No Shroud of Silence: poems and stories
by Sandi Keaton-Wilson
Paperback, 168 pages
About this Reading Group Guide
A description of No Shroud of Silence, topics for discussion, suggested activities, and an author’s biography included in this guide are intended to be used as resources for individual readers, book groups, classes, and others who would like to learn more about the author Sandi Keaton-Wilson, her poems and stories, and her beloved Appalachia. We hope these resources will spark thought, conversation, and discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which readers may wish to approach No Shroud of Silence.
About No Shroud of Silence
The poetry and short stories of No Shroud of Silenceoffer deeply moving moments, puzzles of human nature, inspiration, strength and sense of wonder. Collectively, they also present a powerful portrait of Appalachia painted by a native daughter. Keaton-Wilson conveys the paradox of Appalachia, that while families’ economic reliance on the mines can feel like slavery (“Down in the Mine”), for so many Appalachians, the land is in their blood and there is nowhere they would rather be (“Free to Go,” “Farmer”). In the opening prose piece, Keaton-Wilson portrays Appalachia as a wise mother-fighter-worker and the collection, while offering several portraits of men too, is rich with a sense of matrilineal inheritance (“Imprint,” “Photograph in Sepia,” “Behind Those Logs”). While Keaton-Wilson brings focus to the struggle and suffering of the Appalachian woman (“One Poor Explanation,” “Stolen Flowers,” “Double Duty”), her ultimate emphasis is on the endurance of the heart and the buoying capacity of faith. While many of Keaton-Wilson’s pieces here are biographical, she also channels relatives and acquaintances to present readers with an array of vibrant voices with unique tales to tell. Though the last lines of poetry in the collection note the emptiness of places whose lives have passed on —“Time’s too thin, and all the leaves have scattered”— in No Shroud of Silence, Keaton-Wilson succeeds in revivifying the places and people she once knew so forcefully that they become our ghosts too.
Praise for No Shroud of Silence
“A psalm of hope that teaches us to hold hands across the centuries and embolden each other to sing out, to never again be stopped, so that our daughters and granddaughters will always know how loved and how lovely they are.” —Rebecca Gayle Howell.
“Powerful…her poems give voice to emotions most of us hold but cannot express.”—Sandra P. Aldrich
“There is much healing going on here for reader and writer in poems and stories that study old wounds, / then bandage them with those healing words./ Read this book…”—Rob Merritt
About the Author
Sandi Keaton-Wilson, an American writer of prose, poetry, short stories, plays, and performance pieces, lives a simple Christian life enjoying worship, family, friends, and the arts. Always a nature lover, she considers reading and writing her second nature.
Sandi, raised in the southern section of Wayne County, Kentucky, played with words even as a child. There were always good things to read in her home, and trips to the library and holiday gifts of books were treats that placed at the top of her list. Encouraged by teachers, Sandi began writing in grade school and became published at a young age. She credits being a member of many successful writers’ groups in several counties in aiding her with inspiration, practice, example, and networking—giving these groups and her fellow members credit for the benefit they have proved to be.
Over the years she has become recognized as a Southern Appalachian writer. Her poetry, prose, short stories, plays, and performance pieces have merited publication in numerous college journals, anthologies, and national publications. Her writing, which has been well received, speaks of death, grief, and loss, family, and nature and place and includes inspirational and religious works.
Sandi currently resides in Somerset, Kentucky, near her son and grandchildren, and she is still rooted in Kentucky and grounded in the Word of God.
Read one of Sandi’s poetry.
Topics for Discussion
- In the opening prose piece, the speaker asserts “I am Appalachia” and that she and the place where she lives are inextricably bound in body and spirit. Where do we see this insistence of the inability to separate person and place (Appalachia) appear again in later poems?
- The collection’s eponymous poem is a bold assertion of the speaker’s right to speak truth to power. How does Keaton-Wilson define the right to speak in contrast to those who are typically given the power to speak?
- In “Tent Meeting,” what does Keaton-Wilson’s use of alliteration, assonance and internal rhyme bring to her setting? How does the tone imparted through these poetic devices contrast with the last two lines? What is the effect of this contrast?
- Keaton-Wilson takes on the pain of domestic violence in her poems “Poor Explanation,” “Stolen Flowers,” and “Survivor.” How do the closing metaphors in “Stolen Flowers,” “bouquets of joy/ replaced by/ poison ivy,” reinforce the suggestion in “Poor Explanation” that domestic abuse is, in part, a social problem?
- So many of the poems focus on the speaker’s connection to female relatives both living and dead. Is there evidence enough here to argue that Appalachian culture is matrilineal? Where do you see such evidence?
- Death and grief play a central role in many of the poems in Books I-IV. What images does Keaton-Wilson employ to embody grief? Collectively, what do they tell us about the speaker’s attitude toward death?
- Appalachia is victim to some of the worst environmental violence in human history. How does Keaton-Wilson use her voice as an artist/activist to show how the violence done to the land affects its people in “Looking for Answers”? How does her celebration of the land in other poems underscore the pain caused by environmental violence?
- Book III introduces us to a variety of humorous speakers. What role do these humorous poems play in the larger work of portraying Appalachia?
- Many of the poems in Book V focus on the speaker’s faith. As for Emily Dickinson, for this speaker, God is directly accessible through the natural world in which she lives. Discuss the ways God is linked with nature in these poems.
- Throughout the collection, there are places where a poem is endowed with greater meaning because of its relationship to a poem or poems that precede it, for example “Granddaughter, As Yet Unconceived” and “Aging.” Discuss the way these poems and other such examples in the collection lend each other meaning.
- In “Sunday Secrets,” the narrator is a twelve-year-old girl whose close friend was recently found “messed with” and murdered. How does the author foreshadow the identity of the true killer?
- What is the significance of ending No Shroud of Silence with “Of Heaven’s Foundation”? In what ways does Opal echo the narrator of the first piece in the collection?
Suggested Activities for Furthering the No Shroud of Silence Experience
Visit Shadelandhouse Modern Press’s website to learn more about Sandi Keaton-Wilson and No Shroud of Silence.
Visit Appalshop for a wealth of information about the culture of Appalachia.
Invite author Sandi Keaton-Wilson to participate in an in-person or online visit with your reading group, book club, women’s club, classroom, or organization.
Attend one of Keaton-Wilson’s readings and book signings in your area.
For more information or to order copies of No Shroud of Silence for your reading group, classroom, or organization contact [email protected], the website for Shadelandhouse Modern Press.
This is a Shadelandhouse Modern PressTM Reading Group Guide. We wish to acknowledge and thank Sarah Moon for her collaboration with Shadelandhouse Modern Press on this Reading Group Guide for No Shroud of Silence. Sarah Moon is a PhD student in English Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Connecticut. Her research focus is on the intersection of rhetoric, theatre, and community writing.