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Poet Muriel Miller Dressler (July 4, 1918-February 27, 2000) was born in Kanawha County. Both sides of her family went back several generations in the Kanawha Valley. She married Lester Dressler (whose family was from Cabin Creek) in 1936.

Dressler did not complete high school. Her love for literature came, as she was fond of saying, ‘‘at the heels of my mother as we planted or hoed the garden.’’ She could quote long passages of Shakespeare and Chaucer before she learned to read the texts and could not remember when she first began to write poetry. Her first published poem, ‘‘Appalachia’’ (1970), quickly became her signature piece.

Dressler published two collections of poetry. The first, Appalachia, My Land, was published in 1973, and the second, Appalachia, in 1977. Both books gained popularity quickly, and she was invited to read her work at universities throughout the region and beyond, including Harvard, where she was in residence for several days in 1977. In 1975, she met Earl Hamner, creator of the television series The Waltons. He used one of her poems, ‘‘Elegy for Jody,’’ as the centerpiece for a television special, ‘‘Morning Star, Evening Star,’’ in 1986.

Short, curvy, vain, and hyperactive, Dressler remained a popular speaker on the college circuit until the mid-1980s when she suffered a massive heart attack. She spent much of the rest of her life away from the public spotlight.

This Article was written by William Plumley

Last Revised on December 04, 2015

Related Articles


Gaskins, Avery. "Notes on the Poetry of Muriel Miller Dressler," in William Plumley, et al., eds, Things Appalachian. Charleston: MHC Publications, 1977.

Behold the Land. Documentary. Beckley: WSWP-TV, 1974.

Cite This Article

Plumley, William "Muriel Miller Dressler." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 04 December 2015. Web. 17 July 2024.


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