                            

Whether turnips on the table that leave a sting on the tongue, the grittiness of sand everywhere following a disappointing hard-earned vacation, or the dull ache that lingers long after the last word, Rita Sims Quillen not only remembers them all but, more importantly, renders them in sharply etched, haunting lines. These poems are, indeed, something solid to anchor to, a fine and powerful collection.

                                                        —Jeff Daniel Marion, author of Father and Letters Home


We are often behind the lens in Rita Sims Quillen’s new poetry collection, Something Solid to Anchor to. A lens watchful and rebellious, imprinted with hardscrabble history, marked by a father who “owned silence/The way the seasons owned the trees.” Quillen turns her searching lens to the daughter’s path, the long and newly dead, the farm wife who “just wanted to be sought after and found”—as we all do in our hunt for faraway meaning and clarity. Quillen’s seeking eye is true in these solidly hammered poems, her vision of what’s present and missing a witness to life’s first and last word.      

                                                            —Linda Parsons Marion, author of Motherland


I never dreamed when I started submitting my poetry chapbook manuscript Something Solid to Anchor To, that it would be accepted so quickly and go to press at almost the same time as my new novel Hiding Exra, but here we are. The chapbook is mostly poems about my father and childhood. Losing my dad suddenly in 2012 was the most awful experience of my life, and the poems began to come within just a few months. Poetry is my medium of choice for working out dark, complex questions and problems, and it stands to reason that's where the hurt and sadness would direct itself.

But not all the poems are sad tales of loss — there's humor and hope in this book, too. I believe there's something universal and intensely personal at the same time in this work, something that every reader will find meaningful in some way.

Here's a link you can cut and paste into your browser to a wonderful interview on the book with Dr. William Kelley Woolfitt on his poetry blog "Speaking of Marvels."



Spring Meditation of The Mad Farmer’s Wife

     For Wendell Berry

Ask and it shall be given-


So farming is a laying up

Of earthly treasures and fat surprises.

Morels amid brown leaf bed,

Brave onions shoving their way into the light,

New pears hanging like joyous tears waiting to fall,

Spring gobbler Kabuki-

 silhouettes in the skyline.

These quests are low stress.

But treks to find calves in late winter-

A different matter all together.

She walks beside, then behind

Choosing the path with care

Crunching grey and brown stubble

Under heavy boots, heavy breathing,

Bloodrush deafening.

Soon he stops, turns his face

To sun, moon, star

Listening for life.

Generations of ancestors

Imprinted this imperative:  there is no other purpose

Here, no meaning, except search and find.

The day is ripening, the rising sun

Saffrons the land

And then he stops, turns to her,

His face breaks into a big grin.

He reaches for her, pulls her close.

The line of grey woods ahead yield

Yet another new spring calf

Dancing on new legs, sniffing the air.

The Mad Farmer lifts his hand

A blessing and a greeting.



Something in That Winter Light


I thought of you today

When brown leaves rained from racing clouds

And the sky burned through, fierce blue.

Rushing air hummed and droned

Like an organ bass pedal.

Trees jerked and bowed in amber light.

I placed you among them

A paper doll on a bright page

Just beyond the fence

Letting you lean on your shovel or rake or hoe

And look long and longer

At what you’re missing.


I thought of you today

Your back to me, head down

Walking away to some other place

Where light is all golden.

Just as in life,

You are somewhere else

A slow moving figure in the garden

Parting a mountain meadow far off

Fixing, mending, digging

Salvaging whatever you can.

You never speak in these visions.

You would think I wouldn’t bother

To dream without gifting us

All those missing words.

The wind rushes along, one sound

And syllable, whispering “See.”


I thought of you today.

When brown leaves rained from racing clouds.











First Memory


People never believe me

When I tell them I recall

Waking in my crib, lying watchful

While my parents dozed.

I slept there until I was two

In front of the window in their bedroom.

I remember watching the sun rise

Amazed, lazy in my warm nest,

Only the sound of breathing,

Blood rush pulsing and the words yes and yes.

Just as now I feel no need

To summon others at the moment

The miraculous occurs,

I couldn’t tell my parents then or later

That I saw God and angels and clouds

That became beliefs, most of all,

That silence was now

A cloak I would inhabit,

Walk around inside

Wearing it as beautiful silk

All my days.






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