High Afternoon Literary Tea: Celebrating the Pocahontas County Bicentennial
May 21, 2022 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
The Literary Tea will be hosted by Helena Gondry, a resident of Pocahontas County, writer and performer with an admiration for Louise McNeill Pease.
She will share stories of the strong, resourceful and generous “Pioneer Spirit” of Pocahontas County, tthe humorous and heartwarming stories of families who have lived here for generations – through the words of Louise McNeill Pease.
McNeill was born January 9, 1911 in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, West Virginia, USA on a farm in Buckeye that her family had owned since 1769. Her father, G. D. McNeil was also a writer and published a collection of short stories about the forests of Pocahontas County, West Virginia and the decline of the wilderness entitled The Last Forest. She wrote her first poem at 16 on a friend’s typewriter, and thereafter decided to be a poet. She graduated from Concord College (now Concord University), where she was a member of Alpha Sigma Tau Sorority, and then obtained her master’s degree from Miami University in Ohio. She received a doctorate from West Virginia University in History, and also received an honorary doctorate in the humanities from the university later. She also studied at Middlebury College at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference with the poet Robert Frost, and at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In 1939, she married Roger Pease. McNeill taught English and history for over 30 years, beginning in rural one-room schools in West Virginia and eventually teaching at Potomac State College, Fairmont State College, and West Virginia University. McNeill died on June 18, 1993 in Malden, West Virginia.
Louis McNeill began her writing career selling short poems to the Saturday Evening Post, charging $5 a line. In 1931 her first collection, Mountain White, was published. She went on to publish six other collections, each being published under her maiden name even after being married in 1939. She published her best-known work, Gauley Mountain, in 1939. This work would set fourth McNeill as a very skilled technical writer of poetry, combining rhythm and imagery into an art form.] She incorporated themes of life in rural Appalachia in her work, and “was often hailed for her unflinching acceptance of local speech and dialect into the overall construction of her rhythmic poetry.”
In 1979, then-governor Jay Rockefeller named McNeill West Virginia’s poet laureate, and she held the title until her death in 1993.