"The Well String is a significant contribution to Appalachian literature."
--Ron Rash
ISBN    978-1-934894-01-9
Narrative Poetry
140 pages

    PRAISE  for The Well String ...

    "What Edith Wharton called ‘the hard considerations of the poor’ are vividly rendered in this
    excellent collection of poems. The Appalachian voices Noel Smith creates are utterly
    convincing, and their stories allow the reader to feel as well as see the world she has brought
    alive.  The Well String is a significant contribution to Appalachian Literature."
                                                                                                                                                          RON RASH
                                                                                      author of Saints At The River, The World Made Straight
                                                                                                                         and Chemistry and Other Stories

    "Noel Smith’s extraordinary poems light up the dusky past – bringing people and their times
    to startling life. I will never forget, for instance, the image of those boys and their father on
    their raft of logs, unexpectedly viewing the Northern Lights:
                        “... the sky blanketed with flaming lights all colors and then some.
                       It stays floodlit as though Jesus were coming down then and there.
                                        ...in any case the world is coming to an end.”
    This book is written in plain precise speech, highly charged with intensity and originality,
    yet oddly familiar somehow, as if it has actually happened to us.  These poems grab at the
    heart of life."
                                                                                                                                                            LEE SMITH
                                                                                                                    author of On Agate Hill, The Last Girls
                                                                                                                                    and Fair and Tender Ladies

    "Noel Smith’s poems can sound both rough-hewn and gentle. Their words have the feel of a
    long-used rocking chair in which sat a teller of stories whose language harks back to the
    beginning of all stories, like mountain springs bursting out of rocky ground. The lines in 'Hard
    Passage,' for example, are wielded like the rigging and warping that fashion the destinies of
    the poem’s characters, as well as the coffin in which Mama is 'gently set,' an iron deathbed,
    yes, but one with 'curlicues/so brightly white.' Years ago at Hindman Settlement School, Noel
    Smith’s first poems struck me with their verbal power. This first collection gathers their strong
    voices together for all of us."
                                                                                                                              KATHRYN STRIPLING BYER
                                                                                                                author of Wildwood Flower, Black Shawl
                                                                                                                                                and Coming to Rest

    "There’s powerful music in Noel Smith’s The Well String. Work is the key and nature is the
    rhythm in this song cycle sung down generations of an Appalachian family. Whether it’s the
    saw that Papa and Sam wield in the logwoods ('back, forth, prance, stomp'), or the fiddle from
    which Sam drinks 'the wine colored note as it hums/ Straight to his blood,' or the love-tight
    string of the title poem, the tools these folks take up come alive. We are richer for the wisdom
    and muscle of their voices.  'Hard, honey, hard,' Nellie tells us. 'I have gone through so much/
    that I can take ahold/ of anything that comes along.'”
                                                                                                                                         – GEORGE ELLA LYON
                                                                                                          author of Don’t You Remember? (A Memoir)
                                                                                                                          and With a Hammer for My Heart


Noel Smith was born and raised in New York
City. After graduating from Wellesley College
she became a social worker under Mary
Breckinridge at the Frontier Nursing Service in
Hyden, a community in Leslie County in
eastern Kentucky. Now retired from teaching in
elementary school, she spends as much time as
she can visiting in eastern Kentucky.
She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.
Her late husband, Peter Fernandez, was
a writer, director and actor best known for
Speed Racer animated series.

Noel Smith’s work has appeared in the invitational
online anthology
Enskyment and online journals
Poems Niederngasse and Innisfree. Journal
appearances include
New Letters, Shenandoah, Poet
Lore, West Branch, Appalachian Heritage,
Appalalachian Journal, Blueline, Dos Passos
Review, Iron Horse
and others. An earlier version of
this manuscript was a finalist for the Tupelo Press
First Book Award. “Early April” was selected by
Donald Hall for the
Yankee Magazine Prize. She
received two Denny C. Plattner honorable mentions
Appalachian Heritage for “Chairmaker” and
“Floodtime Festival,” a second prize from
magazine for “The Coal Speculator,” and the Henry
V. Larom Award from SUNY Rockland for “Sudden
Speech.” She has been nominated three times for a
Pushcart Prize.
   In an Appalachia both dark and light, a place
described by poet Noel Smith as “this soft
country of tough harvests,” the reader comes
to know a cast of vivid characters.  
is not only a poetry collection, but a
novel in poems — focusing on one fictional
family over a span of more than 100 years.  

Silas House, in the book's foreword,
THE WELL STRING  "a journey of
wonders," "a powerful book," and "a gift."  
He calls the book "not so much a poetry
collection as a novel in poems."  House adds,
"Many of the characters in
are so haunting that we might never forget
them," noting that Smith also "captures the
natural world, which she knows has 'always
the song of the Redbird, like a silver drop.'"  

Lee Smith describes THE WELL
as "highly charged with intensity and
originality, yet oddly familiar somehow, as if it
has actually happened to us."  

Poet and novelist
Ron Rash calls the book
"vividly rendered ... excellent" and "utterly
convincing," concluding that
significant contribution to
Appalachian Literature."  

"... not so much a
poetry collection
as a
novel in poems."
--Silas House
The Well String
The Well String
(c) 2012

Links to other online
publications by
Noel Smith:

Poems Neiderngasse
Archive-issue #79
Mar-Apr. 2006

Innisfree Poetry Journal  
Innisfree 5 - Sept. 2007

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Noel Smith's
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