Through the words of the imaginary (but very authentic) Sister Jessie, the lives of the
Shakers of the Pleasant Hill community in 19th century Kentucky are revealed in
rich detail, humorous and poignant, spiritual and oh so human. Based on extensive
historical research and chronicling the real people and events that shaped this
community, this book is especially noteworthy for its focus on the largely
undocumented lives of black Shakers. But most of all, it is great narrative poetry, the
perfect medium for these voices to speak across the years to modern listeners.
Praise for Vickie Cimprich and Pretty Mother's Home
“With Pretty Mother’s Home: A Shakeress Daybook, Cimprich contributes to the
poetry of Kentucky places. Much imaginative writing about Shakers tells us more
about its writers than about Shakers; Cimprich in her use of historical resources at
Pleasant Hill has amplified voices of the Believers themselves. I am long familiar
with the names and events in her poems. For me now they have life.”
Larrie Curry, Vice President and Curator,
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill
“Vickie Cimprich’s poems about the Shakers of Kentucky speak in the voices of this
unique community with wit, concision, and a thrilling attentiveness to the details that
bring them to life. This is the way, with ease and grace, history becomes
contemporary. Pretty Mother’s Home is irresistible.”
Rosellen Brown, author of Cora Fry
|Published September 2007
Northern Kentuckian Vickie Cimprich writes of
many good and interesting times in the Eastern
Her poetry collection Pretty Mother’s Home –
A Shakeress Daybook was researched at the
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, KY with
support from the Kentucky Foundation for
Women. The Foundation’s mission is to
support feminist artists engaged in social
change. With the Shaker poems, as well as her
article “Free and Freed Believers and Affiliates
of African Descent at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky,”
in The Register of the Kentucky Historical
Society (Autumn 2013), she shares enlivening awareness of the Shakers' egalitarian
convictions and practices.
Other KFW grants assisted in her participation in the 1999 Spoleto Symposium per
Scrittori, as well as visits to French Cistercian abbeys where a 12th century tradition
of land-holding and stewardship practices continues.
Her work has appeared in A Quilted Life, with Hazel Durbin (Contrary Bear Track
Press, 2002), The African American Review, Bigger Than They Appear: Anthology
of Very Short Poems (Accents Press, 2011), Dappled Things, Inscape, The Journal
of the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities, The Journal of Kentucky
Studies, The Licking River Review, Mediphors, The Merton Journal, The Mom Egg,
Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Plainsongs, Poetry As Prayer: Appalachian
Women Speak (Wind Publications, 2004), Seminary Ridge Review, The Single
Hound, Still - the Journal, and Waypoints. She has taught English at Lees College,
Northern Kentucky University, and the University of Cincinnati.
“Contrary-wise is an elegiac meditation on
what is past, passing, and to come. Its voice
is as clear and true as the creek it names.”
—Joe Survant, Kentucky Poet
|Published April 1, 2018
Paperback, 80 pages
Booksellers: Available from
Small Press Distribution
In her poem listing “Things We Knew” Vickie Cimprich begins with
How Contrary worked cause we was a part of it.
Contrary is a creek that flows through part of the Appalachian country of East
Kentucky; but it is as well an attitude and state of mind, and through the poems in this
collection Cimprich makes us all “a part of it.” Her affection for the land, the people,
the culture, the plants and animals that make up this place is palpable throughout, as
is the strength she draws from her roots there, and that she shares with us as readers.
One of the “contraries” to the received wisdom about East Kentucky at the heart of
the book is the story of Catholicism in this precinct of Appalachia, and in this way
Cimprich makes a valuable contribution to the dispelling of regional stereotypes,
never more important than in this time of simplistic political and cultural narratives.
Some poems relate the story of St. Therese Church in Lee County, the oldest Catholic
church in this part of the state, relocated and rebuilt by the hands of its poor but
devout parishioners seventy years ago. Others deal with the sometimes uneasy
relations of “Cat-licks” and their neighbors. In one poem (that alone justifies reading
the book), a nun confronting some anti-Catholic spectators at a ball game suggests,
“Why don’t you go to hell? They don’t have any there.” Contrary, indeed!
But like the neighbor described in one poem who was never the same after a limb fell
on his head, but was “always pleasant,” Cimprich's meditations here are pleasant even
when poignant or pointed. At the end she observes,
Nothing has changed,
everything has been changed.
Let the stove coals burn out.
Still, we can enjoy the last warm moments as they go. And even if, as one ancient
Greek observed, we cannot step twice into the same river, there is yet a creek running
through the mountains, inviting us to wade into its waters and its history.
Praise for Contrary-wise:
“Roads interlacing Appalachia can lead to mineral rich deposits, or sources of
deep spiritual renewal. Contrary-wise, a poetry collection that bursts with word-
teasing graphic imagery, finds an old musty church near Contrary Creek in the
Kentucky mountains where natural surroundings spark a reverence for beauty
and the sacred quest.”
—Fr. John S. Rausch, Glenmary
Pretty Mother's Home
A Shakeress Daybook