Appalachian Poet – Bertie Jane Cutlip

Outside a country store in the Allegheny Mountains, she stood behind a table covered in mason jars of home-made apple jelly and pickles. It was one of those glorious fall days in

Pocahontas County, West Virginia
Sharp’s Country Store, Slaty Fork, WV

West Virginia, so I lingered to buy some of Bertie’s homemade apple jelly and a stapled booklet of poems. Seeing my interest, she recited a couple from memory. I recall one was an ode to her home state and the other a tragic-cum-humorous story about a mouse. I was told she memorized over 100 of her poems, most of them end rhymes or couplets that celebrated country life, family, friends and animals over a long and often hard life. I listened to more over the years whenever I visited her mobile home in a quiet hollow (‘holler’) of Webster County.

Eventually, I offered to help her reach a wider audience. I recorded videos in her home and have now compiled her best poems in a published anthology for her 96th birthday in June 2020.

My favorite poem is ME, A MURDERER:




By Roger Gosden

A British and American scientist specializing in reproduction & embryology whose career spanned from Cambridge to Cornell's Weill Medical College in NYC. He married Lucinda Veeck, the embryologist for the first successful IVF team in America. They retired to Virginia, where he became a master naturalist and writer affiliated with William & Mary.


    1. Yes, she will be 96 next month. But, sadly, the trailer is no longer a home for poetry or offered as a shelter to needy people she knew since she moved out.

      1. I would like to buy a copy of her poetry. My friend’s (Eddy Huffman in Wisconsin) mother was from West Virginia. I think he would relate to many of her poems. His 80th birthday is 1 August. I can pick it up sometime before mid-July maintaining social distance of course. If you would like to endorse it to him, that would be nice. I’ll give you a check if that is o k. Cost?? Joe


      2. Thanks for your interest. Is Eddy any relation to Joy Huffman in Blacksburg area of Virginia who wrote The Diary of Mattie Grey? I’m afraid getting a book signed by Bertie Cutlip is almost impossible as she is 96 and locked down in a nursing home. My signature is second best but I can for a book at the publisher’s discount price. I am waiting for a box of paperbacks to arrive in mid-June and will let you know.

  1. You could say this is survival of the fitest or is it largest? Either way, this is a pattern of life we see every day but always wonder if it’s ‘right’, whatever that means! Is China ‘bigger’ than the US?

    1. It all depends how you define bigger. Sometimes the tiniest things defeat us (which happened with great pan/epidemics in the past (and arguably again now)

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