Highland Creek Books


Amy Tipton Cortner's collection, The Zen Baptist, is the latest title from Highland Creek Books.


(click for full-res cover suitable for print use)


In the beginning was the word, and the word was, “Om.”

In The Zen Baptist. Amy Tipton Cortner revisits Appalachian culture and its often tendentious relationship with the rest of America, considers what it means to grow up Appalachian, and offers poems about life and love, family and academia in the southern mountains — each of which turns out to be not so different from the way it is anywhere else in America.

The Zen Baptist includes 21 new poems and one essay plus 22 poems, some revised, from The Hillbilly Vampire.

Praise for The Hillbilly Vampire

“The hillbilly vampire was excoriated by Thomas Wolfe in The
Hills Beyond, but probably never so economically as . . . in these trenchant lines. The penetrating insight and wide range of tone and mood in these poems make Amy Tipton Cortner a harvester of note among the growing number of poets in Southern Appalachia. [She] is just as effective in remembering with love as she is in satirizing with outrage.”

Robert J. Higgs, Professor Emeritus
East Tennessee State University



The Zen Baptist

Table of Contents

The Zen Baptist
He Considers Peter
He Thinks of Rivers
The Angel Tree
Doughnuts and Devotions
Sunrise Service
The Provenance of Judas
All Saints
Seraph and Salamander
Emma Bell Marries Frank Miles
Math Poem
Fast Pitch
To Have A Heart
As True
For the Cracked Poetess
The Sweetness of the New
A Ballad
All Souls

Essay: Eminent Domain

The Hillbilly Vampire
The Vampire Ethnographer
The Vampire Goes to Class
Vampire Acolytes
Mrs. Jordan
The Potato Curve
Jesus on the Wall
No Minority
On Eminent Domain
Ivan’s Grave
The Other Name
Matinee: Double Feature
The Snapshot
In Keystone
The Parting Hand
The Youngest Brother
Telling Dreams
The Harvested Heart


The Zen Baptist

Under the banner of the ape
         with the old rugged cross on his breast
         the Zen Baptist
         faces the chariots
         arrayed across the valley.

He sets Buddha in the rose bushes,
         St. Francis in the pines,
         and on a corner of the hearth
         Shiva reclines.

Immersed in the pool behind the altar
         at thirteen,
         sprinkled at the font
         and anointed with holy oil
         at thirty,
         burned by the refiner’s fire
         at forty the lotus opened between his brows
         and he saw
         a thousand petals
         shadowed beyond the glass.

On Sundays he sings about the mighty fortress
         the firm foundation
         the light everlasting
         the joy unbounded.

He goes home to the Gita.
He calls himself R. Junior.



From "Eminent Domain" on growing up Appalachian, and American, and coming to terms with being "from around here:"

         When I was a child I lived in America. Like the characters in the books I read, like the people I saw on t.v., I lived in a real neighborhood. Daddy drove off to work every morning; Mother stayed home and cleaned house. She never baked cookies, it’s true, but she was there when my brother and I bedraggled our way in from school every afternoon. The kids that lived on Hillcrest were American kids. We had a neighborhood bully. We had a budding beauty queen. We had Barbie dolls and G.I. Joes and sleds and bikes, and we all got new clothes twice a year, fall and spring. We were, of course, oblivious to everything but our immediate concerns, to all that was peripheral to our fleet hours of play.
         I would have been as intently oblivious as the rest had it not been for my mother, who taught me the concept of “around here.” Mother, born in Louisiana, moved to California at fourteen. She wound up in Johnson City (on something very close to a whim) when her best friend decided to go to Milligan instead of to a college in one of those small mountainy states in the north. (The irony of ending up in a mountainy state in the south was not lost on Mother.) I can never remember a time that Mother did not drill away at the idea that we were different, that since she was not from “around here,” and since she did not talk or think or act like she was from “around here” there was no reason my brother and I should, either.



The Hillbilly Vampire

Many people
         are confused about hillbilly vampires.

They think:
         a hillbilly vampire should look like
         George Jones in a cape
         or Ricky Skaggs with fangs
         or Lyle Lovett, period.

They think
         the hillbilly part comes first —
         the feeder, not the fed upon.

They do not understand
         that this
         is another outside industry
         come down to the hills in the dark
         for raw material.


The Vampire Ethnographer

The hillbilly vampire lived in a condo
         called Mountain Heritage Estates.
He had many degrees
         and many publications in small magazines.
Garlic didn’t faze him, nor did the crucifix;
         pintos and streaked meat and kraut would, however.
         turn him in an instant.

Prowling the bars and back roads
         looking for fresh informants
         whose heart-blood of mountain lore
         had not yet been discovered
         and sucked dry,
         tape recorder fanged and to the ready,
         he worked hard at blending in
         while maintaining the mystique
         of his authority.
He bought sharp work pants from Sears
         plaid flannel shirts from Woolrich
         shoes from L.L. Bean and Timberline.

He didn’t fool anybody.

As soon as he sat down
         they pulled their collars up
         and started talking copyright
         and photo-session and P.M. Magazine.

His bitterest complaint
         as he moved from place to unsatisfying place
         pale and eager to feed
         was of how thoroughly the folk
         had been corrupted by
         electronic media.


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use the email contact below.
Cover and excerpts © 2013, Amy Tipton Cortner
To arrange interviews, readings, etc. email info@highlandcreekbooks.com