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A Bewitching West Virginia Poet

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
September 29th, 2015

Blog post by Beth Toren, Research and Media Services Librarian, Downtown Campus Library.

In observance of the season, we offer three poems about witches and witchery written and performed by Morgantown poet G. Sutton Breiding, whose books of poetry and archives are available in the West Virginia and Regional History Center. Beneath each video is an image of the poem produced in a font created from G. Sutton Breiding’s handwriting.

In these videos, he reads three witch poems accompanied by the music from the band SAY provided by Larry McClurg, a WVU alumnus and founding member of Mind Garage. Mind Garage was a WVU student psychedelic rock band who pioneered Christian rock music in the late 1960s. SAY included members of Mind Garage and another 1960s West Virginia band, Glass Menagerie. Mind Garage posters, CDs, and more are archived in the WVRHC.

Gather the children in a circle, turn off the lights, and enjoy the witchy weirdness. 

Witchery is Everywhere, but Where?

Poem titled Witchery is Everywhere But Where by G. Sutton Breiding

(select image to enlarge)

(link to full text of poem)

One of G. Sutton Breiding’s early appearances in print was in a 1971 issue of The Foxfire Magazine, a periodical about Appalachian culture that became a national bestseller when anthologized. His work has been widely anthologized in titles like Stigmata: An Anthology of Writing and Art (2001), Dreams of Fear: Poetry of Terror and the Supernatural (2013), and Nouveau’s Midnight Sun: Transcriptions from Golgonooza and Beyond (2014), a collection of modern Surrealist poetry. His style of poetry can be characterized by crossing boundaries of fantasy, science fiction, surrealism, weird or speculative fiction, and slipstream.

What’s Up With Witches?

Poem titled What's Up With Witches? by G. Sutton Breiding

(select image to enlarge)

(link to full text of poem)

Witchlore is embedded in Appalachian folklore from a variety of cultures. For further reading on the subject of “Legends, ghosts and witches, superstitions, storytelling and jack tales, rhymes and riddles,” consult the Appalachian Studies Bibliography, created at the WVU Libraries by Appalachian Bibliographer Jo. B. Brown. You can read about West Virginia witches like Rhoda Ward, a hanged, or by some accounts burned witch in West Virginia who left an enduring curse on the Simpson Creek Baptist Church (Davis, 31).

The Crows are all Hedges, the Hedges are Witches

Poem titled The Crows are all Hedges, the Hedges are Witches by G. Sutton Breiding

(select image to enlarge)

(link to full text of poem)

Another good source for learning more about witchlore in West Virginia is the book Witches, Ghosts, and Signs: Folklore of the Southern Appalachians by Patrick W. Gainer, published by the WVU Press. For more poetry by G. Sutton Breiding, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or visit his online work from 1984-2010 at The Writings of G. Sutton Breiding.


Breiding, G. Sutton (George Sutton). Autumn roses: selected poems of G. Sutton Breiding. Albuquerque, N.M: Silver Scarab Press, 1984.

Ibid. Hallucinating Jenny. Napa Valley, Calif.: Miniature Sun Press, 2000.

Ibid. Memory leaves. San Francisco: Atlantis Express, 1989.

Ibid. Necklace of blood. San Francisco: Atlantis Express, 1988.

Ibid. Nostalgia of the infinite /Janet Hamill; with foreword by Patti Smith & the art of Giorgio de Chirico. Journal of an astronaut / G. Sutton Breiding; foreword by Donald Sidney-Fryer. Denver, CO: Ocean View Books, 1992.

Canon, George M. The Mind Garage – “A Total Electric Happening.” The Strange Brew: British Rock Music from the Mid-60’s to Early 70s. Online.

Davis, Diane.  2001.  “Rhoda Ward” [18th century, hanged witch’s curse on Simpson Creek Baptist church endures].  Traditions: A Journal of West Virginia Folk Culture and Educational Awareness 6: 31-34.

Dreams of fear: poetry of terror and the supernatural. Joshi, S. T. and Steven J. Mariconda, eds. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2013.

Gainer, Patrick W. Witches, Ghosts, and Signs: Folklore of the Southern Appalachians. Morgantown, WV: WVU Press, 2008.

A&M 3565, McClurg, Larry, Collector. Mind Garage (Musical Group). Ephemera, 2005. West Virginia & Regional History Center, Wise Library, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.

The Mind Garage. S.I.:, 2006. Print.

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