The artists, writers, and scholars who appear on the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition’s Cultural Resource Directory span a wide range of fields and comprise a diverse group of people. These people are emblematic of the kinds of folks who make up the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition. From the deeply traditional, to the cutting edge, and those who occupy both realms, the CRD offers a healthy window into the cultural life of urban Appalachia. One of those folks who seems to hold their place within the heart of Appalachian literary and educational life but remain on the edges of things is Scott Goebel. I had an opportunity to talk to Scott Goebel about his life and work.
We have talked about the paradox of urban Appalachian identity before. The idea that one is not quite aware of “being Appalachian” until someone else points it out is a common theme for both urban and rural Appalachian people. Scott Goebel talks about this directly when he says he wasn’t even aware of being Appalachian until later in life. As Scott told me, “I didn’t recognize anything about me or my family was Appalachian until I was in my late 30s—it hit me somewhere between Richard Hague’s living room in Madisonville and the pink sandstone quarry of the old Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel in Letcher County, Kentucky.” Since coming to understand this dimension of himself, he has embraced his Appalachian ties as a writer and as an educator.
Growing up in Hamilton, Ohio, there was no explicit sense of an Appalachian identity. Yet, as Scott Goebel points out, life in Hamilton in the 60s and 70s was definitely “Kentucky-centric” (most of Hamilton’s 20th Century migrants came from Eastern Kentucky). But there was something of a block to claiming to being an Appalachian. Folks in Hamilton at the time worked hard to assimilate into a mainstream to avoid the stigma of being branded “briarhoppers.” This is a familiar story among urban Appalachians and one of the processes that UACC still works to counter. But Scott Goebel did come to identify the Appalachian heritage that would come to drive so much of his work.
Scott Goebel’s work has been immersed in the literary world of Appalachia. He has published poetry and prose in Iron River Review, Journal of Kentucky Studies, Appalachian Journal, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Wind Magazine, Now & Then, and Northern Appalachian Review. Somehow, he still had the energy to edit Jim Webb’s Get In, Jesus (Wind 2012) and co-edited Joe Barrett’s Blue Planet Memoirs (Dos Madres 2017). I would call this a pretty stellar publication record even if Scott Goebel describes it as “scattershot.”
Scott Goebel’s focus on Appalachian and Appalachian studies came from many years of working with some of the best in the Appalachian literary world. Once becoming fully aware of his own Appalachian identity and the fullness of Appalachian culture, Goebel began delving into studying and writing from within this framework. When he began, there was nothing you could call Appalachian studies so his greatest influence came directly from the people who would give us something we could call Appalachian studies: “after I learned that “Appalachian” referred to an amazing culture (and not just some old mountains), most of what I have learned in the last 25 years has come on my own with great guidance from people like Dick Hague, Pauletta Hansel, Danny Miller and Jim Webb,” explains Goebel. This crucible of writing and writers led him to work with the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative and informs his work to this day.
Scott Goebel’s work has not been limited to books and classrooms. His commitments to Appalachian culture and life include campaigning against mountain top removal mining. “I have long advocated for the end of Mountaintop Removal through Kentuckians for the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC), Appalachian Voices and Mountaintop Removal Roadshow presentations.” He also maintains his connections with AppalShop, a multimedia production organization that works to empower Appalachians to tell their stories through film and other media.
Scott Goebel has taught composition and Appalachian literature through Thomas More University and Northern Kentucky University. He currently has a few projects going on. He told me, “I have been translating terrible old poems into creative non-fiction stories based in Hamilton, Ohio (not yet enough finished work for a full book). I am also trying to get back on track on a collection called RECK IV–a tribute to the late Jim Webb.” He expects to return to the classroom at NKU this fall. When pressed to describe himself as a writer and educator, he shies away from conventions: “I don’t have an academic temperament—as an adjunct professor, I’m more of a gypsy scholar, if that.” This is a sentiment I can identify with quite well.
Nomad scholar, activist, writer, and educator—Scott Goebel is one urban Appalachian who does not recognize labels and pigeonholes. Like so many of the people who continue to keep the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition involved in just about every aspect of life in greater Cincinnati, Scott Goebel appears to let inspiration take him where he needs to be. You can find Scott Goebel’s profile on the Cultural Resource Directory here: https://uacvoice.org/artist_profile/scott-goebel/. If you would like to register with UACC’s Cultural Resource Directory at this link: https://uacvoice.org/signup/.
Mike Templeton is a writer, independent scholar, barista, cook, guitar player, and accidental jack-of-all-trades. Check out his profile in UACC’s new Cultural Directory. He lives in downtown Cincinnati with his wife who is a talented photographer. They spend their free time walking around the city snapping photos. She looks up at that the grandeur of the city, while Mike always seems to be staring at the ground.