Thursday, March 10, 2011

From Penn's Store to the World

From Penn’s Store to the World: An Anthology of Poems

98 pp.
Edited by H. R. Stoneback
with Amanda Boyle and Brad McDuffie
Des Hymnagistes Press 2011

In the spring of 2010 a great flood inundated Penn’s Store, which is located near Gravel Switch, Kentucky. The old country store is situated at the edge of the tobacco and corn bottomlands, and to the uninformed eye of the casual passerby the store might appear to be just another ramshackle structure in a dying agrarian community. But this store is a historic landmark, said to be America’s oldest country store run by the same family—since at least the 1840s. The Penn family that still runs the store is related to the great Kentucky writer, Robert Penn Warren. It has since become a place for poetry and song gatherings, and for over a decade the location of the annual Kentucky Writers Day celebration every April. This is an important landmark of Song and Story, Ballad and Poetry, in a numinous place redolent with a sense of the past.

Because of the flood, H. R. Stoneback organized a Benefit in November 2010 to raise money to help the damaged store. A direct result of the Benefit was the publication of a substantial volume entitled From Penn’s Store to the World: An Anthology of Poems. All funds raised by the benefit went directly to Penn’s Store as a gift. (And any profits made by the book will also go to benefit the Store.) This book contains 50 poems—some written by well-known poets of national reputation, some by previously unknown poets who wanted to help the cause. And the poets are not just from Kentucky, but from numerous states and countries. It is the hope of all poets who participated that Penn’s Store will survive.

W. H. Auden was not the first or the last to say that poetry makes nothing happen. We beg to differ: poetry can make things happen, especially when words are anchored in the spirit of human community and deeds of concrete compassion. In this crusade to save Penn’s Store words were deeds, poems were cash.

If you would like to purchase a copy of From Penn’s Store to the World: An Anthology of Poems and help Penn’s Store, please write to Des Hymnagistes at for ordering information.